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.
” 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 USADA, 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. Bonus: It’s widely available online.
Clenbuterol 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 (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.