More CrossFit competitors/coaches testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs: The Rise of Steroids in CrossFit

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014 in Anthony Roberts, John Romano | 0 comments

In our first article on the topic of Steroids in CrossFit, we reviewed a body of literature that strongly suggests the use of steroids in the top competitors. More recently, a CrossFit regional-level competitor (Nikki Carlin) was found to have violated the doping policy of USA Weightlifting, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency announced those results after she accepted them. Another Crossfitter and coach (and judge),  Ryan Dana, also violated USADA’s policy for banned substances (although the one he tested positive for is steroidal in nature, it’s available legally over the counter).

On the periphery, Sarah Robles has done multiple seminars at various CrossFit boxes (Olympic Lifting) and trained numerous CrossFit coaches on that front. She tested positive for steroids early in 2014. Joshua Gilbert, another weightlifter, tested positive for Furosemide (a diuretic, used to make weight but also used to mask other substances) and refused to take further tests, while Pat Mendes tested positive for hGH – they train out of a location that shares space with a CrossFit box. And let’s not forget the powerlifters in the CrossFit community (I’m sure we don’t need to name them) who have openly advocated steroid use, or who compete in organizations that are purposely free of drug testing. Here we are simply establishing the close vicinity of CrossFit athletes to steroids, through SMEs, coaches, and other competitors (remember, we named/linked to another coach in our first article as well) – we have no desire to CrossFit shame a bunch of people who have been busted or who are open steroid users.

We could go on, believe me – there are a ton of people who are in and around the community who we can crossing over into the steroid world, but the point here is simply that these drugs are in the community, being used by competitors and coaches, and I don’t think it’s really necessary to name other people who have failed tests, or who we know are using. The common denominator with all of these people is that they all compete in weightlifting, where they have tested positive. The governing body of weightlifting and USADA sanction people and announce failed drug tests. However, as you can see from the following portion of the testing policy, while CrossFit may punish athletes for failing a drug test, and that athlete shall be subject to sanctions, they are not obligated to do so, and they are also not obligated to release the results of any test to the public (they reserve the right to do so, but make it clear that any sanctions or public disclosure is at their discression):

1

If you’re unfamiliar with the doping policies of professional sports, this is pretty standard, unless the athlete is suspended, in which case disclosure is mandatory (gosh, why hasn’t A-Rod played for the past year…?). However, CrossFit is not just a professional sport; CrossFit is a training methodology. They have no such rule in their doping policy that requires mandatory disclosure. And the CrossFit Games are not just an athletic competition, they are the proving grounds of the training methodology (taken from CrossFit.com):

“The CrossFit Games are the proving ground for the Sport of Fitness™. CrossFit® is unique in the field of fitness as being both a sport and a fitness protocol. The CrossFit Games are, therefore, as much a testament to, and test of, the training methodologies of the athletes as they are to the teams and athletes who compete.”

If the training methodology being proven at the ‘Games is CrossFit*, and a ton of people start failing tests, then it makes the training methodology look like it needs steroids to produce the results on display. (*For these purposes, i.e. the general public perception of the sport and the affiliates,  we’re splitting hairs when we say that the competitors at the CrossFit games “don’t even do CrossFit” to train for them). For the 2014 CrossFit Games, and CrossFit season, there were no suspensions or lost placings announced for failing a drug test. Therefore, while USADA, the NFL, USAW, MLB, and all other sporting competitions wouldn’t be damaging their product (a spectator sport) to announce failed drug tests, CrossFit has two products – and one is a training methodology that would be damaged in the public (potential customers) eye, if perception switched to thinking it only worked with the use of steroids. Most boxes survive on Soccer Moms, not ‘Games athletes. [And quite frankly, if HQ is willing to overlook the mountains of shady bullsh/t Progenex has been guilty of, we’re not convinced that their moral compass is pointing anywhere but their own pockets. ]

This puts CrossFit in a far more precarious situation with regards to drug testing than any other sport. Ergo, it behooves them, more than any other sport, to not have positive tests…and their doping policy specifically allows them to keep a failed drug test under wraps. We’re not saying they have ever swept a failed test under the rug – we’re just saying they have the power and incentive to do so. We’re also saying that there are performance enhancing drugs in and around the community.

Hold that thought.

During baseball’s steroid era, for power hitters, do you know what made the greatest improvement in the slugging percentage and average homeruns? It was whether or not they got to play on the same team as Jose Canseco.

hrslugging

Remember, Jose Canseco is the guy who talked about how he, almost single-handedly, spread steroids around an entire league. One guy. An entire league. Now imagine what a bunch of competitors (or at least more than one) , or a few  coaches could do in a community as tightly knit as CrossFit?

Just for fun, let’s compare the improvements made by batters who played with Canseco, to the improvements made each year by the average CrossFit Games athlete:

Infographic from Box Life

Infographic from Box Life

Huh. Relatively similar improvements.

The availability of steroids – real steroids – at many commercial (big box) gyms can be scarce. However, some gyms are home to some enterprising young men who know how to take lemons and make lemonade – lots of it. To illustrate just how easily steroids can proliferate your basic lifting institution, lets take a look at how Pablo (*maybe his real name, but definately a real story)  got his start in the steroid business. Maybe this will seem familiar to you…

Pablo trained every afternoon at a fairly decent sized gym in McAllen, Texas, with his training partner Eric. One day, Pablo was complaining to Eric about how he can’t find any decent gear, and if he does find it it’s retarded expensive and the guy never has more when he needs it.

“I’m still waiting on what’s-his-face to get his shit together. I’m out of everything. It’s been two weeks since I did a shot.”

Eric racked the two dumbbells he was curling. “I told you never to start your cycle unless you have everything you need bro. You can’t be running out mid stream like that.”

“I know…. I know….” Pablo said in defeated consent. He knew Eric was right, but his finances were such that he had to buy his gear when he could pull enough from his paychecks; money was tight. “I can’t keep doing this,” Pablo said. “But, I have an idea. What if I just drive down to Reynosa, go to the pharmacy, buy what we need and bring it back?”

Well, yes, there is a slight legal issue surrounding such folly that could get you 2 to 3 years in the can, but Pablo ran about five-foot ten and a buck-eighty soaking wet. Kind of like a CrossFitter.

The next day Pablo gave Eric his gear and everyone was happy. The next day, Eric had told a few of his buddies about the great deal he got on his pharma gear from Mexico and soon Pablo had some more cash waving in his face. He and his girlfriend made another trip to Reynosa and bought some gear for Eric’s buddies, and because they took the money up front, they used their profit to buy more gear to bring back and sell at the gym, which they did. Word spread through the gym like wildfire and soon Pablo and his girlfriend were making regular weekly trips to Reynosa, buying gear at the pharmacy and smuggling it back across the border to McAllen. This went on unchecked and eventually the entire steroid using population of the gym was growing like weeds.

\Screenshot from 2014-11-17 21:41:08Think this can’t happen? Or do you think perhaps someone else (like the two guys mentioned earlier, busted for PEDs, training at the same place as a bunch of CrossFitters) could do something similar? Maybe a competitor shares with a training partner. It doesn’t matter…It happens every day, and we’ve never seen the genie put back in the bottle. This is what they call (on cop shows) “motive and opportunity.” Maybe it’s not a trip across the border, and it’s tapping some connections from weightlifting or bodybuilding or even the Internet. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that this story is how it happens; maybe there’s a few wrinkles here and there, but the broad strokes are the same. Get a little extra for your buddy…and now you’ve got a lot more buddies than you knew.

But isn’t it possible that we’re looking at a few bad apples who have strayed from the drug free world, and some improvements that are to be expected, since CrossFit is such a young sport? Yes, that’s possible. However, if we turn our attention to Game Theory, a detection-based anti-doping policy does not automatically eradicate the use of prohibited substances. In fact, the detection-based system being employed by CrossFit invariably leads to two primary strategies employed by the athletes: i) compliance, driven by respect for the rules, desire to compete clean or fear of being caught and ii) circumvention, by using a currently unknown or undetectable substances, masking agent, or simply betting on chances of not being selected for testing. (reference)

Statistically, what we have here is a tipping point of availability, and perceived benefit outweighing the cost of being caught. If we’re to believe Game Theory, and if we are to believe statistical probability, we must believe that steroids are being used in a fairly widespread manner at the top of the CrossFit rankings.

In other words, when perceived advantages (prestige, prize money, mountains of L1 cooch, etc…) from doping constitute offer a better scenario than any scenario with no doping, given the risk of being detected and its consequences, the only logical action is to dope. Again, we have motive (prizes) and means (the mob of coaches and athletes who have access to the drugs and are already in the community). We also have motive and opportunity for the powers-that-be to adopt a fairly untransparent course of action when confronted with positive tests. The Nash Equilibrium doesn’t lie…

 

By John Romano and Anthony Roberts

Screenshot from 2014-11-17 21:23:07

 

 

 

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Clenbuterol, Oxandrolone, and the CrossFit girl who tested positive for them

Posted by on Nov 16, 2014 in Anthony Roberts, Featured | 0 comments

AnabolicSteroidsBookPic

Yup…I wrote this book.

A CrossFit Regional-level athlete has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. I care little about the impact of this positive test in the CrossFit world per se, but I will mention that she did not go to the CrossFit Games this year, and that her positive test was about a week prior to ‘Games. Make of that what you will, my focus will remain on explaining the drugs she tested positive for, what they do, and how they do it.

[If you just want the drug info, I’ve red-bolded each name prior to their description. If you want a TL;DR that’s even shorter, you’re on the wrong site.]

The athlete in question was Nikki (Nicole) Carlin. She’s a CrossFit athlete (tenth in her region for 2014, according to CrossFit.com) and Weightlifter (i.e. she competes in Olympic Weightlifting). She is sponsored by Weider, under their CrossFit brand, WFit, and according to her profile on their site, she has competed in Crossfit since 2010, has been to the CrossFit Games in 3 out of those 4 years, placing as high as 15th (team) and 16th (individual). I’ve been unable to validate those claims through the leaderboard on CrossFit.com.

Screenshot from 2014-11-16 06:09:17

” I’ve competed in Crossfit since 2010. During that time Ive been to the games 3 out of the 4 years. Second year placing 20th, third year placing 15th on a team and this last year 16th as an individual. “

Update: Per correspondance with CFHQ, Nikki Carlin has never competed at The CrossFit Games as an individual, nor on a team.

Carlin tested positive for oxandrolone and clenbuterol, as announced recently by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. [Before we get into the specifics of those two drugs, let’s not put too much faith in the moral compass of the anti-doping authorities. Travis Tygart, the man running the show at usadapedoUSADA, was also USA Swimming’s legal counsel when they successfully covered up the biggest and most widespread sexual abuse scandal in the history of organized sports. So when they’re not busting Lance Armstrong, USADA is helping pedophiles cover their tracks. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…]

The drugs Carlin was caught using are fairly standard for women. One was a steroid and the other was an asthma medication. Before you go all Google-warrior on me, I’ve written most of the information you’re going to find about both of them ( i.e. what you’ll find on Steroid.com, iSteroids.com, ThinkSteroids.com, MesoRx.com, and about half a dozen other sites). Those profiles were written a long time ago, and the research has evolved (*despite those sites having devolved), as more studies have been done. What follows is my current best thoughts on those drugs, as they relate to the topic at hand.

The first one, Clenbuterol is in a class of medications known as beta-2 agonists. If that description is slightly outside your vocabulary, we’re talking about compounds in the same class as ephedrine. Yes, ephedrine, the stuff in fat-loss pills that was sold by the metric ton at every GNC throughout the ’90s, is a beta-2 agonist. But while ephedrine is generally had in 20mg pills, Clen works in microgram amounts. Tablets are normally 20-40mcg/each, and liquid versions are similarly dosed.  It was never sold over the counter here in the United States, although it’s very popular in Mexico (where it’s available OTC). The closest thing we have here is Albuterol, which is sold as a bronchial dilator. Albuterol is nearly the same thing as Clenbuterol, but the half-life is significantly less, as is the detection time. If I were inclined to use either to improve performance, I’d stick with Albuterol.

Beta receptors are embedded in the cell’s outer phospholipid membrane, and are stimulated by all the really fun stuff I just mentioned…ephedrine, clenbuterol, etc…When you stimulate your beta receptors, some of the effects are increased blood flow and the break down of fatty acids into the blood stream for use as fuel. Beta-2 adrenergic stimulation can also increase your body temperature a bit, by increasing the amount of heat produced by mitochondria, increase your basal metabolic rate, and decrease your appetite. Put this all together and you have a pretty reasonable compound for fat loss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClenbuterol also has the widely disputed ability (or does it?) to aid in muscle gain and prevent muscle loss, plus increase the contractile ability of striated muscle. Although this has been displayed robustly in numerous animal studies, the same data in humans have been inconsistent at best. This is largely due to the FDA, and the fact that they aren’t huge fans of this compound- hence studies on it performed within North America, on humans, are rare. In the animals typically bound for the slaughterhouse, it’s great for increasing lean carcass weight and reducing fat. It’s also been shown to increase performance in horses and the like – but again, real solid data in humans is lacking.

A small dose, just enough to open the bronchial tubes, but not enough to severely affect cardiac output, might improve performance in humans. At that low of a dose, it’s unlikely to have a huge impact on fat loss – while at huge doses it can melt fat pretty quickly. That’s good because beta receptors downgrade very quickly, and most people stop seeing results within a few weeks, unless the dose is increased, and at that point you can run into hypertensive issues. Taking too much clen can overstimulate people and cause anxiety, the shakes, or insomnia.

The reason clen was never approved is because it has an inordinately long half life and slow rate of elimination from the body. Clenbuterol concentrations in the body decline biphastically with a ½ life equivalent to 7-9.2hours and then again up to as much as 35-36 hours later. The FDA doesn’t like this and they prefer asthma meds (especially when used for inhalers) to be in and out of the body as quickly as possible. This is the reason Albuterol has been approved as an asthma remedy in the US of A, while clenbuterol has not.

As you may have surmised, that long half-life can also make it easy to detect on a doping control.

Clenbuterol is a performance enhancing drug (PED) but not an anabolic steroid, and as such, has no steroid-like side effects and can not cause virilization  in women. Because it burns fat so well, with no risk of developing male sexual characteristics, it’s incredibly popular with fitness/physique girls and Instagram skanks alike.

The second drug she tested positive for was Oxandrolone, which is both a PED and anabolic steroid, albeit a very mild one.

The oft-repeated bullsh/t in the media is that all anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone derivatives. It would be far more accurate to say that some are derived from testosterone, while others are derived from 19-nor Testosterone, and that still others are derived from Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). We’re concerned with DHT derivatives here, as oxandrolone is in this family (which also includes compounds like Methenolone, Drostanolone, Stanozolol, Oxymetholone, and Mesterolone).

Dihydrotestosterone is testosterone that has an additional hydrogen bond (dihydro + testosterone), which happens through interaction with an enzyme called 5 alpha Reductase (5a-R). High levels of 5a-R in the womb will turn the fetus (we all start as females in the womb) into a male. In teenage boys DHT is responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics (facial hair, etc…).

Oxandrolone, is an anabolic steroid that has an oxygen group at the second carbon position (OX-andro-lone…get it?), and an additional hydrogen bond oxanabol_british_dragon_anavar_oxandrolone_BD(the latter making it a DHT derivative, not strictly a testosterone derivative). It exerts its effects (increased protein synthesis, etc…) similarly to all. anabolic steroids, i.e.stimulation of the androgen receptor.  It’s methylated, which means it’s been altered to survive oral ingestion (like Clenbuterol, it’s administered orally). But although methylation increases the strain a compound puts on the liver, oxandrolone is generally considered the most mild anabolic steroid ever developed, with minimal effects on blood lipids. Because it’s already 5a-reduced, there’s no worry about it being further reduced to a more potent dihydro version of itself (like some steroids), and it’s also structurally incapable of aromatization (can’t convert to estrogen).

Again, speaking in broad strokes, this steroid is considered one of the most mild in terms of side effects, especially in women, who would be able to use it at a very low dose and still see traditional steroid-type gains in strength. It’s not considered a great steroid for building muscle, but it’s reputation after decades of use by athletes and bodybuilders alike, is that it’s great for strength,  a bit of lean mass,  and some fat-burning, making it ideal for athletes who compete in lower weight classes, or for whom a high strength:weight ratio is desirable.

Because it’s so mild, Oxandrolone is one of the few steroids still being investigated (other than naturally occurring ones like testosterone), and it’s been approved for a variety of uses (wasting due to diseases like AIDS, short stature due to Turners Syndrome, and for healing burns, to name a few). That mildness extends to its androgenizing effects, and women who keep the dose reasonable will usually not find them to be intolerable or irreversible. That’s the kind of dose I’d expect to see in the CrossFit world, which would be about 1/10th – 1/5th what we’d see a girl using at a local amateur physique show.

However, the mildness of this steroid, while great for women, works against it for men. While Clenbuterol is dirt cheap and readily available, oxandrolone is one of the most commonly counterfeited anabolic steroids, and is also likely the most expensive. For women who might only need 5-10mgs/day to see a boost, that’s fine; but for men who might need 50-100mgs/day, it gets costly.

Whenever speculation in the steroid community turns to female CrossFit athletes, both of these drugs are among the first mentioned (along with Methenolone aka Primobolan and Stanozolol aka Winstrol). None of them are going to cause a ton of side effects, all can be used at low to moderate doses, and are reasonably easy to procure on the black market. Most of us have been wondering why there haven’t been more positives for these drugs…because we highly doubt that USADA caught the only girl using them.

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Inner Armour Protein Spiking Class Action Filed: Label claim is 50/24, actual is 19/13

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Anthony Roberts, Featured, Legal Documents | 0 comments

1Most of us assumed that Bruce Kneller’s company, Giant Sports, would produce the absolute worst product in the industry (Delicious Protein) when it comes to spiking, and while he didn’t disappoint us with the heavily spiked product he is being sued over, Inner Armour’s Nitro Whey and Mass Peak are now the frontrunners. As with all of the spiked products that are now defending themselves against Class Action lawsuits, you can purchase them at Tiger Fitness, where the owner is currently opening himself up to a class action of his own (just like the one against GNC)  by

1. Admitting that he knows that spiking is deceptive to the consumer and

2. Selling the products anyway.

Remember kiddies, a warning on one part of your website doesn’t allow you to sell a deceptive product on another. You can read the full complaint below, but the story here is that Mass Peak is claimed to have 50 grams of protein on the back label and it’s actually 19 when you discount the amino spiking, while Nitro Peak is claimed on the back panel to have 24 grams and it’s actually got 13. I can’t imagine we’ll see worse, and this moves Inner Armour up to the honored position of being a company I’m giong to heavily investigate in the near future.

 

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