Should Athletes Be Able To Compete Who Are On Hormone Therapy?
On October 18, 2012 IRONMAN announced a one-year suspension for Kevin Moats who at the time was 58-years old. He failed an out of competition drug test. It explained why he was nearly unbeatable in his age group.
Moats tested positive for testosterone that he had taken as part of “hormone therapy”. The test was done on January 20, 2012. It required a 2-year suspension that got reduced to one via some kind of special panel.
Just days ago Moats, now 63, announced to Slowtwitch.com that he tested positive a second time for testosterone. It was from an out of competition test done on him just prior to the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship. IRONMAN has not as of this posting said a word about it.
Moats said he was receiving hormone therapy under a doctor’s supervision for hypothyroidism and andropause. In laymen’s terms that means a doctor was injecting or otherwise giving him things like testosterone to bring his hormone levels up to what is considered “normal”. Testosterone is a banned substance for competing athletes. Should he, or any athlete, be allowed to compete who is on hormone therapy? I say, “NO”. Here is why.
There are two main reasons why someone has low hormone levels for the types of hormones that you need to be competitive as an athlete.
The first is age. As we age our bodies slowly stop producing the high levels of hormones that make younger athletes just so much faster, stronger and more resilient than older athletes. It’s a natural process. A 70-year old is not going to have the same levels of testosterone, human growth hormone, DHEA and so on that a 25-year old has rolling around in their system.
This means that recovery will be slower. It means that laying down new muscle is going to be tougher compared to what the younger athlete can do. It also means that the older athlete will not be able to maintain the same speed or endurance of the younger athlete.
Some people look at this falloff as a “medical condition” that needs attention. Hormone therapy helps reverse some of this falloff. All of the hormones that naturally drop off with age are supplemented (most through injections) to bring those levels back up to “normal”. But here’s the catch. Bringing the performance enhancing hormones up to legal levels in an older person puts them at astronomically high levels compared to their fellow competitors who are not on hormone therapy.
That is why we have age groups! As we age our bodies change, naturally. Yes, you can go on hormone therapy and have ripped abs and the recovery rate of a 20-year old even though you are 60. But it’s just not right!
Anyone who wants to compete who is on hormone therapy should just enter the 30-35 age group regardless of what their age is because that’s about what the hormone levels are going to be that the doctors target.
But let’s get real. Older athletes should all be competing against others with the same age-related disadvantages. That’s was keeps competing fun. No one in their 60’s is thinking they can win the IRONMAN in Hawaii. But there are plenty who are hoping to win that age group! Yet if their fellow competitors are on hormone therapy, well the playing field is not level. So I don’t care what your justification as an older athlete is to use hormone therapy. You should not be allowed to compete against those fully embracing their age-appropriate realities.
The second reason hormone levels are low, even dangerously low, is because of how an athlete trains.
Even young athletes can have hormone levels that look like the un-supplemented 60-year old. That happens when an athlete competes too often, trains too fast too often and loads on huge volumes. Any one of those three things can result in a young athlete with severely suppressed hormone levels. Doing all three together is a guarantee that the young athlete will look like a 60-year old hormonally.
So what? Well, the young athlete has three choices. They can continue to drive themselves into the ground, in which case they will likely die young. They can get hormone therapy, which has a quirk where you can get away with it. It’s called a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). That means that the medical profession acknowledges that you have a dangerous hormone situation. You then get a free pass on taking all the stuff that is illegal. But they are still taking Performance Enhancing Drugs!
OR, you can actually change your training to be realistic and healthy so that your body bounces back and does what is should be capable of at your age.
If the younger athlete goes for the hormone therapy, then they have just doubled down on stupid.
The only reason they got in a situation where their hormone levels were not top notch is because they ignored the fact that their body is not invincible. They overtrained to the point of complete depletion of their body’s capability to recovery. Hormone levels followed and drop off the cliff. Then instead of correcting a flawed training philosophy they just embark on hormone therapy, get their TUE and continue on competing.
The crazy thing about this scenario is that if we could all do gigantic volumes and weeks on end of high intensity speedwork and actually recover from it, we would all post superhuman results at the races. But with hormone therapy you can get away with this faulty training paradigm. The athlete is actually able to continue crazy training and come back from it. That’s a HUGE advantage. So again I just say NO to hormone therapy for younger people as well.
Stay tuned for two more parts to this important theme. The next will be how an aging athlete can maintain their performance even without drugs or hormone therapy. And then the final blog will be on my journey through low hormone levels.
Learn how to train at the highest levels naturally: MarkAllenCoaching.com.