Scandal erupted today in the world of competitive eating when it was revealed that Bow Ling Lane, who eats professionally under the name General Tso, had tested positive for steroids.
Suspicions arose when Lane came in first in the Pizza King Pepperoni Challenge, the traditional warm up for the world famous Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in July, with a world record of 36 slices in 12 minutes. The previous world record for pepperoni pizza slices in 12 minutes was 21, set by Joey Hazelnut at the 2006 Pizza King. Lane, it was reported by reliable sources, had never eaten more than 10 slices in 12 minutes in any of his previous contests.
Pizza King officials stripped the title from Lane and awarded this year's crown to second place finisher Lance Landis.
A Lane spokesperson released the following statement:
"Mr. Lane denies having ever knowingly taken any banned substance. He is certain that there must have been some error in the testing process. He questions the testing organization's security systems, and feels that it is entirely possible that his sample had been tampered with. Further, he calls for an immediate investigation into the policies and procedures of the International Association of Competitive Eating (IACE)."
Rumors about the use of performance enhancing drug use in the sport of competitive eating have been circulating for the past few years. There were the allegations of blood doping after last year's World Peanut Butter and Banana Eating Championship, although officials of the IACE maintain that no supporting evidence was ever found, and all tests proved negative.
There were also charges of Nexium use in the Billy Sims Barbecue Rib Eating Championship in October of 2009. While the IACE indicated that there was no specific rule against use of acid blockers, competitors maintained that there had always been a gentleman's agreement amongst competitive eaters that the use of such drugs was forbidden.
Professional eating Hall of Famer Barry "The Bottomless Pit" Maguire, pointed out that even in the earliest days of competitive eating digestive aids such as Tums and Pepto Bismol were frowned upon. "We called guys that used it, Speedy. You know after that old Alka Seltzer commercial. Believe me it wasn't a term of endearment."
"If you didn't want guys using Tums," he continued, "what does that say about Nexium?"
Close observers of the sport had long voiced concerns about the changes in Lane's physical appearance. As late as last year, he had weighed in at the National Corn Eating Championship at 122 pounds. Two months later he had bulked up to 206 at the Rudolph Foods Pork Rind Eating Contest in Harrod, Ohio. At the Pizza King, he tipped the scale at 224.
There was also some concern about his head size, which seemed to have grown considerably since his days in Pittsburgh as spokes model for a local restaurant's signature sandwich which was topped with lettuce, tomatoes, coleslaw, and French fries.
Landis, in accepting his trophy and check, lamented that the sport of competitive eating should have been dragged through this mud of controversy. "Drugs have no place in our sport," he said. He demanded that the IACE executive board take steps to assure the public that professional eaters are free of any and all performance enhancers.
"We certainly," he went on, "don't want our fans looking at us like we were professional wrestlers or baseball players."
Congresspersons Michele Frank (Republican, Minnesota) and Barney Bachmann (Democrat, Massachusetts) have called for bi-partisan congressional hearings into the problem. "A few bad apples should not be allowed to taint competitive eating, our national sport."