As the world has finally caught on to the fact that world-class athletes from all sports have been using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), the athletes themselves have moved on to the next generation of substances.
And they won’t be caught anytime soon.
Bear with me for a minute and I’ll explain. Well, I’ll attempt to explain.
But before I start explaining that, I want to explain this. This article is not an attempt to justify the use of existing PEDs, nor is this a justification for using the next generation of PEDs. This is simply a matter of recognizing that these substances are out there and that people are using them, and will not only continue to use them but will forever seek out new and better substances to use.
This piece represents acknowledgement of a reality. You can be against the use of all forms of PEDs, but this doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that these substances are being used.
Steroids represent the Stone Age with regards to these drugs and Bill Romanowski, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds and his trainer Greg Anderson are primitive cavemen. The drugs these guys used – even Human Growth Hormone – and the archaic and ham-fisted manner in which these guys used steroids are embarrassing.
The Balco Labs scandal publicized the fact that underground labs – “UG labs” – exist and have the sole purpose of synthesizing drugs that cannot be detected and/or cannot be acquired legitimately.
These labs create “designer steroids” by altering existing compounds so that they won’t be detected, while maintaining their effectiveness. These labs can also synthesize compounds that are no longer – or never were – produced, and can “copy” drugs that are in production but are not available for consumption for a variety of reasons.
The scenario of UG labs is seemingly cutting edge. However, for the most part the drugs that these labs have been producing, especially in the Balco case, are anything but. The building blocks for these designer steroids are steroids that are a product of the aforementioned Stone Age of PEDs.
If steroids are akin to a fire started by banging two rocks together into a pile of dry grass, than the designer steroid – such as THG – is like a cigarette lighter. By comparison, the next generation of performance-enhancing drugs is like harnessing the power of the atom.
And the “next generation” is now. Not in ten years, not in five years, but today. Actually, the next gen probably started a year or two ago. But you catch my drift.
Let’s take a small step back in time to sometime during the mid-to-late 1980s and the world of bodybuilding. Yes, I said bodybuilding.
Now that the East German communist sports apparatus isn’t around to treat their athletes like lab rats, bodybuilding provides the only remaining real “lab” where performance-enhancing drugs are studied. Since the 1950s, the bodybuilding scene has always been where the latest PEDs have been given their workout. Bodybuilders – regardless of their level of success and fame – have always been willing to treat themselves like lab rats in pursuit of “getting huge.”
The knowledge and use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) reached the masses within the last few years. Today, thanks to a variety of outlets – legit and otherwise – just about anybody can learn about, get a hold of and use HGH. For most people – especially those involved with the concept of “life extension” – HGH is the definition of cutting edge supplementation.
Which brings us back to the bodybuilding world of the ’80s.
In the mid-’80s, bodybuilders were using HGH that was derived from ground up pituitary glands that were harvested from cadavers. Dr. Frankenstein wasn’t grave robbing and brewing up his own brand of this substance; cadaverous pituitaries were the only source of HGH at the time. There were a lot of physical problems that came from using cadaver-based HGH, but that didn’t stop bodybuilders from using it. A few years later HGH was synthesized in a lab, recombinant HGH was born, and the floodgates opened.
The most important lesson that you should learn from this is that over 20 years ago bodybuilders were using HGH before anyone outside of the world of experimental labs had ever heard of it. Twenty years ago! Bodybuilders knew more about what HGH could do for the human body than most legit researchers did.
I’ll beat the dead horse here to make my point.
If these guys who were at the bottom of the athletic totem pole were using this stuff 20 years ago, what are athletes using today?
IGF-1 – Insulin-like Growth Factor – is an extremely experimental drug that represents the next generation in performance enhancing – check that – life extending drugs.
Without getting too detailed – this isn’t a biochem class – IGF-1 is a hormone just like HGH, but IGF-1 is the most important growth factor that the body produces. IGF-1 is much more powerful than HGH.
Currently the license to conduct human trials using IGF-1 is held by biopharmaceutical company Tercica and is limited to the study of children suffering from growth failure due to IGF-1 deficiency.
Even though the human study of IGF-1 is extremely narrow and limited to kids, the fact that this substance has been studied on rats and humans and is in the hands of people in labs means that the genie is out of the bottle.
IGF-1 has been used in lab studies since at least the late 1990s, so many people have had access to this drug for quite a long time. And there are people with tons of money who would love to get their hands on this stuff.
IGF-1 has produced some amazing results in lab rats. Now before you get all over me for talking about success with lab rats, you have to realize that this success with lab rats did lead to the human trials. And the results of the tests with lab rats have been astounding.
The benefits from IGF-1 are so astounding – and offer such promise to humans – that back in 2002, H. Lee Sweeney, Ph.D., Professor and Chairman of Physiology at the University of Pennsylvania and a recognized expert on the subject of the genetic enhancement of skeletal muscle, spoke to the World Anti-Doping Association with regard to the muscle building and regenerating properties of IGF-1.
In 2002, speaking before The President’s Counsel On Bioethics, Dr. Sweeney was of the opinion that the advent of genetically engineered athletes was not imminent and that studies needed to be done in order to determine the safety and long-term effects of IGF-1.
To think that using IGF-1 to build a better athlete is off in the future, and that this hormone won’t be used until human safety studies can be done, is to ignore the history of how these drugs have been used by athletes. Dr. Sweeney’s position is one of wishful thinking. And I mean no offense to the doctor in any way.
Going back to the HGH situation, bodybuilders were using this hormone in the mid-’80s well before people totally understood how and what this drug really could do. To this day there are many unknowns that are associated with the use of HGH, including the debate as to its safety, yet the use of this hormone is widespread in bodybuilding, in real sports, and in the general population.
Here are some of the reasons why IGF-1 will revolutionize the world of performance enhancing substances, and why athletes will risk – are risking – their health to use it.
IGF-1 has been shown to increase the rate and extent of muscle repair after injury and increase the rate of muscle growth from training. And not only are existing muscle fibers repaired quicker, IGF-1 is responsible for hyperplasia, which is an increase in the amount of muscle fibers.
Hyperplasia is the Holy Grail of performance enhancing benefits, and occurs when muscle fibers actually split, therefore creating more muscle fibers. Hypertrophy is simply an increase in the size of the existing muscle cells, and occurs from weight training and from steroid use. Hyperplasia plus hypertrophy equals a new breed of amazing athlete.
But wait, there’s more.
Rats that were given IGF-1 and did nothing were bigger and stronger than rats that weren’t given IGF-1 but exercised. And I’ll bet you guessed that rats that were given IGF-1 and exercised were the biggest, baddest rats in the house. The positive effects of IGF-1 on the rats continued for months after the rats stopped getting the supplemental hormone, whereas the exercising rats immediately lost size and strength as soon as they stopped exercising.
In another study the muscle fibers of 27-month old rats – old age for rats – that were given IGF-1 during middle age, exhibited no deterioration of muscle fibers that indicate the classic and inevitable signs of aging. These rats did not lose any fast twitch muscle fibers – the fibers responsible for power and speed – and had the same speed and power output that they had when they were six months of age.
To quote Dr. Sweeney, “So we were able to conclude that IGF-1 could prevent all of the hallmarks of age-related atrophy and loss of skeletal muscle function in mammalian aging, at least based on the rodent model, and now we’re hoping to pursue this in larger animal models.”
Dr. Sweeney also says that IGF-1 could be used as an instant muscle builder for members of the general population.
And here’s the final and most compelling reason why IGF-1 is being used right now, and why the demand for this hormone will increase exponentially as time goes by: IGF-1 is undetectable by both blood and urine testing. Because IGF-1 can be injected directly into the muscle, it never enters the blood stream. Therefore, a muscle biopsy is the only way to determine if a person has used IGF-1. And the anti-doping forces will never, ever be allowed to take muscle biopsies from athletes.
In a January 18th, 2004 New York Times Magazine cover story by Michael Sokolove, Dr. Sweeney says (page 30) that after presenting his IGF-1 info at an American Society for Cell Biology conference he was contacted by a high school football coach from Pennsylvania who wanted Dr. Sweeney to treat his entire team. Do you think by now world-class athletes – with world-class money – are interested in IGF-1?
Included in this article (page 28) were additional details with regard to the results of studies, in which rodents given IGF-1 before birth and at four weeks of age experienced a 35% increase in strength in targeted muscles, did not lose any size and strength as they aged and did not lose any of these gains when they stopped training.
Later on in the article Dr. Sweeney admits that athletes could already be using IGF-1. Elisabeth Barton, an assistant professor who was involved with Dr. Sweeney’s studies, says that creating a human athlete along the lines of these super mice “is easy.”
She goes on to explain, “It’s a routine method that’s published. Anyone who can clone a gene and work with cells could do it. It’s not a mystery.”
Dr. Sweeney added that there’s no limit to what can be done with IGF-1 and gene therapy with regards to building a better athlete. To make a sprinter faster Sweeney said, “I’d put the whole leg on bypass. I would put (IGF-1) in through the blood. It would be more efficient than injections (directly into the muscle), which you would need a lot of because you’re dealing with large muscles. But this is nothing a vascular surgeon couldn’t do.”
So to recap, IGF-1 provides almost permanent muscle-creating, muscle-repairing, and anti-aging benefits and is totally undetectable. Do you think athletes are chomping at the bit to get their hands on this stuff?
The legitimate scientific world is following the proper protocols with regards to IGF-1, but the underground world is not bound by the same rules. Legitimate science – rightly so – is nowhere near ready to allow “us” to start using this stuff. But this isn’t the point.
The point is that there is a substance out there that scientists are cautiously touting as an instant muscle builder and a fountain of youth, and for some people this is all that they need to hear. These people aren’t going to wait – haven’t waited – for legit science to bless the use of IGF-1 for human consumption before they go out and inject themselves with it. Adverse side affects? Please.
In 2004 the leading experts on the subject admitted that this gene therapy could already be in use, and that the technology and knowledge is such that the process to deliver it isn’t complicated. Two and a half years later this circle of knowledge, and use, is that much larger.
Knowing how HGH was purloined by people who were too impatient to wait for legit science to do it’s thing, bodybuilders and real athletes did what they had to do to get it and use it, danger be damned. There’s no reason to think that the same situation isn’t occurring right now.
Bodybuilding web sites, bulletin boards, and chat rooms are awash with discussions about IGF-1, what it can do, how to use it, and what drugs to stack with it. There’s talk that underground labs are synthesizing IGF-1, HGH, and a host of other substances.
According to Chemical Muscle Enhancement, a well-known underground PED guidebook written by Internet steroid guru L. Rea and available via download or through Amazon, IGF-1 has even been altered to increase its effectiveness, making IGF-1 ten times more potent (pages 134-136 of Chemical Muscle Enhancement). Several websites make reference to this altered form of IGF-1 – known as DES (1-3) IGF-1.
IGF-1 is being synthesized and altered in underground labs and is being sold on the black market. Bodybuilders are using IGF-1 and it is illogical and naive to think that some athletes at the highest level of sport are not using IGF-1 right now. People who you’ve probably never even heard of are using it just as there are well-known athletes who have already benefited from the use of IGF-1.
People did crazy things to get their hands on HGH 20 years ago, did crazy things to get their hands on whatever the next-gen drug was 30 years ago, and it’s no different today.
While in some sense the public has finally caught on to “steroids,” the high-tech, high-minded athletes have moved on, light years ahead of what the public can conceive of and comprehend. “Steroids” is the Model-T Ford; IGF-1 is the USS Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon.
With each advance in the field of PEDs the underground has been responsible for the spread of knowledge and supply of these drugs. Advances in technology and today’s free flow of information have made it possible for underground labs to synthesize, alter, and deliver into the body drugs of all types.
With money, fame, and even a kind of immortality involved, there’s no telling what some people will do. The mindset of the PED user is that IGF-1 can deliver all three of these.
The use of PEDs up until this point has pretty much been a black and white issue, but with this next generation of substances now available the debate will get much more complicated. PEDs are NOT going to be eradicated, their use will become more widespread as the benefits that they provide become more and more attractive to potential users.Powered by Sidelines