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Friday, October 12, 2012

Amateur Athletes Subject To Drug Testing

Competitors tackle an obstacle during the Pacific Northwest “Spartan Sprint” in June. Outside magazine reports the Spartan Race series, which attracted nearly half a million participants last year, has contemplated testing for doping violations. (AP/Rachel La Corte)

Sporting event organizers have started drug-testing some amateur athletes, even weekend warriors in charity running events, according to Outside magazine. One competitor who’d raced in hundreds of amateur and semi-pro cycling events in Florida over the past 14 years was asked for the first time ever to take a drug test after a recent third-place finish. Her reaction? “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Journalist and amateur cyclist Ian Dille finds doping is not uncommon at the amateur level, but drug testing is turning off some competitors.

“It’s a bit of a road block for an amateur competitor who just wants to compete for fun and doesn’t really want to have to deal with thinking about if they might turn up positive in a drug test,” Dille told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

He wonders whether it is fair, or even possible, to hold amateurs to the same stringent standards as the pros. And he tells Robin that those amateurs who do choose to participate in events can report competitors they suspect are using performance-enhancing drugs, to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Interview Highlights

By Signing Up, Athletes Agree To Rules

“The problem is a lot of amateur athletes aren’t aware of that. So, someone like Morse Hill has competed nationally, she’s never been asked to take a drug test, she’s never fully familiarized herself with the World Anti-Doping Agency code that lists all the banned substances an athlete needs to be aware of. She could have taken an allergy medication or something completely unintended to improve her performance.”

Energy Drinks As Banned Substances?

“Some of them have stimulants in them that are on the banned substance list. In fact, a Masters athlete, Julio Cruz, was recently suspended after taking a test in Florida that was funded by the Clean Ride Fund. He’s a 43-year-old Masters racer that took a supplement that had a banned stimulant in it and he’s now facing a six-month suspension.”

Two Sides Of A Debate

“On the one hand, you have people saying that this emphasis on drug testing lower-level athletes is going to turn them off the sport. They’re not going to want to go to their local races because they don’t want to have to deal with the headache of worrying about unintentionally ingesting a banned substance. On the other hand, it’s turning some athletes off because they want to win a race or compete in a race where they’re not worried about what another athlete is doing to try to beat them or perform better than them.”

A “Win At All Costs” Culture

“I get enjoyment out of the sport whether I win or lose. I think the sad part is that obviously other people, even people that aren’t doing this professionally, don’t have that appreciation of the sport and feel like they need to take performance enhancing drugs to win. And it’s something that becomes somewhat invasive, this “win at all costs” culture.”

Reporting Athletes As “Suspicious” 

“It’s not certain that they’re going to get tested, but the point is if athletes are being tested regularly then we can all feel like we’re all competing on more of a level playing field or based on our natural ability. The thing is, there’s a lot of accusations but it’s hard to really know. Athletes can beat tests unless you have eyewitness evidence. So there’s always a little bit of a gray area and wiggle room, which I suppose adds to the frustration.”


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  • GBAuman

    I’m a competitive age-group triathlete and I have no doubt that there is performance enhancing substance use at all levels of our sport. I don’t doubt this happens in lot of amateur sporting events.  Competitive people will do whatever to win an event, even if no cash prize is involved.

    • Rich

      What’s stupid is the fact that some of us take these drugs for real medical reasons. I do Triathlons and 5k’s for fun. I won’t ever win or even place in one, I do it because it gives me a goal and reason to exercise. I shouldn’t have to worry about a urine or blood test because I want to participate in a Triathlon as a non-competitor.

  • http://twitter.com/SlowBarney Barney

    “Global DRO does not contain information on, or that applies to, dietary supplements.”In and of itself this should be enough to show that testing thousands(?)millions(?) of amateurs is a non-starter, and that’s before addressing recreational use of listed non-performance enhancing substances. The strict enforcement of liabilities makes it virtually impossible to refute a claim, the defense of innocent ingestion appears to be non-existent. many topical substances which *are* listed are available for therapeutic use without prescription. So now a visit to the Doctor and a co-pay (for people with insurance, full fee otherwise) and prescription would be necessary for off the shelf products? Get real.Bad idea, imho.

  • Robinson

    As a PhD student who requires medication with a stimulant, I can only imagine that any cycling success I might have as a collegiate athlete would be at risk of being discounted or worse under amateur testing rules.  I am certain that plenty of others in the position of having to choose between success in a career or being allowed to compete in a competitive race would agree that my job takes priority over what the pros ruined by doping.  Money and pride and vanity will always be there, but so will the road.  I’ll chose a competitive club ride and my job over ephemeral glory any day of the week.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/jzimlin Jared Zimlin

    Good interview. Feel free to contact the Florida Clean Ride Fund to learn more from us about our mission, how we operate and what our real goals are with this fund. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jzimlin Jared Zimlin

    Feel free to contact us at the Florida Clean Ride Fund to learn more about why we started this, how we administer it, what the impact has been and what the overall mission is. 

  • Bykjnky

    Incredible. Drug tests in amateur sports. You people know how to suck the enjoyment out of anything.

    Stop worrying about the drugs.

    Let them take what ever they want.
    If you can’t have fun doing something without winning, you don’t deserve to participate.

  • Greg Canon

    If you don’t think this happens in amateur athletics, you’re blind.  Part of the problem is that our society is so pill-happy that people don’t even know they’re doing it.  The other morning the DJs on a local radio station were extoling the benefits of testosterone supplements for middle-aged men.  It never occurred to them that any intake of testosterone-related supplements constitutes taking a banned substance.

    Why should this matter?  Let’s start with honesty and integrity.  When you boast about your 5K at the water cooler on Monday morning, if you did it with strength and fitness gained through a banned substance, you are no better than a steroid-shooting baseball player.  I am a moderately competitive masters marathoner.  I don’t win much (hey, I won $50 once, I’ll never get rich), and I compete largely against my own prior performances, but I also race with an amateur club, competing against other clubs.  I need to know that the playing field is fair and level.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686519255 Daniel Healy

    I hope they study for it. Michael Phelps has done pretty well and is a cannabis consumer.

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