Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Rabid EPO Project

I've been thinking.

Last night was Documentary Night.  You know how some people have "Pizza Night" or "Taco Night" or even others have "Stare at Each Other By The Fire Night?"  Having some kind of "Night" has apparently become the American way of passing time.  Since we Rabids are all about the American way, Spouse and I have a night in the which we watch documentaries.  We call it Documentary Night.

Last night's documentary was Bigger Stronger Faster: The Side Effects of Being American. This was a dandy.  Let me tell you how dandy this one was.  First of all, I didn't fall asleep.  That right there speaks volumes, for I fall asleep during everything.  This one was interesting enough to keep me awake.  More evidence of this documentary's dandyness, is the fact that we started it at 10:00pm.  That is sooooo late for me.  Soooo late for me.  Being a crack-o-dawn runner, a member of the established Crack-o-Dawners, I break the dawn with a run.  This means I set the alarm at 4:40am.  After the documentary had been on for about 45 minutes, I said "I gotta go to bed" then dragged myself to bed, only to toss a couple of times and return to the television.  I just could not go to bed without finishing this Bigger Stronger Faster flick.

This Bigger Stronger Faster documentary (doc for short) is mostly about anabolic steroids.  However, a great deal of this documentary had to do with performance enhancing substances. I found the director/writer, this cute little Chris Bell guy, was able to show both sides to the performance enhancing substance debate in a somewhat unbiased manner.  I say somewhat unbiased because I now believe it impossible to exist without bias.

I'm mostly on the fence about this steroid/doping issue.  I have a good friend, however, that was close to placing at a national track competition, but didn't, hence the "close" part.  She learned a few years later that many of those who did place, Marion Jones being one, were busted for doping.  That friend would have placed nationally if the Balco people hadn't gotten in the way.  (Balco was the company who manufactured anabolic steroids that could not be detected by the current urine testing procedures.)  Note that this friend was, and will always be, the fastest white chick in America that year, irregardless of the doping stuff.  I just thought of something... maybe she was doping!  Care to comment, Winder?

Sometimes I think athletic competitions should just throw in the towel and let the athletes take what they want and inject whoever's whatever they want.  Being as it doesn't directly affect me right now/yet, the urgency for having a black/white opinion on the matter just isn't there.  If I had a Yahoo on the cusp of Olympic greatness, however, I'm sure I'd propagate an unyielding opinion real quick-like.  So quick would I form this opinion, you'd think I was a juicer.  The SAHJM (The Stay At Home Juicing Mom.)

One argument I have against these take-all-the-performance-enhancing-you-can-get competitions, is that each sport will become more about who has the best laboratory and less about the sport.  Tiresome.

Bigger Stronger Faster was able to reveal enough to get me thinking. Remember up there, like four or five long paragraphs ago, I said "I've been thinking?" I'd like to discuss what's got me thinking.

Let's start with Arnold.  Did you know the governor did steroids?  Even admitted to it on camera?  Gasp.  And did you know that the baseball industry was brought to it's knees in 2005 because of the heavy hitters (Sosa, McGuire, Bonds and, like 80% of the majors) getting busted for steroid use?  Gasp again.  And did you know that congress spent more time in session over this performance enhancing baseball business than it did over Hurricane Katrina, or the initiation of the War on Iraq, or health care?  Gasp, gasp, gasp!

The argument for banning these performance enhancing substances is mostly centered around safety.  People just don't want their precious role-model athletes to get hurt.  However, the documentary points out that steroid use isn't as dangerous as everyone says.  For example, in the year of this doc's production, steroid use/abuse caused only three (3) deaths.  Three deaths isn't a lot, but it's still too many.  However, if you compare that little number with the 75,000 deaths caused by alcohol each year, and the 435,000 deaths each year that are directly associated with tobacco use, that number is just a drop in the Anadrol bucket.  Alcohol and tobacco are legal at their prescribed ages while illicit unprescribed steroid use is not.  (Death toll stats came from the documentary, which director/writer claims came from the CDC.) 

Another issue worth thinking about, is what constitutes illegal performance enhancing.  The documentary used Tiger Woods as an example. Not too long ago, Tiger had his eyes fixed.  A medical procedure was able to turn his terrible eyesight into 20/15 - which is above perfect.  Now.  In a game that requires good eyes, and even gooder depth perception, having above perfect eyesight might be considered cheating, yes?

These days, increasing an athletes red blood cell production is the most controversial of performance enhancing methods.  Here's how it works:  If you have and create more red blood cells, you are carrying more oxygen to the muscles.  The more oxygen you have in the muscles, the stronger and longer you can go.

Increasing red blood cell production is a big thing among endurance athletes like runners, cross-country skiers, porn stars, and cyclists.  Just kidding about the porn stars upping their red blood cell production.  I was just checkin' to see if you're paying attention - although the documentary does say that porn stars inject Viagra into their performing member to help with their performance.  Still paying attention?

Anyway, back to red blood cell production.  According to the documentary, there are four major ways to increase the number of red blood cells.  They are:

  1. Sleeping in an altitude chamber type thing so as to limit oxygen and simulate high altitude.
  2. Training at high altitude.
  3. Removing your own blood several weeks before an event, then re-injecting it the night before.  Or injecting someone else's blood the night before an event.
  4. EPO or erythropoietin - a pharmaceutical grade hormone that, when taken, tells the kidney and liver to jack up your red blood cell functions.  Kind of like a monster truck but with a more efficient size to torque ratio.

Of the four ways to increase red blood cell production, two are legal and two are not.  Now, why are options #1 and #2 legal and the others are not?  I mean, same result, right?  Why are #3 and #4 considered "cheating" and the others are not?

With almost a whole day to think about this blood doping situation, I've drummed up a test, a test that will tell us, once-and-fer-all, whether or not this EPO use is cheating.

I call this cheating-or-not test The Rabid EPO Project.

Here's how The Rabid EPO Project works:  The Rabid will take EPO while training for this up-coming Saint George marathon.  If little ol' mediocre me somehow manages to knock many minutes off the P.R., - say enough to qualify for the Olympic Trials (even though it's not a qualifying year) - this concludes that the EPO is cheating.  If I knock only a few minutes, then, well, the EPOs a waste of time and/or resources.

Simple, right?  Simple!  In the name of science and athletic competition, I am willing to subject myself to the guinea piggery of the EPO.  Serious.

I keep track of my training.  I organize everything into an excel spreadsheet and have done so for the last three years.  I keep track of mileage, heart rate, speed (or slow), altitude changes and cross training.  I take good notes.  If I do the same training as last year, but with the EPO, this will most definitely give us some data we can work with.  And maybe sell to someone for millions.  Serious.

This Rabid EPO Project will include its own documentary.  I'm thinking a documentary in the style of Super Size Me.  Here's what I'll need:  A cameraman, some rights to some ESPN footage, a soundtrack, and a doctor to monitor the situation.  Oh and EPO.  I'll need some EPO.

If any of you are interested in coming with me on my latest journey, and if you can help me with any or all of the items mentioned above (except the soundtrack, I can do that), have your people call my people.  Serious.



megan said...

it took me 3 paragraphs to figure out the "juicing mom"...wondered if that was another multi-level start up :)

rookie cookie said...

Damn it. I was going to do the soundtrack until I saw that you had it covered. I was thinking something a long the lines of Rocky mixed with Star Wars. Really over the top.

Jessica said...

don't you know someone who sells drugs?

C.C. said...

Move to CO and train there and then run all your races at sea level....then you will have obtained the equivalent of high altitude training. You could also utilize an know since those are contraband as well.

Or have loads and loads of "poking." The hormones have similar effects...or so my exercise phys professor claims.

Sparks said...

Mark and I watched that documentary a while back. It was really sad. Took "has been" to a whole new level for me. And I agree that he did a pretty good job of keeping it pretty objective, especially when it was something so close to his personal experience.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Unlike you, I have STRONG VIEWS on the topic of doping, and your somewhat comical post about your "project," even if written in jest, is exactly why. You see, if we said we're going to go to a policy of no restrictions on doping, the doping became legal, and therefore the doping products became legal, then very quickly they would trickle down to the local amateur level (not that they haven't already).

And I like to pretend to try to be competitive at the local amateur level, and I don't want to dope. I hate needles. I don't want to stick needles in my arm before a race. I don't want to race knowing that I'm only as fast as I am because I stuck needles in my body. It would be hollow and not worthwhile and would take something I love to do and suck the joy and satisfaction out of it.

I don't want to race against people who do it. More importantly, I don't want my kids to face a choice of dope or sit the bench in youth/high school sports. I don't care that doping isn't that dangerous. It's cheating, but if it were legal, it would become necessary to be competitive. And that makes sport ugly to me, especially for those of us doing it for fun and to relieve stress.

Full disclosure: I live and sleep at 6300 feet. And yes, the effect altitude would have on my hematocrit level was a consideration when I was deciding whether to buy my house.

Megan and Keli'i said...

Sounds like a good documentary. I love me a good documentary..."The Cove" threw me for a loop. That one was crazy. I'll check this one out.

radracer said...

After due consideration, I vote with Ski Bike Junkie on the doping side of things. It becomes less about talent and hard work and becomes more about cash and laboratories. (Being an applied scientist and all, I'm into laboratories and experiments. Yep, engineers are applied scientists. We take what the science geeks come up with and actually do something useful with it.)

I just don't really care for people having an advantage purely because they have cash. That's just unfair.

Jessica said...

Hmm, I realized that my previous comment made it seem like you're a junkie of some sort. Oops.

I was mostly trying to tease Megan via your comments.

I shouldn't comment when I'm tired. doesn't work out very well.

p.s. I need to watch more documentaries.

lifein360 said...

You have cable? Wow, lucky.

rabidrunner said...

Megan H - "Juicing Mom" isn't a bad idea for a new multi-level. Like Mary Kay but for steroids.

Rookie - You can help me with the soundtrack.

Jessica - I don't know anyone who sells drugs anymore, and I totally understood your humor. And you DO need to watch more documentaries.

C.C. - Been trying to get Spouse to move to CO for years.

Sparks - "Has been" is right. But more sad is the fact that the boys thought they'd be number one and famous if only they had the right steroids.

Junkie - This is so new - to know that you have STRONG VIEWS about this subject. Har har. You also called it comical. Toe-ly made my day. Toe-ly. I wish there was a steroid for comedians. I'd be all over that - a hormone that makes one funny. Oh, but wait, there is one! It's called estrogen. Har har again!

Unlike you, I like needles. Even considered phlebotomy. You did make an interesting point about the legality making it necessary to dope in order to be competitive. That's a drag. There'd be no choice. My naivety makes me believe that there are athletes out there who can exceed any and all without the drugs (if they were legal.)

Megan and Keli'i, putting "The Cove" on the list right now. Thanks for the suggestion.

Radracer - Whatever you do, just make sure your applied scientific stuff doesn't mess with our relay this weekend. Kay?

Lifein360 - You don't have cable? How the heck do you expect to watch the Tour de France?

Winder said...

WOW! This is quite the post and comment string.

For the record I did place just not high enough to make the World Championship team. Four places not high enough to be exact.

I am completely against doping. It is frustrating to work so hard only to just miss the boat because someone else "cheated". Not that doping is some sort of magic the athlete still must train hard. Nevertheless I was punished because I chose to be honest.

Good luck with your EPO project. I will still love you even if you "Cheat". :)

Jon said...

Without knowing anything about you save reading this single blog post, i can conclude several things.

1. That you are a pretty good writer and quite funny. This may affect my reading of the blog, since i have no idea how serious this is or if you are just fooling around.

2. I can tell that you aren't considering all the issues in what is a very complex and serious matter, for some of us professional athletes at least.

3. That you aren't very original. If you really want to do an EPO project i can assure you it has already been done and you can read it here:

That may change your perspective. But in case not let me point out that your statistics relating to steroid abuse as a cause of death doesn't address the very drug you spend most of the time talking about. Additionally, steroids are illegal while alcohol is not, i don't think it is a fair comparison given the population that each drug is exposed to. As more people take steroids, more people are likely to die, but we won't know until it happens i suppose. It is well known that there have been many deaths in certain sports, cycling being the most obvious related to EPO use and blood doping since they became prevalent in the early '90's. I don't care to look up stats but can assure you that they are there, as are the stories. (marco pantani)

Our National Governing Bodies and USADA and WADA don't don't allow blood doping and synthetic EPO because they can kill you. Sleeping in a tent or at altitude only act on your body to change it's own chemistry and make up naturally. I don't believe that altitude training at moderate altitudes (i'm not talking about climbing everest or something) has ever directly caused someone to die, there were other things working in conjunction such as other health problems. Other posters are correct to point out that legalizing use of steroids and hormone drugs like EPO will predetermine who will do the best to an extent (talent and motivation etc being equal), based on finances and access... but it would invariably lead to more risk as well. If everyone has to take EPO to just stay even, then a hematocrit of 50 won't be good enough, they will want to get to 60, etc etc. This is a long comment so I will wrap up, but I congratulate you for your bravery in volunteering a "rabid epo experiment" even if it counts more for naivete than courage in my book. Regardless, it is an important issue so i appreciate you bringing it up, but please don't take it so lightly next time when you aren't fully aware of the issues, facts, or whatever.

rabidrunner said...

Dear Jon - Welcome!

First, let me explain/introduce you to the rabidrunner blog. This little bag of bits is used to:

1) Learn stuff
2) Make fun of stuff
3) Reveal embarrassing things about myself

I don't usually feel it necessary to defend myself when it comes to these types of comments, but I'm going to. I like books. I like to do book reports. I also like documentaries. I like to do documentary reports. What you have just witnessed is a documentary report. All the numbers, all the information listed, came from the documentary. I did not research any of it to see if it was legit, nor do I feel that I need to do so. It's a documentary report. There were a few paragraphs that explain my on-the-fence opinion, but other than that, the facts, the figures, the stories, all came from the documentary.

If you knew me, you'd know that the whole Rabid EPO project was a joke. JOKE. Perhaps a way to point out the ridiculousness of it all. Being that you are a "professional athlete" - and you must be, because I googled "professional athlete" and "Jon" and came up with all sorts of goodies - I can respect the intensity of your opinion. It's a heated topic, no doubt, as the world is full of heated topics.

I do not claim to be all that original. If I had original material, I'd write a book. Or I'd have a bazillion hits here and the income to prove it.

Since you insist that I'm not taking this doping situation seriously enough, or that I'm taking it "so lightly," let me reveal something embarrassing about myself. (That's the "C" objective of this blog, you know.)

I spent three LONG years married to a pain pill addict and anabolic steroid abuser. He was an amateur body builder. Good locally, yes. Nationally, no. Around 2:00am one morning, during one of his percocet-infested roid-rages, we we were arguing. He shoved a loaded gun into my gut and said, "If I'm such an effer, why don't you kill me." So I freaked and ran out of the house screaming for help. He chased me down, wrapped his big muscly hands around my throat, choked me until I passed out, and dragged me into the house. Held me there against my will for a whole day.

Steroids and pain medication are legal for some, but they're already illegal for sports and the average Jimmy. (I call the form beefcake spouse "Jimmy.") I watched Jimmy fake his way through many drug tests. (Because body building is so natural and needs to stay that way - that's why they drug test.)

The fact that steroids are illegal has not hindered Jimmy's ability to get them. In fact, he made boat loads of money importing substances from Russia. (Ask me about the time I came home for lunch one day and found some strange Russian guy on my porch.)

This was my situation. The legal/non-legal steroid issue did not help me in the slightest. Made no difference. Every day I thank the Lord Above that having a low sperm count is one of the side effects of steroid use. I was able to escape that marriage without the ties of children. This is also the primariest (not a word, I know) reason for keeping my real name off of this blog. Jimmy is still out there.

I'm not a professional athlete. I am a mediocre weekend warrior-ing runner. I'm not, and never will be, anything but mediocre. But I love it none-the-less. It's a little tool I use to lighten-the-hell up.

Perhaps you should try running.

Winder said...

Well said rabid, Well said.