Vice Sports recently published an article in which doping in sports was identified rightly as a public health issue, due in large to the increasing number of non-professionals using PEDs with abandon.
The article cited the use of dope in Gran Fondos, the UCI's classifying use of PEDs in cycling as 'endemic', and the fact that organised crime is now controlling a large and increasing portion of market in PEDs.
Clement de Maillard, a criminal intelligence officer at Interpol, is in charge of "all kinds of doping".
"The criminals," he says, "know it's not always a priority of the country of law enforcement to fight against this kind of trafficking of medicine. So for them it's a question of costs and benefits and risks. And the risk is lower if you produce steroids than if you produce designer drugs or cocaine, you know? So this is just a question of risk for organized crime groups and a question of priorities for countries."
It's messed up is what it is.
De Maillard continues: "Actually this is a big health issue. We can consider the doping of professional athletes a kind of fraud, but regarding the mass consumption [of performance-enhancing drugs], it must be seen as a public health issue."
Might we be nearing a moment when those amongst us who see that the drugs that are destroying our communities, filling our prisons and enriching gangsters also believe that all these must be legalised to prevent further collapse will start calling for the same with PEDs?
I hope not. And yet it seems that the use of banned substances in sports is ever-increasing.
The link to PEDs and addiction is an area largely unexplored because no athlete has yet been willing to admit to that. And yet, if we consider this clearly, surely there must be some addictive element in taking a drug or a cocktail of drugs that have links to increased risk of illness (such as cancer and heart failure) to help you to be 'better' at a sport.
Pantani was addicted to cocaine but was he also addicted to PEDs? Or just to winning, driven by insecurity and a thirst for recognition?
How about our old friend Lance Armstrong? Sociopath he certainly is, but what about adding drug addict to his titles? People are going to say that EPO and HGH are a means to an end for dopers and therefore not to be classified as addictive drugs, but the addcition to winning and celebrity meant that Lance, Pantani and the rest were willing to risk that 'end' would be the day they stopped cycling, and not 20 years later when their livers failed or their herts stopped prematurely as a result of taking such a potentially volatile mix of substances.
The real danger here to health is that the majority of people pushing this stuff into their skin and down their throats do not realise the risks at hand.
Let's take a closer look at these drugs the gangsters are pushing and athletes are taking, such as HGH.
“Growth hormone is naturally produced in the pituitary gland, and influences the overall mental and physical growth of an individual," says this article on BuzzFeed. "It stimulates the growth of internal organs including bones, and plays a major role in homeostatic mechanisms, immune system processes, cell division, fat and glucose metabolism, and several other cellular processes. It is secreted by the body during growth years, and peaks during puberty. The levels of this hormone begin to decline after physical and reproductive maturation.
”From its use as a treatment option for HGH deficiency, back in the first half of 20th century, this hormone has come a long way to become one of the most popular performance-enhancing drugs. This is because of the ability to synthesize recombinant growth hormone (rHGH) in the lab as against the earlier method of extraction from human cadavers.
“The therapeutic use of HGH is considered to be safe, and is legally approved. However, the off-label use and overdose of HGH for weight loss, muscle building, anti-aging benefits, etc. has been associated with certain adverse effects.”
So what are the benefits of administering HGH and why do cyclists and other athletes take it?
Let’s have a look at the results of a study undertaken by three American doctors:
HGH Benefits assessments on Strength, Exercise & Body Fat:
Showed an 88% increase in muscle strength
Showed an 81% increase in muscle size
Showed an 72% improvement in body fat loss
Showed an 81% improvement in exercise tolerance
Showed an 83% improvement in exercise endurance
HGH Benefits for Healing, Flexibilty, & Resistance:
55% improvement of healing old injuries
61% improvement of healing other injuries
71% improvement on healing capacity
53% improvement on back flexibility
73% improvement on resistance to common illness
HGH Benefits for Sexual Dysfunction Function:
75% improvement in sexual potency and frequency
42% improvement in the duration of penile erection
57% improvement on frequency of nighttime urination
58% improvement on hot flashes
38% improvement on menstrual cycle regulation
L Cass Terry, M.D., Ph.D. and Edmund Chein, M.D
‘Sexual dysfunction function’?
So not only does HGH seem to perfect for pro athletes, it is also, it seems, perfect for the bedroom athlete too…
Here’s a breakdown of what the drug will do over a 6-month period:
And some of the side effects:
“Studies regarding the changes in physical composition owing to the administration of HGH, revealed the development of carpal tunnel syndrome as one of the many HGH side effects. It is characterized by pinching of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the palm. This leads to:
♦ Weakened grip
♦ Weakness in hand(s)
♦ Clumsy finger movements
♦ Elbow pain
♦ Finger and wrist pain
♦ Numbness/tingling in hands
Other side effects:
♦ Extended belly
♦ Muscle and joint pain
♦ Increased body hair
♦ Increased hunger
♦ High cholesterol levels
♦ Abnormal fat distribution
♦ Tissue edema
♦ Dry and itchy skin
♦ Altered glucose metabolism
and the long term risks:
Prolonged use of HGH has been associated with an increased risk for:
♦ Liver damage
♦ Heart enlargement
♦ Hardening of arteries
♦ Gynecomastia (enlarged breast tissue in men)
Now, back to our hallowed cheating athletes. Remember that most of these guys take not only HGH but also EPO and in some cases cortisone and other steroids. The ‘Cancer Cocktail’, you might call it. Seriously. Read this:
Anabolic steroid and peptide hormones or growth factors are utilized to increase the performance of athletes of professional or amateur sports. Despite their well-documented adverse effects, the use of some of these agents has significantly grown and has been extended also to non-athletes with the aim to improve appearance or to counteract ageing. Pre-clinical studies and epidemiological observations in patients with an excess of hormone production or in patients chronically treated with hormones/growth factors for various pathologies have warned about the potential risk of cancer development and progression which may be also associated to the use of certain doping agents. Anabolic steroids have been described to provoke liver tumours; growth hormone or high levels of its mediator insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) have been associated with colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Actually, IGF-1 promotes cell cycle progression and inhibits apoptosis either by triggering other growth factors or by interacting with pathways which have an established role in carcinogenesis and cancer promotion. More recently, the finding that erythropoietin (Epo) may promote angiogenesis and inhibit apoptosis or modulate chemo- or radiosensitivity in cancer cells expressing the Epo receptor, raised the concern that the use of recombinant Epo to increase tissue oxygenation might favour tumour survival and aggressiveness.
Cancer risk associated to doping might be higher than that of patients using hormones/growth factors as replacement therapy, since enormous doses are taken by the athletes often for a long period of time. Moreover, these substances are often used in combination with other licit or illicit drugs and this renders almost unpredictable all the possible adverse effects including cancer. Anyway, athletes should be made aware that long-term treatment with doping agents might increase the risk of developing cancer.
[taken from a pdf that can be found here: www.cenegenicsfoundation.org – entitled ‘Doping with growth hormone/IGF-1, anabolic steroids or erythropoietin: is there a cancer risk?’ by Lucio Tentori ∗, Grazia Graziani, Department of Neuroscience, University of Rome]
Now there's another drug that was reputed to be in use from 2010 on, Aicar, and with it, GW516 (the 'get-skinny-get-cancer' drug).
Aicar is a 'real drug' in that it made it to market, unlike GW1516, another drug that does much the same thing Aicar does (decrease body fat, increase endurance and also blood flow to the heart).
GW1516 was found to cause cancer, and quick. This is from New Scientist:
“Tests on rats showed that at all doses, the drug rapidly causes cancers in a multitude of organs, including the liver, bladder, stomach, skin, thyroid, tongue, testes, ovaries and womb.”
Thing is, when you combine GW1516 with Aicar, as one study on test rats, they found that the effects were better when the drugs were combined than when used separately. In fact, in mice they found that if Aicar and GW1516 were combined, a 70% increase in endurance was evident (see video at the end of this article).
A real Wonder Drug.
But no one would be so completely stupid as to actually take it right?
Pssst! Got any cancer-inducing drugs, pal?
Aicar is expensive though and there are other products on the market that do similar things. And with the statement from anti-doping specialist Mario Thevis, warning that there are up to 100 undetectable EPO variants out there on the market, well, why use Aicar, which is just a peptide after all?
Heck, you can even buy the Team Sky certified peptides on the Rapha website if you want.
There's a bunch of other stuff out there that has yet to be banned that have not yet been certified for human use but that are being used by cyclists in their quest to get ahead, such as:
In 2013 the Australian Crime Commission named peptides as one of the notable substances being used by professional athletes when they produced the report ‘Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport’ on the now infamous “darkest day” in Australian sport.
The ACC suspected that “widespread use of peptides has been identified, or is suspected… in a number of professional sporting codes.”
So here we are. Like lemmings headed to the cliff, it seems a growing number amongst us are happy to rush towards a horizon with not much more than the hope that once they get to the edge they will suddenly spout the wings they'll need to avoid the slow, painful drop 6 feet down into the earth.
What shall we say to these people?
Let them eat crack? Let them all dope?
They might die a premature death, but who cares? It’s just the way the world is, right? Our athletes are so driven to win, so blinded by the $ signs, so desperate to be praised and put on a pedestal for simply riding a bike fast or throwing a ball hard and accurately – skills which, just in case it need be mentioned, mean almost nothing to the kind of human being they are – that they will take the risk of having a cinder black colon by the time they’re 42.
It seems we can’t get enough of it. We’ve seen our sport stars driven to the bottle, the madhouse and the grave by whatever it was in them that made them do it and in us that cheered them on. More will get sick and more will die early because it is now becoming endemic amongst amateurs. Right now there are people in their 40s and 50s who are taking this stuff for breakfast and then going to work and doing an 8 or 9 hour shift and racing on Sundays for nothing but this crazed version of glory they imagine themelves to be reaching for.
And what of their kids, when they are 14 and 15 and geting into sport? Will these people suddenly discover the ethics the so clearly lack to be sure that their own dirty, dog-eared version sporting endeavor doesn't get passed along to another generation?
There are once-top professionals who took all this crap who are pissing into bags or on their third stroke already, people you’ll never hear about cos they aren’t famous enough and they’re demise isn’t as spectacular as others. Their deaths are going to go to waste if no one is going to learn anything.
So, let them all dope huh?
Is the way it’s supposed to be? Like many things in this world, I look at it all and figure it’s hard to conceive it could be any more wrong.