- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Husband: A lot of guys can't handle it. I'm not sure I can. I remember a while back five of the guys on our team went on the juice at the same time. A year later four of them were divorced and one was separated. I've lost a lot of hair from using it, but I have to admit it's great for football. People in the game know that 50 percent of football is mental, and that's why the testosterone helps you so much. I lost my family, but I think I'm a better player now. Isn't that a hell of a tradeoff? But the use of steroids in the NFL has grown steadily since I've been playing. I hear more and more talk about them.
Without adequate research conducted on subjects taking megadoses, it's impossible to clearly understand the potential steroids have for good or ill. One of the most extreme suggestions for cutting through the difficulties was put forth last fall in a speech by Arthur Jones, the founder, president and chief publicist of Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries Inc. At a strength-coaching conference at the University of Virginia, he announced the following grandiose plan:
"Next week I'm going south of the border to institute a 10-year study using thousands of subjects. Why south of the border? Because we can get the subjects at a price we can afford, and we can get subjects who are motivated, who will train. When you take starving subjects you can motivate them, believe me. We're going to take about 1,000 subjects and give them massive doses of steroids, and we're going to take another 1,000 and give 'em no steroids. You can't do that in this country. But you can do it down there. When they sign up for this program they'll be told in advance, 'Look, what we give you may be a drug, or it may not be. Even if it is, you won't know it. The drugs might be dangerous, and they might ruin your liver. Now if you don't want to sign up, there's the door, leave.' "
To date most of the money for research on steroids and athletics has been spent by the various bodies governing international amateur sports, particularly the IOC, in an attempt to develop testing procedures that would cut down on the taking of the drug before an event. The original tests, which could detect the presence of anabolic steroids in urine for a short time after they entered the body, were developed at Chelsea College and St. Thomas's Hospital, which are part of the University of London, by Professor Raymond Brooks and Dr. Arnold Beckett, among others. Essentially, the procedure involves a first screening of urine samples by means of radioimmunoassay. If the results of this indicate that an anabolic substance has been used, further tests using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry will reveal the type and the amount of the banned substances involved.
The procedure was first used in 1976 at Montreal, and six positive tests turned up. The offending athletes were disqualified. Over the next several years a number of other athletes came up positive, with perhaps the most celebrated case involving seven women, including three of the world's leading middle-distance runners, who were caught at European meets in 1979.
One reason more athletes weren't caught between 1976 and 1980 is that only a few sports pursued the tests with much vigor, and those few only at major competitions. (There are only six IOC-approved testing labs in the world, and the cost of testing is almost prohibitive.) Another factor curtailing the number of positive results is that when an announcement is made that a European track and field meet will have testing, assorted ailments break out among those who had planned to compete. And because rumor has it that a few of the athletes caught had been off steroids of all sorts for as long as three months, conservatism prevails.
But the factor that most fully explains the lack of more frequent positive test results in high-level sport is the "testosterone loophole." Before a major competition an athlete will stop taking the usual anabolic steroids while increasing his or her intake of testosterone. Because testosterone has both anabolic and androgenic effects, this allows the athlete to survive the testing with little, if any, loss of power. The loophole explains the otherwise puzzling fact that there was not even one positive test result for steroids at the Moscow Olympics. Unofficial urinalyses done by members of the IOC medical commission revealed, however, that 20% of the athletes, male and female, were probably using testosterone.
But now, partly because of those urinalyses, the testosterone loophole has been closed by the IOC. This comes as a relief to sports officials because the loophole resulted in two things, both of them bad. First, it made steroid testing, as previously administered, a joke. Second, the loophole implicitly encouraged athletes to switch from the anabolic steroids, considered to be comparatively benign, to testosterone, with all its capacity to virilize and increase aggression.
The first steps in closing the testosterone loophole were officially taken in early 1982 at the meeting of the medical commission of the IOC. Procedures to differentiate between endogenous, or naturally occurring, and exogenous testosterone, and to establish limits of the former at a level that would prevent false positive test results had by then been developed. Thus the medical commission formally added testosterone to its long list of banned substances. By doing this, the commission removed one of the primary excuses used by various sporting federations, particularly in the U.S., to explain their reluctance to implement testing procedures at their major competitions. But although the IOC has mandated testing for testosterone at the next Olympics, the LAOOC is trying to reverse that decision for reasons that seem more political than scientific.
The Olympic Games are not the only place where the use of male hormones is a problem. Consider if you will the statement of a young man who was a scholarship athlete a few years ago at a state college in the eastern part of the U.S. "When we went to the dining hall we were given a paper cup with a bunch of pills in it," he said recently. "Most were vitamin pills of one sort or another, but there were 30 milligrams of anabolic steroids in there, too. And they chewed our butts if we didn't take everthing. Still, that was mild compared to what I saw back home in New Jersey recently. I was at a local gym and this little black kid comes up to me with a bottle of pills in his hand and asks me what they are. They were Dianabol tablets, and when I asked him where he'd gotten them, he said his football coach had told him to go to the doctor and get some pills and take them. We all knew about that doctor; you could go to his office and without giving your age or taking any kind of a test, you could get a prescription for steroids. All you needed was the money. But at 14 years old?"