The present episode of the steroids/human growth hormone in sports story is a series of interconnected events that can be tied back to the BALCO Labs story, and this episode is but a chapter in a larger volume of stories than can be traced back to the Ben Johnson/Seoul Olympics scandal of 20 years ago. In the past week there have been a few stories that serve as a portent of things to come and that this issue is likely to explode as we approach the summer Olympics.
United States Anti-Doping Agency Announces Tough Pre-Olympics Testing. The USADA is heeding the advice of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) by stepping up its efforts to keep sport clean of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) by initiating a volunteer pilot program where athletes are submitting to regular blood and urine tests in an effort to track body chemistry. By tracking the athlete’s body chemistry the USADA and WADA will establish a baseline for these clean athletes in an effort to understand how their bodies react to preparation and competition, and ultimately will enable authorities to spot PED users. The fact that a dozen US Olympians willing to participate in this volunteer effort illustrates that there is an interest on behalf of athletes to keep their sport clean.
WADA’s Human Growth Hormone Testing. WADA has been touting its new HGH testing kits in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics so it will be interesting to see if any athletes get pinched in the upcoming months and during the games. With 11 of the 14 members of the Greek Olympic Weightlifting team failing out of competition drug tests, the cover story is that their coach ordered supplements from a Chinese supplier that turned out to be tainted, which led to the failed tests. This is highly suspicious. But the bottom line is that if records fall in large number this summer and if there aren’t any failed drug tests we can conclude that A) the new testing procedures don’t work, B) the athletes have moved on to IGF-1 and other next generation PEDs, or a combination of both. If times, distances and all the traditional measures used to determine winners in the Olympic games don’t improve this summer WADA can pat themselves on the back.
Trevor Graham’s Trial. The track and field coach famous for his association with athletes who have failed doping tests and for his involvement with the BALCO Labs scandal will go on trial next month for lying to federal investigators during the BALCO investigation. Graham has been defiant throughout this process and has said he will name names – prominent names – in an attempt to prove his innocence, and will not agree to a plea bargain. This trial will pit Graham against admitted PED drug dealer Angel Heredia, both of whom have said they will reveal the names of high-profile track and field stars during any trial. The fallout from this case will have huge implications on the world of track and field and all eyes will be on this San Francisco courtroom in May.
Texas PED Trafficker Implicates Former Dallas Cowboy. David Jacobs, the stereotypical body builder/personal trainer, went public this week with his allegations that he sold large amounts of PEDs to former Dallas Cowboys/current New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Matt Lehr. Jacobs claims that Lehr not only bought more PEDs than he could use himself – implying that Lehr was selling the extra – but that the NFL player accepted shipments of PED-making raw materials at his home. The heat from the feds was on Jacobs so he says he was able to divert the delivery of these materials to Lehr’s house so he could continue his business. Jacobs also claims that Lehr used finesteride, a hair loss drug, to mask his use of steroids and that Lehr got this drug from a Dallas Cowboys team doctor. This story could get really messy if the NFL – in their usual style – doesn’t quash it.
Tulsa Steroid Rings Has Nationwide Ties. According to authorities, an ongoing investigation into a steroid distribution ring based in Tulsa, Oklahoma that involves a local cop and a (shocker!) body builder/personal trainer, has ties beyond the South and into the Northeast. This is just another layer of the PED story that illustrates these incidents are all interconnected pieces of a bigger, bigger puzzle. There is no question that all this federal law enforcement attention has had the effect of drying up the sources of PEDs for everyone from the local gym rat to the professional athlete.
Dropping Production. Granted, it’s early in the baseball season, but if a large number of players continue to struggle and be less productive and/or more injured than usual – more than a just a handful of players - this situation will need to be discussed in terms of the how the crackdown on PEDs could be responsible. There is no doubt that the increased scrutiny on behalf of the feds has resulted in the arrests of those involved with the manufacturing and distribution of steroids and HGH, which has eliminated many sources of these drugs. Better than any blood or urine test, this crackdown on the flow of these drugs has resulted – at least in the short term – in athletes not using, as they have over the previous decade. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if decreased power numbers, lost velocity and diminished durability continues to plague major leaguers.
Join me Tuesday night at 8 p.m. EST to discuss these and other related issues on Performance Enhancing Radio.