The dark side of anabolic steroids
Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
Piercing the darkness of the post-Gilbert, nationwide power outages came the shouts of my next door neighbour - with a generator - "He did it! He broke the world record and Carl Lewis cannot believe it." Over the next couple days, we read, 'Sprinter Ben Johnson has been sent home from the Seoul Olympic Games in disgrace.'
This and other headlines have shaken the pillars of our confidence in the athletic performances of our stars, headlines like 'Track star Marion Jones has acknowledged using steroids as she prepared for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney' and 'On a late November morning in 2003, the world's fastest man [Tim Montgomery] admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs'. All too often, we cheer on or even fall in love with athletes who have achieved remarkable success, setting amazing records, only to discover later that it was a 'dirty' performance, that is, tainted by drug use.
These substances work so well that national and international organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency had to be set up in order to identify and ban these drug cheats. But how accurate are these drug tests? How effective are they at deterring drug use? There are three problems with the drug tests that may impact their accuracy and effectiveness.
The first problem with drug tests is that they are time-specific. Drugs have a lifespan in your system and if the athlete stops using the drug and allows sufficient time to pass before the test, then the result will be clean. To counteract this potential problem, the anti-doping agencies have instituted out-of-competition testing, where testers turn up at your residence or training track unannounced and ask for a test. Missing such a test is an offence.
The second problem is that not all drugs are filtered in the urine. The solution to this problem is to start doing blood tests.
The third problem is that the drug tests are drug-specific. The testers have to know what they are looking for in order to find it. The solution to this problem is that the testing officials are now freezing samples for a time, that better tests might be developed. An athlete who has tested positive in such a case will have his/her performances annulled, and earnings must be returned.
With the stringent testing measures and anonymity of the tests to eliminate favouritism, the results that we see in the 2012 Olympic Games are the most legitimate possible and the performers are more likely to be clean.
So let us cheer on our athletes as they go for gold in London, because they do not have a test for Trelawny yam and dasheen.