Dope To Cope?

I'm not naive and I'm definitely not gullable. In fact, my rose-colored glasses are more of a poop-tinted color. 

I don't believe there has ever been an honest politician, a sinless priest, or a perfect mother. As a matter of fact, as humans I think we are wired to build paths right through the loopholes in life. Its our problem-solving nature to find ways to improve, transform and well...sometimes cheat. 

Honestly, I don't think cheating is all that evil. In fact I would argue that it can ironically add balance to your life especially if you've lived your whole life being a "pleaser" and a "good girl." Trust me on this one. I know from experience.

A pinch of naughty can round us out as individuals. It gives our lives a deeper and more complex flavor. In some ways going against the grain develops our sense of individuality and gives us a unique sense of independence. As long as the irreverence is based on sincere and genuine beliefs (and doesn't involve axing people up into little pieces) it can shape our inner self worth and change our lives. And lets face it. Being naughty is oh so much fun. *grin*

But, just like a lot of things in life, moderation and risk assessment are key here. Cheating in general is not something to take lightly. If you're going to be naughty I believe you have to weigh the risks. Cheating on your diet with that tasty morsel of chocolate is a lot different than cheating on your spouse. The ramifications of the first decision only effect you, the outcome of the second can affect an entire family.

In a nutshell, if you're going to cheat you better weigh the risks first and be damn well ready to accept the consequences. If you compromise your deepest, most fundamental moral code it will be a cavernous crawl out of that hole.

That being said I've been wondering about sports and doping. That shit baffles me. Why would athletes take that kind of risk?

My husband is a mountain biker and road cyclist and follows the Tour de France every year. The first Tour De France I watched with him was a ginormous YAWN. Seriously? Watching a bunch of skeletons suit up in their lycra man-toe shorts and ride for days through the french country-side was not my idea of exciting sport television.

But then drama and scandal started to unfold. Rumors about Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong being users was way too juicy to ignore. Suddenly, I was drawn to the sport of cycling like a hormonal teenage boy is drawn to the internet.

Apparently, doping allegations have been happening during the Tour almost since its inception in 1903. But actually there's rumor that riders began using performance enhancing drugs long before then. Cycling was considered such an "extreme sport" that riders felt doping was the only way to cope with the pain and suffering through the long distances. So it stands to reason that coping-by-doping would already be embedded in the cycling community long before the Tour de France began.

The biggest mind fuck to me is the fact that these riders were doping with some seriously lethal shit. One of the first drugs of choice for Tour riders was a drug called strychnine. Used mostly as a stimulant to the cental nervous system, strychnine was also a poison used to kill rodents. Yeah. I'm gonna go ride some 2,000 miles AND take a lethal dose of RODENT KILLER!!! Apparently, these dudes weren't the sharpest tool to stab someone with. 

But, besides strychnine, these athletes were competitive enough to use whatever they could get their hands on... alcohol and ether were common choices. 

OK. Um. I have been "known" to carry a small flask of "happy hour" with me on my longer trail runs, so there are no judgements here on that one, but ETHER? That shit seems crazy. Crazy until you look up the difference between alcohol and ether (which I just did) and guess what? The only difference is water. (Yeah. I never took chemistry.)

So here is where things start blurring a little (especially if you've had a cocktail or two). It seems only the high profile sports or races seem to require drug testing. And really, it seems its only the high profile athletes who are doing this. It seems. Afterall, a small edge is all they need to secure endorsements, sponsors and seven figures. Even golfers have been known to dope. Wha? And if golfers are taking this shit who isn't taking it? And then I wonder if any super competitive not-so-professional athletes have ever experimented with doping. And if you're really competitive (you've seen these people at the start lines) and the kind of races you run never test you then its a pretty safe bet no one will ever find out.

Now, I'm not about to go all neighborhood watch and start questioning people at the starting line, but just knowing that this sort of thing is really possible and could be happening under the radar is sorta, well, a little disappointing.

Awwwyeah. Happy Hour Dope Cope
But then again, like I said, I've been known to mix up a little flask of gin iskiate for my races (more for celebratory reasons than performance enhancing ones cuz anyone who has ever ran with me knows I don't run fast. Take my last 50k for example.)

But besides strychnine, alcohol, ether and even blood transfusions where is the line drawn? 

I personally don't take ibuprofen when I'm running long stupid miles, but other people I know do. And when my knee starts to act up on the hills I'm definitely at a disadvantage to someone else who's popping NSAIDs the whole way. Since there's a serious risk and choice involved with taking ibuprofen during a race I would consider this doping.

And what about caffeine for the 100 mile ultras? Would that be considered doping? Clearly it puts you at a disadvantage if you're mormon. Caffeine stimulates the release of free fatty acids (FFAs) from stored triglycerides so an athlete is capable of maintaining a higher power output or delay exhaustion. It can also stimulate the nervous system not only making it easier for an athlete to stay focused but it aids in the contraction of muscles.

And then there's nutrition. If we're talking caffeine, what about carbs? I start carb-doping two weeks before every race since my regular diet consists of little to no carbs. I can't push myself above and beyond my limits on a low to no carb diet, though. I try it on a regular basis with my workovers and interval training and its hard. So when I eat carbs straight for eight hours on one of my long-ass races, you better believe that's doping for me. It even feels like it. Here's a shot of me on carbs at mile 18 of my trail marathon. 
Me on carbs. Rock N River Trail Marathon 2011
Clearly, I hadn't hit any "walls" and was totally on FIYAH!  And I hadn't even had my Happy Hour yet!!

It was the carbs. It was a totally amazing feeling. And you know what's weird? The last two 50ks I did I had the same carb "high" around the same mileage. Its like mile 18 is the magic carb window where my body is burning and glowing in the sheer light of the sugar rainbow. If that's not doping I don't know what is.

But for me, I don't give a fuck if the guy who's all uber competitive with his tricked out fancy shoes decides he needs more of an edge and wants to pump his body full of stupid, risky performance enhancing drugs. But, he could at least tell me about it. Its not gonna change the way I run or the way I fuel, but at least I would have a better idea where I stack up against everyone else. Unless I finish DFL and then clearly EVERYONE is doping except me.
So instead of drug testing and banning people from races I say we let them race but disclose their drug of choice. In fact, maybe we even have it printed on their bib number. 

So the next time you get passed by some nervous dude in the tricked out fancy shoes scratching himself you'll know it was because he was a meth head and not because he was actually fast.

I'm curious what others opinions are. Have you ever cheated? Do you think its possible some athletes dope in the run-of-the-mill 5ks, 10ks and beyond? Have you ever done anything out of the ordinary to increase performance?
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  1. I'm pretty much with you on performance enhancers. I believe cheating has been around since the dawn of time in sports. I, personally, don't care about high-end athletes' well-being, so I think the human body is the great equalizer when it comes to this stuff anyway. There's risks you take doing these things to your body, and if you want to take them, go right ahead. You'll pay eventually.

    As far as my own doping. I set a 5k PR by having a foot-long Subway meatball with avocado, pepper-jack cheese, pickles, onion, olives, banana and jalapeno peppers, parmesan cheese, and southwest chipotle sauce. Does that count?

    1. that subway sandwich would count as doping for me! Ha! Its making me drool just reading it!

  2. I didn't think I was a doper until you pointed out the carb high. I used a Hammer nutrition product once for an evening long run. Couldn't sleep for half the night!

    They are doing it, we know they are. Non-professionals? I guarantee there's a few who just have to.

  3. There are lots of moments in running. It is really a fun activity.

  4. Ellie Greenwood recently posted something related on her blog. I guess the anti-doping guys dropped by early one morning for a surprise test. I wonder if one day we'll see top ultrarunners dq'd for doping. Maybe it has happened elsewhere in the world?

    1. Malva - that was an interesting post. My husband also pointed out that WADA is constantly behind the curve in anti-doping and athletes are able to get in under the radar with other dugs and forms of enhancing performance because the tests have to be so exact and meet strict requirements for them to test.


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