If you don’t think drugs are a problem in our sport, you’re wrong. The problem is so pervasive that in last month’s “In Other Words” column in this magazine (August ’08), Steve Cox referred to HGH and testosterone as “supplements.” Make no mistake, these are drugs?performance-enhancing drugs that are banned by sporting organizations worldwide, including the FIM. The fact that people in our industry view these dangerous and illegal drugs as supplements should cause everyone a huge amount of concern.
In recent years, athletes have taken their physical preparation much more seriously in an effort to gain a performance advantage. The problem is that some athletes looking for performance gains will resort to drugs without understanding that they are risking their health and their lives.
These are dangerous drugs that most athletes don’t understand, and they are certainly not taking them with any sort of medical supervision. This type of drug use can have serious adverse effects on an athlete’s health. The list of side effects is daunting: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart problems, abnormal growth of organs, hastening of osteoarthritis, acne, mood swings, reproductive problems, liver disease, impaired judgment, and swollen joints, to name only a few. Unfortunately, most athletes looking to gain a performance advantage through drug use are not aware of the potential dangers, especially if they don’t see the negative side effects immediately.
Even more frightening is the fact that a doped athlete’s body runs at a heightened level of operation that makes it less able to deal with traumatic injury. In spinal-cord injuries, doctors can immediately use high-dose steroids to reduce inflammation and help protect neurological tissue, but this treatment may not even be an option if the athlete is already using steroids.
While the AMA does not currently have performance drug testing in their rulebook, the FIM has a strict anti-doping code with a list of banned substances approved by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). Riders in the GPs and MotoGP have been regularly tested, and U.S. athletes competing in the MXoN have to agree to the FIM codes. The 2008 SX series (450s only) was an FIM World Championship, and all athletes competing in that series had to sign an agreement to abide by the FIM’s anti-doping codes.
In the August ’08 issue of Racer X, Steve Cox used the example of athlete A who had a naturally higher testosterone level than athlete B. Cox didn’t think it was “cheating” for athlete B to dope in order to get his level up to athlete A’s, because he didn’t see that as gaining an “unfair advantage.” What if athletes C through Z all had the same level as the pre-doped athlete B? Wouldn’t athlete B be gaining an unfair advantage on the rest of them? Who’s to say that the naturally occurring level of testosterone in athlete A is making him better? What if his work ethic, training regimen, diet, skill level, and determination set him apart? Should another athlete be allowed to dope their body to make up for that?
If you follow Cox’s line of irrational reasoning, everybody in the 250F class who can’t make their bikes as fast as Pro Circuit’s should be able to big-bore their bikes to even things out. Mitch Payton gets in early and leaves late every day, constantly works to make his bikes better, and motivates his technicians and mechanics to squeeze out that extra horsepower. How do you think he would feel if someone else came along who couldn’t put the pieces of the puzzle together, so they just punched their bikes up to 325cc? They might not see it as an “unfair advantage,” because they’re just trying to get the same power as Pro Circuit without doing the work. The AMA has rules against that, and now we need rules against doping.
Anyone who cares about motorcycle racing in the U.S. needs to take an interest in this issue. We need to protect the health and wellbeing of our athletes. These drugs can cause serious and long-term health problems, and that’s not something we should be willing to expose our athletes to. More importantly, we need to protect the integrity of our sport. We need to remember what racing is really about. The best rider on that day wins, and that shouldn’t be the rider with the best drugs.
Implementing an anti-doping program will have its growing pains, but adopting the FIM codes would be a good starting point. With what’s at stake for the health and integrity of our athletes and our sport, can we afford to wait any longer?
Derin Stockton is a former professional road and mountain-bike racer and has worked as a trainer in motocross for six years. He trained Ivan Tedesco to twelve AMA wins and three championships and trained Ryan Dungey for his 2007 rookie campaign, netting four wins and a Rookie of the Year award. He currently trains Josh Grant and Dan Reardon.