on doping…a guest-post from Brad Walker

Obviously a lot of talk about doping this past week.  
And it’s a shame, because in a season including the amazing performances at NCAA Trials and USA National Championships in the United States, the British World Championship Trials, and the awesome Monaco Diamond League Meeting here a few nights ago, the discourse continues to be dominated by drugs.  
Not that I’m complaining.  
As long as doping in sport remains a problem – and it clearly does – the only way to improve our lot is to continue the discussion.  It’s why I agreed to an interview with Guardian reporter Sean Ingle, and it’s the reason why I have asked American Pole Vault Record Holder Brad Walker to share his thoughts in a  short two-part series…and since the last few posts have been super-long, and the up-coming conversation with Aries Merritt and his coach Andreas Behm is also a monster, I thought this would be a nice reprieve…
Influenced by Lauryn Williams’ post last week, and particularly the fact that her answer to the drug problem is an outright refusal to take a supplement at all, Brad articulates a couple of important issues – namely:
  • What is performance enhancing?
  • Is there any intent?


on doping…a guest-post from Brad Walker:
I HATE doping.
But I do have to admit – it is a strange, hazy line that is easily crossed by uninformed athletes.
If someone in the general public has high stress (high cortisol), they can walk into a health food store, buy a DHEA supplement and reach a better state of health.
Most of the aging population takes daily multi-vitamins, fish oils and other supplements to help with deficiencies in their diet.
We do the same.
But when a particular substance is deemed too beneficial, it is banned.
Performance Enhancing
If I have allergies, I take a Claritin, and I feel better. You better believe that it is performance enhancing. If I have a headache and take an ibuprofen, it is also performance enhancing. Caffeine used to be a banned substance in high quantities. The rules are very arbitrary in what is legal and what is not. So in an athlete’s attempt to find better health, and synonymously better performance, they flirt a fine line.
Our entire careers, we are told “TAKE SUPPLEMENTS AT YOUR OWN RISK!!” We can look up medications on an online reference – but only pharmaceuticals. If I want to know if a fish oil is okay, we are told take at your own risk. So in an effort to attain a better state of health, as we continually and purposefully stress our bodies, we have to consider supplementation a risk and weigh its benefits. And this forces some athletes to refuse to even take a vitamin.
Its a weird deal.
To me, doping has everything to do with intent.
Are you intentionally trying to cheat the system and other athletes?
If so, you are a cheater.
There are soooo many athletes of the 80’s and 90’s who claim, “I never took something on the banned list”. Well guess what? Many of those substances are now on the banned list. So did they cheat??? I don’t really know that answer.
What I do know is that several of the athletes under the microscope right now, were led down the wrong path and I don’t believe were consciously making a choice to cheat. They were uniformed, and misled. Anti-doping agencies are doing their job, but there is a very hazy line when it comes down to it. I wish the athletes the best of luck who found themselves on the other side and I hope that if their intent was right, that they are able to pick themselves up and move forward without too much struggle.
My best advice is to know the list and know your products well. But most importantly know your intent.
Play fair, play within the rules, and good luck!!!

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