Zero shits are given.
Interestingly, when I began lifting weights, steroids were not a topic of discussion. Of course, we knew some people used gear and took it for granted that the top pros used shit, but no one actually cared. It didn’t stop us from following their programs, from lifting 10 times a week, or from doing 60 sets a bodypart. Instead, it gave us an aspirational goal which, while probably unrealistic, made us shoot for the stars. It made us definitively and pointedly better, because it gave us supermen for idols- it gave us a huge goal for which to shoot that kept us from being mired in the mediocrity in which modern lifters seem eminently comfortable.
Doug Young- literally everything millenials aren’t.
For the modern lifter, that must seem completely insane- modern lifters spend more time programming and making excuses for their shit lifts than they actually spend lifting. They endlessly discuss their lack of progress, parse their programs, and nitpick their form, because doing all of that shit means they never actually have to exert themselves in the gym. They’ve given all of the societal indications of caring without actually putting their heart and soul into training, which is what we used to do, and it’s why we succeeded in spite of the fact that our programming and exercise choices were often subpar, led astray by the evil left hands of Ben and Joe Weider.
Natty bros, the guy on the left is to blame for your plight- Dr. JB Ziegler. He brought steroids into the American zeitgeist.
Then, we have the “natty” excuse, an excuse so hollow and pathetic it is difficult to describe the contempt for it that I have. Bear in mind, I never even saw a capsule of dianabol until I was 32- I knew of steroids, and I knew people who used them, but I never gave a shit. I didn’t give a shit because I knew I could succeed without any assistance, and did so. I didn’t look to “gurus” to assuage my ego with limits on my natural progress, begging them for an upper end to my gains by which I could measure myself as the peak of potential “natty” gains. The idea that I was limited by genetics or “nattiness” never occurred to me. likely because I am not the biggest bitch on Earth, and the fact that I’ve read enough that I know that winners will always do what it takes to win. Always. Thus, when I needed a boost, I would take one, but until then, I would strive mightily against genetics, gravity, and humanity in a bold effort to transcend the normal and achieve the impossible.
Elite and not a bit sorry about it.
Don’t believe me about the fact that winners will do what it takes to win? Well, science says “eat shit”, because you’re obviously not a winner. A “researcher, Bob Goldman, began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were ready to take the bargain” (Reynolds). Conversely, only 2 out of 250 recreational lifters said they would do the same (Ibid). That’s a pretty impressive disparity- 50% of elite athletes will do what it takes to win, whereas less than 1% of normies would. Amusingly, this study was done at a time when both steroids and ephedrine were legal and acceptable for use among the average trainee, blissfully avoiding the unnecessary, illegitimate, and indefensible stigmas they now bear.
Bringing it back around to the topic of my generation and steroids, we didn’t think of steroids in a pejorative manner or regard them as the magical group of pharmacological miracles that turn shit lifters into supermen than modern trainees do. Instead, we regarded them as a tool in a toolbox… an option that might confer benefits… and basically something one could do if one wished. There was neither stigma nor reference for that group of drugs- they simply were. It was accepted as a matter of course that methyltestosterone or dianabol were in the supplement Hot Stuff, and that clenbuterol was in the preworkout Ultimate Orange (along with ephedrine and every other heart attack-inducing substance Dan Duchaine could find. It didn’t matter if people used a stepped up androstenedione to us, or another substance to drop in on ephedrine to make our blood pressure even more ridiculous, but they were considered to be tools for use by people who wished to rather than magical death drugs used by “cheating” psychopaths- they were just a part of a panoply of performance enhancing drugs that humans have used since time immemorial when they wanted to win.
Frankly, I would not be surprised if nearly every person under the age of 25 reading this right now was bleeding from the eyes. For those of you who are struggling not to punch your laptop, consider the opinion of the Washington Post’s sports columnist Sally Jenkins:
“Maybe we shouldn’t ask athletes to live up to ideals that, let’s face it, are unsupported by the chronically weak performance of human nature. Maybe it’s time to decriminalize performance-enhancing drugs, in view of the fact that the first drug cheat was an ancient Greek and runners brought sport-doping into the modern age in 1904 by dosing themselves with strychnine.
Our Air Force gives fighter jocks “go-pills” to get them through long missions, but we don’t refuse to call them heroes because they’re on speed. So what’s this strange amnesia that causes us to seek purity in athletes? Why should they have to meet a higher moral standard than soldiers? Call me naive.”
“What’s the job of an athlete really? It is to seek the limits of the human body, for our viewing pleasure. Athletes are astronauts of the physique, explorers. Some of them choose to explore by making human guinea pigs out of themselves. So maybe we should quit assigning any ethical value to what they do, and simply enjoy their feats as performance artists. Virtue was another notion dreamed up by the Greeks, only they were a lot less confused about what they meant by the term. Their word for virtue could also be accurately translated as simply “excellence.” As for the word “amateur,” it didn’t exist to them at all.”
“Doping is not a modern art. It’s just the medicine that’s new. As a recent story in National Geographic pointed out, performance enhancement grew with chemistry in the mid-19th century. Athletes choked down sugar cubes dipped in ether, brandy laced with cocaine, nitroglycerine and amphetamines. In that context, the current scourges of steroids and blood boosters are merely a sequential progression” (Jenkins).
Performance enhancing drugs have been used since prehistory. Ancient neanderthal burials all contain ephedra plants, which were used by that species for unknown purposes, though it is considered to be a PED. Given the fact that neanderthals were well known for their slaughter of megafauna, it’s not outside of the boundaries of consideration to think they used ephedra as a performance enhancing drug to aid in that pursuit (LoPorto). And it’s not just the neanderthals who have used PEDS- the ancient Greeks were well known for using any means they could to gain an advantage on their opponents, and not only was that expected, but it was appreciated, provided they didn’t get caught (Bowers). The Roman gladiators doped to get through fights, and nineteenth century French cyclists and lacrosse players used a combination of wine and coca leaves, called “Vin Mariani”, aka “wine for athletes,” to gain an edge on their competition (Murray).
It’s not just hominids who look for an edge, either- horses consume locoweed, which affects them much in the same way nicotine affects humans (it’s an ergogenic aid [Pesta]); capuchin monkeys and lemurs get high off millipedes and use them as a sex aid, narcotic, and a natural bug repellent (Zambone), reindeer eat the same mushrooms Viking Berserkers used to ingest to make them fearless before going into battle (leading to a very weird cycle in which shamans and reindeer drink each others’ piss to get high) (McBain), elephants are incorrigible drunks and rampage drunkenly through Indian towns causing wanton destruction (Hussain)… the list goes on and on. Many high-functioning species use narcotics and other substances to perform in an altered state- it’s the way of the world.
Thomas Hicks: Powered by rat poison.
Fast forward to the modern era and you’ll find nothing’s changed. In the 1904 Olympics, marathoner Thomas Hicks began the tradition of doping at the Olympics when he won his event using a combination of strychnine, egg whites, and brandy (Abbott). By the 1940s, the Germans were experimenting heavily with steroids and amphetamines, and Hitler was allegedly guinea pig #1 amongst them. Pervitin and Isophan, methamphetamines, were the Nazi soldier’s drug of choice (Ulrich). Later, the Nazis developed a pill that was a combination of morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine to optimize performance. Hitler himself was one of the first test subjects for steroids, and it’s reported that he recommended their use for all German athletes as a result (Taylor 146). Due to the success in the field of combat, athletes began taking these substances shortly thereafter, referring to amphetamines in particular as essential for optimal performance.
“These drugs — nicknamed la bomba by Italian cyclists and atoom by Dutch cyclists — minimize the uncomfortable sensations of fatigue during exercise. By setting a safe upper limit to the body’s performance at peak exertion, these unpleasant sensations prevent bodily harm” (Noakes 847).
Tommy Simpson straight KILT by amphetamines in the Tour de France.
In the 1960s, two athletes died in competition due to complications from amphetamine use, and shortly thereafter, drug testing began in competition. In 1975, the IOC banned steroid use, but it wasn’t until 1988 that Ronald Reagan banned the non-medical sale of steroids in the United States. Bear in mind that this ban had nothing to do with the public health- this was simply a political move intended to demonize the Eastern Bloc countries, who had been kicking the shit out of us in international competition and openly admitted to widespread and prolific use of anabolic steroids. By banning their sale, Reagan made the use of these substances taboo, thus taking away some of the glory the Russians and their satellites could take from their wins in international competition. Demonization of these substances and propaganda against them has continued until today, in spite of the fact that doctors routinely prescribe anabolic steroids and growth hormone for everything from longevity to mental health, and prescribe amphetamines as a matter of general course to everyone from small children to the elderly.
6’6″ 330 lb offensive tackle (and massive draft bust) Tony Mandarich
And it’s not just lifters, football players, and cyclists who dope- it’s truly a matter of “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Amphetamines have long been a part of baseball:
“Baseball and greenies [amphetamines] go together like hot dogs and apple pie, assuming the hot dogs come flying off the grill at Warp Seven and the pie sort of jitters and sweats slightly as it is removed from the oven. They’ve been together for a long, untouted while, is the thing” (Kreidler).
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has stated that he’s heard about the use of amphetamines in baseball as far back as the 1950s, in fact. Shit, even badminton players use gear- Indian and Chinese badminton players have gotten popped for steroid use in the last few years, and star tennis player Rafael Nadal is routinely accused of using steroids. Swimmers and soccer players routinely use albuterol and clenbuterol to improve their performance, competitive pistol shooters and archers take beta blockers, and fighter pilots take amphetamines (Harris). In fact, performance enhancing drugs essentially permeate every competitive sport or activity, ranging from chess (Grossekathöfer) to golf (Rosaforte) to professional orchestra (Wise) to, believe it or not, billiards (Deardorff).
Badminton champion Lee Cong Wei, who has popped positive for corticosteroid use.
Performance enhancing substances are not limited to steroids, amphetamines, and growth hormones, however. The most widely used PED is caffeine, and it’s estimated that 85% of the US population consumes caffeine daily to improve alertness and performance (Mitchell). Similarly, athletes in every sport use ibuprofen to improve their recovery times (Harris). Miraculously, this is one of the few substances not banned by the WADA, which has banned 162 substances ranging from completely legal selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) to steroids to rat poison (Banned). This, of course, essentially means that the banned substances list is a more or less arbitrary line in the sand drawn by non-athletes to limit the options of actual athletes to perform to the best of their abilities.
Up next, we’ll cover the history of sports supplements and the bans on those substances by governments and various sporting bodies and federations, and continue to explore reasons why “natty bros” are nothing more than whiny, uncompetitive bitches looking to excuse their poor performance by drawing arbitrary lines in the sand on performance enhancing substances and ascribing near-magical attributes to substances routinely taken across the board by competitive people across the globe and throughout time.
192 Banned Performance Enhancing Substances and Methods
with Pros & Cons of Their Health Effects. Pro Con. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=002037#VI
Abbott, Karen. The 1904 Olympic marathon may have been the strangest ever. Smithonian. 7 Aug 2012. Web. 23 Apr 2012. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-1904-olympic-marathon-may-have-been-the-strangest-ever-14910747/#18o2VX77ep0dtmJb.99
Bowers LD. Athletic drug testing. Clin Sports Med. 1998 Apr;17(2):299-318.
Grossekathöfer, Maik. Outrage Over Ivanchuk: The Great Chess Doping Scandal. Spiegel Online. 11 Dec 2008. Web. 28 Apr 2015. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/outrage-over-ivanchuk-the-great-chess-doping-scandal-a-595819.html
Harris, William. 10 performance-enhancing drugs that aren’t steroids. HowStuffWorks.com. 06 Nov 2012. Web. 28 April 2015. http://science.howstuffworks.com/10-performance-enhancing-drugs.htm
Hussain, Wasbir. 6 drunk elephants electrocute themselves. Seattle Times. 23 Oct 2007. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/6-drunk-elephants-electrocute-themselves/
Jenkins, Sally. Winning, cheating have ancient roots. Washington Post. Aug 2007. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080202497.html
Kreidler, Mark. Baseball finally brings amphetamines into light of day. ESPN. 15 Nov 2005. Web. 27 Apr 2015. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=kreidler_mark&id=2225013
LoPorto, Garret. Surprising Way Your Neanderthal Genes May Affect You. Huffington Post. 10 May 2010. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/garret-loporto/surprising-way-your-neand_b_568455.html
McBain, Michael. Strange fungi facts. Amanita Shop. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.amanitashop.com/strangefacts.htm
Mitchell DC, Knight CA, Hockenberry J, Teplansky R, Hartman TJ. Beverage caffeine intakes in the U.S. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014 Jan;63:136-42.
Murray TH. The coercive power of drugs in sports. Hastings Cent Rep. 1983 Aug;13(4):24-30.
Noakes TD. Tainted glory–doping and athletic performance. N Engl J Med. 2004 Aug 26;351(9):847-9.
Pesta DH, Angadi SS, Burtscher M, Roberts CK. The effects of caffeine, nicotine, ethanol, and tetrahydrocannabinol on exercise performance. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2013 Dec 13;10(1):71. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-10-71.
Reynolds, Gretchen. Phys Ed: Will Olympic Athletes Dope if They Know It Might Kill Them? New York Times. 20 Jan 2010. Web. 20 Apr 2015. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/phys-ed-will-olympic-athletes-dope-if-they-know-it-might-kill-them/
Rosaforte, Tim and Sam WeinmanWas Vijay Singh’s biggest crime ignorance?. 30 Jan 2013. Web. 28 APr 2015. http://www.golfdigest.com/blogs/the-loop/2013/01/was-vijay-singhs-biggest-crime-ignorance.html
Taylor, William N. Anabolic Steroids and the Athlete, 2d ed. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2001.
Ulrich, Andreas. The Nazi death machine: Hitler’s drugged soldiers. Der Spiegel. 6 May 2005. Web. 23 Apr 2015. http://www.spiegel.de/international/the-nazi-death-machine-hitler-s-drugged-soldiers-a-354606.html
Wise, Brian. Musicians use beta blockers as performance-enabling drugs. WQXR. 16 Aug 2013. Web. 28 Apr 2015. http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/312920-musicians-use-beta-blockers-relieve-stage-fright/
Zambone, Jennifer. Of monkeys and millipedes. CEI. 30 Nov 2000. Web. 23 Apr 2015. https://cei.org/news-letters-cei-planet/monkeys-and-millipedes