Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed
The climate in this sport of weightlifting is a curious thing to observe. At the present time there is a small hurricane right on top of the sport and at the center of the vortex stands the lifter, perplexed and confused. A step in either direction will prove disastrous, or at least this is what he is informed. The hurricane is the use of drugs in weightlifting. Now, in order to clarify a bit when I refer to drugs in this article I well be speaking specifically about the two classes of drugs that come under the heading amphetamines and anabolics. There are other drugs that have infiltrated the sports world, and not just weightlifting, but these will be dealt with in a later article. These two mentioned are sufficient for an article of this length.
First, lets look at anabolics. These come under a variety of brand names. There are, for example, Dianabol, Winstrol, Anavar, Nenavar, Durabolin, and Methyltestosterone just to open with a few of the most common. Almost every drug manufacturer has an anabolic on his list. The antagonists say that these were developed for sick and debilitated people and should not be used by healthy individuals such as athletes. Some go so far as to say that it is immoral to use anabolics. It should be considered cheating and any drug user should be banned. Yet, anabolics are being used by just about everyone in the sport. I seriously doubt if there were over two lifters at this years Senior Nationals who were not using anabolics in one form or another. The policy has been to deny their use for fear the AAU would pounce on the statement and revoke the athlete's amateur standing. So if you ask a top lifter if he uses anabolics he will in all likelihood say, "No, but I have a friend who got great results from their use."
Anabolics have been regularly used by some lifters in this country since 1960, but at that time their use was guarded like a military secret. Those who did know took a tremendous jump in total and moved out ahead of their opponents. You can chart any lifter in this country and tell almost to the month when he started using anabolics. Generally the lifter moved up a weight class and at the same time his total started to climb. I will not mention names as it isn't my purpose to turn this into a witch hunt, but the only immorality in my mind on the entire subject of anabolics is in keeping it secret. For years, many lifters who were winning national honors and making world trips were doing so primarily because they knew of anabolics and the rest of the lifting world didn't. To me this is taking unfair advantage of an opponent. If I have the same variables from which to work as my opponent then I cannot complain. I see no immorality in the use of anabolics, but this is strictly my personal viewpoint and does not reflect the views of my employer or the AAU. But I have a right to my personal view as I believe it is also he view of the majority of lifters in this country. Let me clarify why I feel this way. After reading all the literature that I could lay my hands on for four months and talking to all the lifters who admitted to using anabolics, I came to the conclusion that they were as safe as any other drug if used in perspective and not abused. I have since talked to hundreds of lifters on the subject and the only ones who have run into any problems whatsoever are those who have used them in excess.
If problems arise, it's generally because the athlete is ill informed. He may have heard that a so-called pill can do thus and so he proceeds to procure same. I ran into one fellow from Virginia who was taking Syndrox and thinking it was an anabolic. Can you imagine taking three Syndrox pills a day for three weeks. Syndrox is a genuine pep pill that keeps you very alert for 6-8 hours. Taking anabolics uninformed is not the way to proceed. One must consult a reliable physician and stay in touch with the doctor while you are using the drugs. The risk of side effects is nil if this is done. The doctor knows what to look for should you be allergic to the drug, which is a possibility. One should not even consider using anabolics until he's out of his teens. I don't have space to develop the whys and wherefores in this piece but believe me on this point and ask your physician why if you are curious. Don't get greedy and abuse their use. If you eat too much vitamin D you would have problems. You can overdose anything from table salt to water, but this does not in any stretch of the imagination make any of these products harmful. The same applies for anabolics. There is as much evidence in at this stage of the game to show that you will live longer if you use anabolics than if you do not. The opponents of their use like to point out the ill effects. They fail to show that anabolics are given to old people to prolong their lives and some are safe enough to give infants. Students in college who are discouraged and depressed are often given anabolics. Only the negative has been publicized and this is not being honest. There are dangers and, again, your physician can spell out exactly what these are. There are also powerfully positive effects that should be considered. I saw one lifter's hand heal so rapidly after taking 14 stitches that even the doctor was amazed. I saw another elderly gentleman, not in our sport, go from a sick, sick bed to activity in a matter of weeks through anabolic usage. So when I hear some knucklehead condemning the use of the drug and saying the athletes will die early because of their use I know that they are not well informed.
And I hold to the moral precept that an individual has the right to do what he wants with his own body so long as he is not adversely affecting his neighbor's.
Which brings me to the use of amphetamines . . .
This was the drug tested at Columbus and that caught the eye of the national press. Often referred to as pep pills they are used as diet pills, for depressed individuals, and for students who want to stay awake and study. There are a large number being used in sports. Dexedrine, Benzedrene, Syndrox, and Ritalin are the most common. They speed up the central nervous system - very basically. One can find data in research manuals to show that they benefit performance or that they do not. They are used buy just about everyone in every sport from rugby to rowing to weightlifting. Very few lifters have not tried them although quite a few have found that they perform better without them. Once again, I believe the only thing unfair about the use of amphetamines is to have them and not let your opponent have the same advantage. Now if your opponent has this knowledge and decides he does not want to use them, then this is a different matter. But to slip away and take pills secretly to get an edge is unfair. To make the knowledge available and then let the individual choose is fair.
Some authorities believe the better performances are due merely to psychological influences. In other words, the athlete thinks he is stronger and lifts more whereas in actuality he is not really stronger. What the hey, if he does better who really cares whether it's psychological of physiological? As long as he is not injuring his body or his neighbor. Most opponents say amphetamines are harmful. They speed up the heart rate, raise the body temperature, plus a few other negative aspects, which again, should be discussed with the authority - your physician. The harm has been over-emphasized in the case of amphetamines just as it has with anabolics. There is no doubt that if one took amphetamines every day he would be asking for problems. But lifters take them for contests, which amounts to six or seven times a year. They most generally take small doses since too much causes mental tightness and results in poor performances. And in no stretch of the imagination can one assume that taking a substance which has a reaction on the chemical system of the body much like a cup of coffee can cause bodily harm. This is the same drug given to women as diet pills and some of the more respected ladies in any given audience are pumping more amphetamines through their 110 pound frames than the 220 pound athlete on stage. Not that I am condoning the young ladies' method of losing weight. Personally, I think this should be given the media attention rather than the drug use by athletes.
I believe that discretion and common sense are the answers to the use of both amphetamines and anabolics. I do believe that anabolics are safe when used properly and that they do result in a substantial strength gain. I believe that amphetamines do bring positive results to some lifters and are not harmful when used properly. And I do believe it is the right of the individual to chose whether he wants to use these substances or not. No one should be able to tell me that I can drink 10 cups of coffee, as this is approved in our society, and not take 10 milligrams of Ritalin, which is not approved of, before I lift weights. I have been told this and know for a fact that the cups of coffee do me more physical damage than the tiny pill. No one should be able to say that I can take Livitol or Vitamin E but not Dianabol as they all alter the body's chemistry - but in different ways. This is my decision and if I think it's worth the risk to take anabolics then that's my personal business. There are a few things left for me to have a say in today's complex and highly controlled world. But I can influence how I want to feel and respond and I can regulate my own body as that, in essence, is all that I really have that I can call my own.