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Hormone Therapy and PED’s: The Epilogue

This is the epilogue to the previous three blogs I posted about Hormone Therapy. I generally feel it’s cheating to race if you are on it. This goes for any kind of Performance Enhancing Drug (PED).

If we are trying to see who is the best on any given day, the playing field has to be even. It also has to be comparable to other playing fields at other times without influence if we want to gauge a performance against a specific finishing time.

Training and racing as hard as you can are acceptable by all measures of fair play.

We have some pretty basic rules and guidelines in place governing what we are going to allow an athlete to do to be their best.

Training is pretty much free range. You can do as many miles and go as hard as you like as often as you want. You can race as hard as you want on equipment that fits general guidelines as well. Yes, we have rules about what constitutes fair play on race day. But we all generally try to abide by those.

But we do limit what’s acceptable for helping an athlete recover quicker than their bodies would do naturally. We also set borders on what they can take to boost their ability to gain benefit from their training. This is the realm of Hormone Therapy and PED’s. With rare exception, if you do any of that and race, it’s considered cheating. You’ve gained an unfair advantage over your fellow competitors who are staying within the guidelines of fair play.

Kevin Moats, the consummate cheater, is now banned for eight-years for taking PED’s.

Those who do Hormone Therapy or take PED’s have their justification for why they think it’s acceptable. Those who don’t take them have full right to call foul on those who do.

But this is not the real core issue. The real question is how to reduce the number of athletes racing who are on Hormone Therapy or taking PED’s?

The front line on this is indeed the drug testing. It’s becoming more prevalent especially in the age group ranks where we know athletes have gotten away with murder over the years because they knew they would not get tested. Those days are numbered. The professionals are already under the microscope about as much as is possible.

But even with all that, there are those sneaking and sliming their way through the backdoors that are nearly endless and are getting away with cheating. This will never change dramatically until one thing happens. And that one thing is when en masse it becomes culturally totally and completely unacceptable to tolerate this type of behavior.

In the pro ranks, Nina Kraft had the biggest fall from drugs. She won the IRONMAN in 2004, but then was found to have EPO in her drug test leading to a disqualification and disgrace.

When the mass consciousness in sport gathers and agrees that you are subhuman if you are trying to cheat the system with PED’s to gain a podium or a win or a world championship, then there is a chance that their use will shrivel up and rot in the corner.

When we all become vocal about our complete disapproval of the use of PED’s there’s a good guarantee that their use will drop off the cliff. That voice needs to come from everyone in every training group big and small when it becomes clear that a member in that group is on something. That someone needs to be ostracized. Yes, it is a radical concept! But then turning our collective backs and just walking away in private disgust does nothing to stem the problem.

We need to call people out to our sport’s governing bodies when we have strong or even substantiated suspicion of a cheating violator. If that person suddenly has their name on a “random” test list, well, then let the results of that set the record straight. Maybe they will get caught, and that would be vindication for all suspicions! If the result is negative, then we will know they made a huge and amazing breakthrough legally. That helps to elevate them to even higher esteem. It’s not unfair to them to call them out. It’s the only way to have things fair for you.

I know this is a very sticky topic. We don’t want sport to become like the secret police. Questioning every amazing race as only possible by drugs would be a tragedy.

Great gains can be made! Mind bending results can be posted. Just because you have not figured out how to do what another has done is in no way a sign that they are doing something illegal.

But unfortunately, the small number of athletes who are unwilling to play by the game book the rest of us are following are likely to be those who are also going to influence the top end of the results. Someone who finishes second from last is probably not going to think “Geez, if I had done Hormone Therapy I could have moved up five spots”. But someone who finishes second overall may have that thought come into their brain, and then act on it. And if the result after PED’s does get them to the top, well, it’s likely they will continue.

That influences the sport overall. The top people are the ones others look up to and aspire to match. But if they are at the top illegally, then we are all chasing ghosts rather than true greats in our sport.

Yes, great breakthrough performances are possible without any PED. 1989 was the ultimate testimony to that brilliant ray of hope.

Here’s one last story that I know will bring hope for doing something amazing legally.

In 1989 I won my first IRONMAN World Championship against Dave Scott as many of you know. It came on my seventh attempt at the race with the six previous being wrought with disaster. That epic battle produced a winning time that was almost 27-minutes faster than I had ever gone in those previous six races. I set a marathon split of 2:40:04 that stood for 27-years.

That was a mind-boggling improvement. It could have easily been looked at as something only possible by taking PED’s. I mean, how does someone who has only broken 9:00hrs twice in his six previous IROMAN World Championships suddenly go sub 8:10? How could someone who had a PR of 8:36:04 suddenly go an 8:09:15?

Yes, in IRONMAN you can make big gains especially if you are just starting out. But I was seven years into that pie. So to make that type of improvement was astronomical. Yet I did it without PED’s or hormone therapy. It came partially because I finally figured out how to train for that race. I finally found the mindset that got me ready to deal with the pressure of it. And then there was tapping into the whole spirit of the race and the Island.

All those pieces are stories for the campfire on another day. But the takeaway is that amazing is possible even if you stay within the rules of engagement. So let’s clean things up and make every result and finish and performance that is outstanding be clean, inspiring and nothing we ever have to question!

Let me help you be amazing as an athlete and as a person!


  1. Slowtwitch has been pretty good about calling folks out, but Dan generally does not allow talk unless there is real “proof”, which seems to be against your suggestions?

    1. I never had the “honor” to race against him. He did long stuff, my focus is on short stuff. I always thought about what I would say or do if I actually met him. Have you ever met him?

  2. Great Blogs, all 4 of them. Agree 200% with everything you write, Mark. When there is strong suspicion, we must call them out. It’s good for them, if they are clean and it’s good for us, the athletes, and the Sport in general, if they aren’t. And Ironman must start to test IM and IM 70.3 World Championships AG Podiums.

    1. Yes, the sport has to step up the testing more into age groups. There has to be some sort of out of competition testing for age group top guns just like there are for pros. I know that it should all be done for fun. But the people who are pushing the limits in their age group seem to agree that the playing field should be as even as possible so that even if the reward for a win is bragging rights, that it’s truly because that person won by playing the game with good conscience rather than skirting around rules because they knew they would not get caught.

  3. Maybe you have not seen a not natural performance, but he did test positive twice. That’s a pretty big red flag. And if someone is on steady hormone therapy, what you see will seem like their norm. I cannot speak to his specifics of the reasons for using PEDs that supposedly are medical.

    There have been a number of people who suggest that expanding the sampling even if the tests were not run might be one solution to get around the huge expense of actually running the tests. And yes, drafting is a huge issue that still needs better solutions…

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