Tag Archives: steroids

The Lasting Effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs: What does this mean for sport?

October 24, 2014


By Brittany Corwin – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

In 2013, University of Oslo’s Professor of Physiology, Kristian Gundersen, and his team of scientists found that athletes’ muscles can retain the performance-enhancing benefit of anabolic steroids well after the athlete has actually taken the steroids.

Gundersen’s team studied the effects of steroids on mice, saying that the same mechanism is at work in human muscles and that other performance-enhancing drugs would have similar long-term benefits. He recently explained to the BBC that when a person takes anabolic steroids, they develop more nuclei within muscle cells that allow the muscle cells to grow bigger and stronger when trained. If steroids are taken away, muscle mass will be lost but the nuclei will remain inside the muscle fibers and it will be much easier to return to the same strength after a period of not training.

Effective January 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, will double the doping ban to four years for athletes found guilty of doping. This will be an increase from the previous two-year ban for a first major offence, with athletes banned for life if tested positive again.

If performance-enhancing drugs have lasting effects, this invites the question of whether the new four-year ban is really enough? Regardless of whether or not the athlete is now clean, an unfair advantage may persist for the rest of their athletic career even though subsequent testing will come back negative.

The BBC piece comes in response to the past summer in which US track and field athlete, Justin Gatlin, ran the fastest ever 100 meter and 200 meter times by a man in his thirties. Not to mention that out of seven 100 meter races in the summer, Gatlin held six of the fasted times and he ran the fasted ever one-day sprint double consisting of the 100 meter race and then the 200 meter race an hour later. These results came after Gatlin served two suspensions for testing positive for doping – the most recent being for four years in 2006.

These extremely fast finishes were subject of great controversy for fellow athletes. Britain’s 2011 400 meter hurdles world champion, Dai Greene, told BBC that “He’s [Gatlin] over the hill as far as sprinting is concerned – he should never be running these times .…” Greene further went on to say that since Gatlin had to sit on the sidelines, unable to train or compete during his suspension, there has to be some other explanation for his incredibly fast times at his age. He suggests that either Gatlin is still doping or the drugs he did take are still hard at work.

As a previous positive doper, Gatlin’s recent success upon his return to the sport could arguably be a direct result of his past doping, as Greene suggested. If this is the case, this leads one to wonder whether the world of sport can truly ever be clean if previous dopers are still reaping the benefits of their previous drug use.

If the benefits of doping are life long, then whether WADA instills a four-year ban, or a 10-year ban for doping, is irrelevant. Sure, a four-year ban to an athlete may seen like a lifetime, but how can the fairness of sport be upheld if regardless of their punishment, athletes are returning from their doping bans with an advantage over those athletes who have never doped?

According to their website, WADA “…was founded with the aim of bringing consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport organization and governments right across the world.” In order to uphold their mandate, future research needs to be conducted into the long lasting effects of doping to address the extent to which the drugs have an effect on the athlete in the future and the impact it will have on sport in general.

These athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are cheating and while they do receive penalties for this, as previously mentioned, their cheating should not allow them to later succeed as a clean athlete. It is possible that prior doping – for which they have already been sanctioned and suspended – could be contributing to current success due to the long-lasting effects of doping. In order to uphold the preventative measure of doping sanctions, the WADA Code needs to accommodate for any long-lasting effects of doping. Future research will hopefully help answer the difficult question of just how WADA is to do this.

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Britain’s Steroid Dilemma – Not dangerous enough to criminalize but dangerous enough to be made safer

October 21, 2013


By Kris Henderson – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

The British Health Authority recognizes the adverse health effects of anabolic steroid use on the population and aims to make the population healthier. Their recommendation, however, is not a ban on all performance and physique enhancing substances. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), is instead recommending that gyms and other athletic training facilities provide sterile needles for individuals using intravenous anabolic steroids all in an effort to reduce the transmission of blood borne pathogens.

Providing clean needles for intravenous drug users is not a new concept, nor is it without its critics. The Vancouver safe injection site – InSite – located along East Hastings in the heart of Vancouver, Canada not only provides drug users with sterile needles, but staff provide first aid to individuals who fail to recognize their limit and overdose. Usually this consists of simply providing oxygen to the user. Helping two overdosed users in the safe injection site saves the provincial health authority the equivalent of InSite’s monthly operating budget as of 2010. The criticism of the site being open is therefore not cost of operation. The question is really what effect is it having on drug use? Drug use rates in Vancouver have not, by most accounts, seen a decrease since InSite began operating. Proponents of InSite, however, claim the true benefit comes from the reduction in blood borne disease transmission through the reduction of needle sharing. Other health authorities in Canada have also adopted clean needle programs to certain extents, all with differing measures of success.

It is easy to see that the potential clientele being served by this program in Britain would be drastically different that those being served by the clean needle programs in Canada. Individuals injecting themselves with anabolic steroids for the purpose of better athletic performance are obviously not the same ‘vulnerable population’ of heroin and other hard drug addicts being served in Canada. But to what extent does that matter? According to the NICE report, an estimated 70,000 people aged between 16 and 59 in England and Wales are thought to have injected anabolic steroids in the last year. While it is certainly not a staggering percentage of the population, it has proven sufficient to get the attention of the national health authorities.

Even if the clean needle program has no effect on user rates, any reduction in blood borne disease transmission can be measured as a success, both from a moral and government financing standpoint, as any publicly funded health care regime would see a decrease in costs associated with the treatment of these diseases.

This latest recommendation from NICE is sure to once again draw the ire of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Drug laws in England were heavily criticized during the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics. Unlike previous host countries that stiffened criminal laws regarding personal possession and use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones, the British government refused to criminalize possession and use of many performance enhancing anabolic steroids. The government stance was that athletes who use these substances during competition should face severe penalties such as lengthy bans from competition, but not criminal sanctions.

The NICE recommendation will likely affect the use of steroids in the UK, but what are the broader implications regarding the public perception surrounding their use? While I have no hesitation in accepting that the program will likely reduce the transmission of blood borne diseases such as various strains of Hepatitis and the HIV virus, the provision of sterile needles to steroid users may have a larger impact on sport and culture in the UK.

The unintended consequences of reducing the risks associated with steroid injections is very different than that of hard drug use. Individuals crippled by hard drug addiction, it is argued, are less likely to consider the sterility of their needle before making their next injection, or even their first injection. Potential or regular steroid users, however, see a reduction in the potential health risks to an activity that is still legal. The government position is that users should face heavy penalties though steroids aren’t so dangerous as to warrant its criminalization but dangerous enough to be made safer.

Will we see anabolic steroid use in the UK rise as a result of implementing a sterile needle program? Only time will tell. What we know for sure is that those looking to prevent athletes from using anabolic steroids in Britain through deterrence will be fighting an even steeper uphill battle, with an even greater reliance on the WADA.

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Punishing the Innocent

June 23, 2010

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On 9 April 2010, University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) football player Nathan Zettler was charged with possession of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone for the purpose of trafficking.  In response to the police investigation, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) was invited by the university to conduct team-wide drug tests on all its players. 

There were nine adverse findings: one asserted refusal, four admissions of use and three adverse analytical findings.  Mr. Zettler’s trafficking case is being investigated further.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport subsequently suspended first year linebacker Jordan Meredith who had tested positive for Tamoxifen and second year linebacker Joe Surgenor who had admitted to steroid use – both had admitted their guilt, waived their rights to a hearing and accepted a two-year period of ineligibility thereby enabling CCES to disclose their identities.  The remaining cases are pending.

Last week, the University of Waterloo suspended the entire team and cancelled its season. 

Third year linebacker Brandon Krukowski was charged with possession and trafficking of drugs yesterday.

The Waterloo Region Record newspaper just published an article I wrote entitled, ‘University has punished the innocent.’ It was also re-printed in the Guelph Mercury. Here are a few excerpts:


The university’s suspension of its football team for the upcoming season because nine of its 62 players were caught doping is being portrayed as an act of courage and conviction. The university is being praised in some circles for standing up and doing the right thing. This righteous indignation, however, misses a bigger point.

The innocent are being punished for the crimes of the guilty.

Where does Waterloo get off suspending non-guilty players?

The Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) policy on doping control (Policy 90.10) is silent on punishing innocent players and sanctioning teams for the actions of its individual players.

Affected coaches will be on paid administrative leave — meaning they will be paid to not coach, so other than their egos and, to an extent, their reputations, they will not suffer.

But it’s a different story for the student athletes who did not dope but who are being penalized as if they did. They are guilty of no crime.

Waterloo’s suspension of next year’s season has not only broken the players’ hearts but also possibly a contract between the university and these student-athletes. To wit, these particular student-athletes went to Waterloo to play football and get a university education. In return for representing Waterloo on the gridiron, the university in effect promised a football team to play on and classes in which to enrol. In this light, the season’s cancellation is troubling.

This is not an instance of Canadian Interuniversity Sport suspending the University of Waterloo’s football team because of a systemic failure akin to Southern Methodist University’s suspension in 1987. In a precedent setting decision, the National Collegiate Athletic Association suspended Southern Methodist’s football team because its program was “built on a legacy of wrongdoing, deceit and rule violations.” No such allegation has been levelled at the University of Waterloo. In fact, Canadian Interuniversity Sport chief executive officer Marg McGregor says that they “are not taking the view that this is an isolated problem at the University of Waterloo.”

We live in a country governed by the rule of law. Canadian Interuniversity Sport applied its rules – to which all student-athletes are bound – and suspended the nine guilty student-athletes. What rule was broken that gives Waterloo the right to cancel a season and penalize students who have done no wrong?


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6-OXO contains steroids

February 16, 2009


ESPN reports that: JC Romero (pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies Baseball team) has tested positive for androstenedione (an anabolic steroid). The substance was contained in an over-the-counter supplement called 6-OXO.

An arbitration panel of Major League Baseball (MLB) has now suspended JC for the first 50 games of this season for “negligence” in not checking out the supplement with their toll-free drug hotline run by the National Center for Drug-Free Sport. JC feels particularly hard done by as he maintains that he was not aware of the existence of the hotline until after he tested positive for the violation, despite efforts from MLB to bring it to player’s attentions.

“It’s for you guys to decide what negligence means,” Romero said. “But I [asked] my nutritionist and my strength coach I’ve been working with. I took my supplements to another person to make sure the label didn’t have anything that … had any kind of banned substance.”

Since JC’s violation, the MLBPA Players union has sent a memo to all baseball players warning them that the supplement would cause them to test positive for the steroid.

Although the suspension will cost Romero $1.25 million in salary, before you start feeling too sorry, just consider that 6-oxo is advertised as a ‘legal testosterone-booster’ and was apparently designed by Patrick Arnold (the same chemist who designed THG and was implicated in the BALCO scandal). Surely these two facts should have set alarm bells ringing?

Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/spring2009/news/story?id=3907318&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines ; http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3813666


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Alex Rodriguez admits to steroid use earlier in his career

February 11, 2009


US  Baseball superstar, Alex Rodriguez has admitted to testing positive for steroid use in 2003 before Major League Baseball (MLB) introduced its anti-drugs regime (penalties were only introduced from 2004 onwards):

“According to Sports Illustrated magazine, Rodriguez – playing at the time for the Texas Rangers – was one of 104 players with positive results. Major League Baseball maintains that the 2003 tests were “intended to be non-disciplinary and anonymous”, and that the list should have remained confidential.” MLB have so far refused to comment on these allegations.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7880287.stm

Rodriguez himself is reported to have said that: “When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform at a high level every day. I started experimenting with things that, today, are not legal, that today are not accepted. “Back then, it was a different culture [surrounding drugs]. It was very loose. I was young and naive. I am sorry for my Texas years. I apologise to the fans of Texas.”

A transcript of the interview can be downloaded at: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3895281

Rodriguez was one of 104 major league players who tested positive for steroids in baseball’s first-ever drug-testing program in 2003. It was supposed to be a confidential test. But his test result was leaked to the media, and now the other 103 players are left to wonder if their test results will play out in the media, too. “The matter is still under appeal,” union executive director Don Fehr said, “so we have to assume that the law will be respected.”

Indeed, if prosecutors are allowed to use the list and bring players before grand juries and trial courts, additional stars might be forced to admit they used steroids. “It’s definitely not fair to just pinpoint one guy,” Boston’s Kevin Youkilis said of his Yankees rival. “I don’t know if somebody had it in for him. I don’t know what because it seems like just to take one name out of that whole group is a little odd to me. If he was named with 10 other players, would that have been fair? I don’t know? If they’d have listed all 104?”

Although the MLB agreed to destroy the results of the testing programme, these results were later seized by the government as part of its investigation into steroid distribution by BALCO, the Bay Area-based supplement company before they could be destroyed. Fehr later went to court and got three different judges to say that the government was wrong and, in fact, had violated the constitutional rights of the players and of the players’ association, and ordered it to give it all back. A three-judge panel in California overturned that decision 2-1, allowing the government to pursue all 104 players who tested positive pending further appeals. It is unknown how many of the BALCO 10 were included in that total. Then the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the panel’s decision, and began hearing arguments in the case late last December. Until they make their final ruling, there are 103 players wondering if their private records are safe.

Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3898393http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3896888&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

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