Drugs, Steroids, and Cheating

Yesterday Jesse Norris, a (relatively) famous American powerlifter, failed a drug test for a stimulant called phenylisobutylamine (that’s n-ethyl-1-phenylbutan-2-amine for the chemically minded among you). As far as drug violations go, that’s reasonably minor, but that’s not the point. Jesse claims he accidentally took the drug in a contaminated pre-workout called Craze, but that’s also not the point. The point is that whenever you cheat, you steal from people you probably haven’t even though about. If you cheat intentionally, or if you cheat through carelessness, you’re robbing something from other people.

A little background for non-powerlifters (powerlifters feel free to skip this paragraph.) There are a number of federations for powerlifting, the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) being one of the dominant ones. There are a number of differences between the IPF and their affiliates and other federations, but the one I am focusing on here is that the IPF subjects itself to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) drug testing standards, whilst most others do not. The USAPL is the USA’s national IPF affiliate, the NZPF is New Zealand’s. I compete with the NZPF, Jesse competes with the USAPL.

There’s something rare about powerlifting that most sports don’t have – opportunities to compete completely untested. You could take all the steroids, all the stimulants, and all the recreational drugs you want and it wouldn’t be an issue. By choosing to compete with an IPF affiliate, you subject yourself to drug testing; you even sign a form saying you won’t do anything that would bring the sport into disrepute, including using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). You didn’t have to do that. You could compete with the IPL, the GPC or anyone of a dozen other federations whilst taking whatever you want, and not cheat.

When you use PEDs you bring our entire sport into a bad light. It affects more than just you; it affects your friends and family who supported you, it affects your team mates and fellow gym-members, it impacts on public perception, and most importantly (in my mind at least) it impacts on your competitors. Others work hard and play by the rules and by cheating, which is what you do when you take banned substances, you’re taking something away from them. The lifter standing in second place on the podium is robbed of their chance to stand at the top, the lifter who finished fourth is robbed of their chance to stand on the podium at all. Everyone else has their integrity questioned, and a little bit of what they’ve done devalued. You’ve taken away these people’s chance at a fair competition, you’ve taken away their chance to earn what they’ve worked for. That’s one of the most selfish things I can imagine.

The closest analogy I can come up with is in academics. When someone else does the same degree as you and cheats to get through it, your degree becomes less valuable. Through their selfish actions, that person has taken something away from you, and they probably haven’t even thought about it.

I’m not strictly against steroids for personal use, but when you use them in tested competitions you are robbing other people of what they have worked for. That’s selfish, egocentric, and honestly a little arrogant.

So kids, if you’re a tested athlete, don’t do drugs.

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