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Anabolic steroids at the 1972 Olympics!

The Olympic Games is the showcase for the amateur athletes of the world. Historically, its purpose is to foster the brotherhood of man through friendly competition.

The 1972 Olympics was hardly an overwhelming success in this respect. It was plagued by unprecedented political pestilences: The ousting of Southern Rhodesia, a series of obviously erroneous judging decisions, and vicious murder by Arab terrorists.

These were the problems everyone saw. Several others, below the surface, also created serious controversy.

The use of drugs was one, particularly anabolic steroids. Having been involved in two studies on these drugs, I became interested in ascertaining the extent of their use by Olympic track and field athletes, and the athletes' knowledge and attitudes toward them.

The accompanying questionnaire was devised with these thoughts in mind. As you can see, I did not ask the athlete to name specific drug or dosage he was utilizing. But I did follow up on this after the questionnaire was completed.

As a result of these discussions, I can report that far and away the favorite anabolic steroid proved to be Dianabol or Methandrostanelone. The dosage was very inconsistent, varying from 10 mg per day to as high as 100 mg per day by one athlete. The most used by any other athlete was 50 mg per day over a four-week period.

Returns were received from athletes from eight countries, namely: U.S., Russia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada, Morocco, and England.

68% of these athletes admitted to having used anabolic steroids, with 61% having used them within six months of the Olympic Games--a rather trenchant statistic in view of the International Amateur Athletic Federation taboo on the use of anabolic steroids.

Why do so many athletes break the rules? What is the attraction of the anabolic steroid? I believe there are three basic reasons:

First, the one that athletes give is that steroid usage is so widespread that they feel they must take them to stay even with the competition.

Second, the detection of steroids is very difficult and expensive. A single test costs about $1,000, and you need a series of them to establish whether the individual is actually using them.

Third, and perhaps most causative, is that the athletes generally feel that steroids d o enhance their ability, particularly in the so-called strength-type events, although athletes in other events also feel they improve performance.

To facilitate a comparison between events, the athletes were asked to designate themselves as (1) throwers, (2) jumpers or pole vaulters, (3) sprinters, including the 400-meter hurdles, or (4) middle-distance runners, from 800 meters through 3,000-meter steeplechase. The questionnaire excluded distance runners.

The answers to the questions have been broken down by percentages in the accompanying chart. Some of these answers hold particular significance.

Question 3: "Ethically, do you approve of anabolic steroid usage in sport?

Research indicated that anabolic steroids enable a person to gain strength at a faster rate than the nonuser can. I believe that this is true. The use of steroids is, therefore, a form of cheating, enabling you to do more than you otherwise could.

Although this is ethically indefensible, 45% of the respondents disagreed with me. They more or less compared the use of anabolic steroids to taking vitamin pills.

Question 7: A majority of the athletes (65%) felt that the steroids had a positive influence on their performance. And when an athlete believes that something works to his advantage, he will quite likely use it, assuming it is available.

Questions 9-10: Studies on the effect of anabolic steroids on strength are not entirely in agreement. Interestingly, a large majority (84%) of the respondents believe that steroids decrease the time it takes to gain a certain level of strength. 52% feel that anabolic steroids enable a person to become stronger than he could otherwise become.

Question 15: Bob Richards once told me that no good athlete ever undertrains; he usually overtrains. I tend to agree with him. All good athletes are in excellent physical condition.

The big question involves the mind. How can we get the most out of the athlete at the critical moment? 68% of the respondents believe that anabolic steroids will enable them to perform better. And this kind of faith can tend to improve mental attitude.

Question 16: Does steroid usage affect other body functions? The possibility of side effects is of major interest. Medical people suggest that many changes are possible. Some athletes say they have more pain while on steroids, others claim that they heal faster from injuries when taking the drug.

Following are the answers to the questions (increase, decrease, no change):
 Inc. Dec. No. Ch.

Urine production 16 0 84
Sexual activity 19 19 62
Body hair 16 0 84
Low back pain 10 16 74
Joint pain 19 13 68

Question 20: Is it difficult to obtain anabolic steroids? I realize that the word difficult does not hold the same meaning for everyone. However, 614 of the athletes did not believe it was difficult to obtain such drugs.

From these brief replies, we can see that most athletes believe that the "proper use" of anabolic steroids can improve performance, and that when an athlete really believes that something will help him he will probably do something about it.

Let us go back to an Olympic Track and Field team meeting in New Brunswick, ME. At one point, the head doctor delved into the use of anabolic steroids. He appeared to think that he was talking to a group of children. He claimed that the steroids were totally ineffective and dangerous, and had many serious side effects.

Of course he was trying to discourage the athletes from taking something that was both illegal and potentially harmful. That was praiseworthy. But the athletes--especially the mature ones who had been around--thought his presentation somewhat humorous. Most of them were convinced that the steroids made for better performance.

Any team doctor who claimed that the steroids did not do this and who had never tried them himself couldn't carry much weight with a mature audience.

As mentioned earlier, I had a discussion with almost every athlete at the completion of the questionnaire. Several of them proved extremely interesting.

I particularly remember a British athlete who took the steroids in American style--without a doctor monitoring his responses and without letting his coach know about it. He felt that he was forced to take the drug to keep up with his competition, and that we were practically forcing the young athlete to use anabolic steroids to achieve the standards recorded by previous generations.

Another British athlete (it seems that most of the British have a great deal to say on everything) expressed deep concern about the possible effect of anabolic steroids on testicular function. He believed that any person contemplating the use of steroids should, if he had thoughts of raising a family, collect a quantity of his own semen and store it away for future use!

Who knows, this may be a good suggestion, but none of the steroid-users I know have any problems about producing offspring.

Some athletes report a lessening of sex drive, but at least as many report an increase in libido. I must conclude, therefore, that the anabolic steroids with which I am familiar, when used within prescribed dosages and limits, have little effect upon the reproductive process of the male.

Another athlete implied that a period of steroid usage so taxed the body and so depleted its reserves that it could cause serious health problems when the athlete went off it. He jokingly said that every time an athlete was awarded a medal, he should be given a pass to a hospital at the same time, to enable him to recover under a doctor's care. The remark may be humorous, but it is also a bit ominous.

That represents the gist of my discussions with the athletes. Now for some other related incidents.

There was the Olympian from one of the Pacific Countries who showed up with 10 pounds of drugs! (I saw it with my own eyes.) That is a lot of drugs for one person, especially over a four-week period.

Included were three different types of steroids, some amphetamines, various other drugs, and dietary supplements. The athlete felt the steroids diminished his sex drive, and he had brought a drug called Provirin to counteract this. He said that Provirin had some aphrodisiac qualities.

He thus was taking one drug to counteract another! Drugging can get out of hand unless extreme caution is exercised. The athlete in question expressed relief that the customs officials had been negligent in inspecting his luggage. Imagine, 10 pounds of drugs for one person!

One day I ran into an old friend who I hadn't seen in some time. David James, now head doctor for the Swiss Olympic team, had sprinted for UCLA about the same time I was at Utah State (1955-59). He is well known throughout Europe as an outstanding expert in sports medicine and nutrition.

I spent many hours talking with him about drugs and nutrition. His opinion can be best summarized by an incident that occurred while we were talking in his room. There was a brief knock at the door and two athletes, obviously weight men, entered.

One of them was carrying a small vial. He briefly introduced himself and said, "Well, Doc. I won't beat around the bush. I just want to know that if we use this will it be detected in the testing?"

He handed the vial to Dr. James. Dave's eyes widened as he examined the contents. "Synthetic epinephrine," he said. "Yes, certainly it will be detected. It wouldn't do you any good anyway."

The two athletes did not give up. "What about this other drug?" they asked, "and what about this amphetamine?" etc.

The answer in each case was, "No, not effective; of course will be detected. These drugs will not help your performance." Dr. James finally concluded with: "I don't believe that the amphetamine type drugs will do you any good, but if you have to use a drug about the only thing we are not checking for is caffeine."

Obviously, Dr. James believes that amphetamine type drugs are not helpful in athletic performance. Interestingly enough, however, he is one doctor who admits that anabolic steroids can be helpful in strength-type events.

While at the village I was disturbed by reports of some women taking anabolic steroids. Women using male hormones to aid performance (athletic?) It was disturbing.

My BYU colleague, Dr. LaVon Johnson, once informed me that any time a woman started showing side effects as a result of steroid usage, the process could be not be reversed. These side effects might take the form of excess facial hair, deepening voices, heavier muscles, and so on.

Sacrificing femininity for athletic success doesn't seem like a worthwhile trade. I finally located a couple of these girls on anabolic steroids. They showed no signs of ill effects. In fact, they were both rather attractive. Each was taking 5 mg of Dianabol daily on a four-week-on-two-week-off basis. One was a hurdler, the other a discus thrower.

Dr. James later informed me that a dosage that small could not possibly cause side effects.

What's happening anyway? Why is all this drug usage going on? Is there any contest free of contamination, free of suspicion? Did we ever really have it that way? Will we ever have it that way? If not, where will it all end?

It is very difficult to speculate. I sincerely wish that these drugs could be withdrawn from the grasp of all athletes. I am absolutely certain that all our athletes would be better for it.

Now the question is: How do you do it? I wish I knew!

By Jay L. Silvester, P.E. Dept., Brigham Young University, (Former World Record Holder, Discus)

Originally published in the September 1973 issue
 Yes No No Op.

 1) Have you taken anabolic steroids within the past 61 39 0
 six months?
 2) Have you ever taken steroids? 68 32 0
 3) Ethically, do you approve of anabolic steroids in 45 25 30
 in athletics?
 4) If a test could positively identify steroid users, 48 35 17
 would you favor banishment of the drug in sports?
 5) Are you aware of any specific reason why athletes 42 48 10
 who haven't attained full maturity should avoid
 anabolic steroid usage?
 6) If you were a coach, would you recommend steroid 45 35 20
 usage to (mature) athletes in your event?
 7) Do you feel that steroids have positively affected 65 16 19
 the performance of athletes in your event?
 8) Do you feel that steroids have negatively affected 6 61 33
 the performance of athletes in your event?
 9) Do you feel that steroids enable a person to gain 84 3 13
 strength faster than otherwise possible?
10) Do you believe that steroids enable a person to 52 35 13
 become stronger than otherwise possible?
11) Do you believe that steroids enable a person to 13 42 45
 gain cardiorespiratory endurance more quickly than
 otherwise possible?
12) Do you believe that steroids enable a person to 6 45 49
 gain greater cardiorespiratory endurance than
 otherwise possible?
13) Have you gained localized muscular endurance 48 42 10
 faster when taking anabolic steroids?
14) Have you gained greater localized muscular 32 22 46
 endurance when taking anabolic steroids?
15) Do steroids enhance mental attitude? Do you feel 68 10 22
 more in control of your life? Do you feel you will
 perform better in your event?
16) Does steroid usage affect other body functions
 (mark increase, decrease, no change): (a) urine
 production; (b) sexual activity; (c) body hair;
 (d) low back pain; (e) joint pain
17) Has steroid usage appeared to contribute to injury 26 32 42
18) Are you aware of the undesirable side effects? 74 19 7
19) Do steroids increase the body wt.? 55 16 29
20) Are steroids difficult to obtain? 22 61 17
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE
Author:Silvester, Jay L.
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Previous Article:Editorial.
Next Article:Doping deja vu.

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