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He Bends But He Doesn't Break
Terry Todd
October 22, 1984
Unlike all too many powerlifters, nine-time world champ Lamar Gant, who is sort of a specialist in odd twists, has unyieldingly opposed drug use
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October 22, 1984

He Bends But He Doesn't Break

Unlike all too many powerlifters, nine-time world champ Lamar Gant, who is sort of a specialist in odd twists, has unyieldingly opposed drug use

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As his use of "insinuendo" indicates, Gant also tends to be intergalactical when it comes to words. He once defined scoliosis to a television commentator as "swervature of the spine." And who could forget Gant's saying that some particularly delicious chicken had been "serenaded all night" in a special sauce? Or his observation that the fields outside Fort Collins, Colo. were wet because they were "corrugated"? Through it all, he keeps hitting you with an absolute searchlight of a smile. And he winks from time to time as he rambles on about such matters as whether he'll develop "vertical veins" as his mother has.

But underneath Gant's lightness there's a deeper, more contemplative side. It recently manifested itself when he discussed which of the many foreign countries he has visited had affected him the most.

"It was India, no question," he said. "Calcutta, India was a trip. I saw some things there. Things that made you think. We had homeless people sleeping on every floor of our hotel. Every floor! And in the lobby and on the roof! I never saw such things. And I saw some things that made me ashamed. I saw two of the lifters on our team standing at their window laughing and tossing coins out to a big crowd of poor people, throwing coins this way and that way so the people would have to dive and scramble."

Unlike many U.S. athletes who spend their time overseas sprawled on their hotel beds grumbling about the unavailability of good hamburgers, Gant is likely to be out among the locals, doing his best—using a combination of smiles and that megaphonic voice—to communicate. In India, for instance, he not only wandered freely in the teeming streets of Calcutta, but he also got a date or two and was even invited by strangers to dine in their homes.

As for the dates, it must be admitted that one motivation for Gant's rambles in foreign lands is his desire for female companionship. Occasionally he's the team savior in this regard. For example, there was the time in Australia when he came bopping into the hotel disco with three or four young women in tow and announced with a stentorian cackle to several of his lovelorn teammates, "Never fear, L.G.'s here."

Where L.G.'s at concerning drugs is adamantly against them. "I remember Big Bill talking about steroids way back in Flint," he says. "He was always against them. And I just never paid them much mind. But on my first trip overseas—to England in 1975—a couple of the older guys came to me and told me all about how good the steroids were. They told me I'd deadlift 600 pounds if I took them. Well, I wound up deadlifting the 600 anyway, and both those guys have had drug troubles. I ain't going to be a slave to any drug. None of them are going to catch L.G."

Gant usually says little about steroids; he prefers to let his lifting talk for him. But when asked, he's forthright. One thing that has bothered him is that for years most of the powerlifting elite was skeptical, if not openly contemptuous, of his claims of being natural. Some lifters even called him a liar to his face. And others spread rumors that he took drugs secretly. Of course, such gossip hurt Gant's feelings, but since there was no testing done in powerlifting until 1982, Gant had no way of proving he was clean.

Finally, in 1981, Gant asked to take a lie detector test. "I wanted to have some kind of a comeback," he says, "and this was the best thing anybody could come up with."

He was tested in Auburn, Ala. by Mike Capps, a licensed polygraph examiner, who stated afterward that Gant had apparently never used any form of anabolic steroids or testosterone.

Further evidence came in 1982 at the World Powerlifting Championships in Munich, and although this evidence is primarily inferential, it's compelling. Three and a half months before the Munich meet, Gant won the 123-pound senior national championships, at which there was no drug testing, and qualified for a place on the U.S. team for the worlds. In West Germany, however, there was testing for the first time in men's powerlifting. The worlds saw drastic drop-offs in the performances of many of the top lifters. The 10 American entrants lifted a total of 1,267 fewer pounds in West Germany than they had 14 weeks before in the U.S. Gant set the only world mark of the competition, an anomaly in a sport in which records generally fall like leaves in a norther.

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