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Doping in pro sports

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#1 fxnj

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 10:45 PM

Seems like a good time to discuss this given the recent string of big names testing positive.

Some relevant reading


I would suggest reading the whole thing as it is by far the best analysis of the situation I have seen online but the tl;dr version is that fans have been conditioned to expect such a high level from televised sports that PED's are basically essential to compete. Hence, drug tests basically to send a message to those on the outs with the promotion with the occasional smaller name busted to make it look like a legit program.

I saw many WWE fans posting a similar view of the wellness policy in light of Roman getting popped, but it didn't seem to get much play that WWE's attitude was basically a reflection of the attitudes in other sports. You see a similar thing in boxing, for example, where several big fights have been called off due to positive drug tests while Mayweather was blatantly allowed to cheat the USADA testing in the lead-up to the Pacquiao fight.

One other thing in regards to wrestling is that steroids having basically become a scape goat for what are by far the more beneficial, dangerous, and addictive PED's in pain killers. I would argue the vast majority of premature wrestler deaths have more to do with a history of pain killer abuse than steroid use. Yet, those seem pretty much essential for those on WWE's schedule and I doubt WWE could possibly exist in its current form if they started popping guys for those.

#2 Loss

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 08:43 AM

The preoccupation with steroids, from what I've seen, seems to be less about the health risks and more about the message children receive.

#3 Childs

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 11:48 AM

I've written a fair amount about doping and the attitudes about it are very different in different sports. In the Olympic sports, for example, it's much less about health or messages to kids than it is about the integrity of competition.

In baseball, it was about the corruption of sacred records.

In the NFL, it's sort of tacitly accepted as the cost of doing business.

#4 El-P



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Posted 16 July 2016 - 01:54 PM

In cycling it's just... well, cycling.

#5 fxnj

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 02:33 PM

Are those really different attitudes or just different "blue pill" narratives sold to a public blissfully unaware of the natural limits of the human body?

Pick a sport and you'll find the history of doping in the sport is inseparable from its modern beginnings.

The first popular pro wrestlers were strong men like Hackenschmidt and Sandow who used amphatemines to train and are speculated to have experiment with early testosterone supplementation.

Guys have been getting popped for testosterone in Baseball since almost exactly when the hormone was isolated.

Olympics... You would be kidding yourself to deny the massive doping and overall corruption that's existed since the Greeks.

#6 Childs

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 04:13 PM

Sure, there's a drive to push the limits that's common across all sports. And it's an issue that's never going away. But the cultural attitudes toward doping and doping enforcement do vary from sport to sport and from era to era within each sport.

#7 donsem43

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 08:16 PM

Basketball and hockey have never had major issues with PEDs. Although it has never seemed to be an important issue to athletes/media/fans in either sport.

#8 sek69


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Posted 16 July 2016 - 08:20 PM

I would argue the vast majority of premature wrestler deaths have more to do with a history of pain killer abuse than steroid use. Yet, those seem pretty much essential for those on WWE's schedule and I doubt WWE could possibly exist in its current form if they started popping guys for those.


Most of the wrestler deaths from the 80s were due to rampant cocaine use taking its toll on hearts already pushed to the max by steroid inflated bodies. Most of the 2000s wrestler deaths came from enlarged hearts due to the PED of choice switching to HGH. The only exception really were the ECW guys who were a combination of a non stop party lifestyle combined with the punishment they took.


Of course a lot of the WWE policy is largely PR, and there's clearly guys not being tested and/or skirting the system, but there have been some positive aspects as well.


Bottom line, Vince doesn't want guys dying on his watch, which despite it being largely a CYA measure is a good thing for the guys involved.

#9 NintendoLogic


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Posted 18 August 2016 - 12:28 AM

How many wrestler deaths can be linked solely to steroids? Plenty of steroid abusers have died, of course, but just about all of them were also abusing other substances. Steroid abuse is/was far worse in bodybuilding, but the death rate among bodybuilders is nowhere near what it is among wrestlers. I don't dispute the health hazards of steroids, but it seems pretty clear that cocaine and painkillers are far bigger contributors to mortality.

#10 Al


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Posted 22 August 2016 - 07:46 PM

It seems insane to me that you can't take growth hormones, but you can literally have a surgeon tie your arm back together with a dead man's ligament.

#11 fxnj

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Posted 22 August 2016 - 08:30 PM

AFAIK the surgery for a torn rotator cuff still amounts to a doctor drilling some holes in your shoulder and putting in some rods to keep the arm in place. Fans really seem to underestimate the serious nature of many in-ring injuries barring concussions. The whole safety argument against steroids ultimately leads to arguing for banning all pro sports as they all have high risks for life-altering injuries. In this steroids and growth hormone actually have the potential to be be beneficial by helping heal and prevent injuries.

I actually brought up the painkillers and 70's bodybuilders thing to Meltzer on Twitter and his response was basically that it's not an either/or thing between steroids and pain killer abuse and that 80's bodybuilders who took a bunch of stuff in addition to steroids do have a pretty high death rate. While I won't deny that the combination of steroids and pain killers is far more deadly than either in isolation, I'd still argue that pain killer abuse and the rough ring style that leads people to it is a far more serious problem than steroids in a wrestling context.

If the goal is wrestler safety a wellness program that barely catches anyone who isn't falling out of favor with the company is utterly ineffective. The only long-term solution would be to push an easier ring style that puts more emphasis on tags and conditions the fans to accept mat work as more than just filler. Basically something that leads to less guys feeling they have to abuse drugs just to keep up.

#12 jdw

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 06:59 PM

Basketball and hockey have never had major issues with PEDs. Although it has never seemed to be an important issue to athletes/media/fans in either sport.


Basketball and hockey ignore the issue. Every other sport that has taken the issue seriously has had MVP/HOF/World Champion level folks get caught. That OJ Mayo remains the "biggest" hoops star ever to get busted is telling on how much hoops gives a crap about the issue.


The NFL, as someone pointed out, accepts it as the cost of doing business. They also accept that they have to "test" as the price of looking like they care. So they half ass it. There's more PED in the NFL (and on down the football food chain) than there was on the old East German Swim Team. They just don't care about really cleaning it up.


Nor do fans of those sports, for that matter.

#13 fakeplastictrees

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 12:42 PM

I really think this comes down to two things:


1. USADA/WADA testing is needed


2. Pro wrestling (main WWE in this case) should have seasons


USADA/WADA will make sure everything is on the up-and-up. Cena, Orton, Taker, they all might be fucking done under this regime. WWE wants to be like other major sports with the big event of the year, analyst table in the area, etc. but for some reason they are unwilling to have a season. Royal Rumble to SummerSlam. January-August of every year. Toss in 2-3 'one night only' type of shows (i.e. Halloween Havoc, Survivor Series, Tribute To The Troops) and I believe people both inside and outside the business will be satisfied.

#14 PeteF3

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:17 PM

WADA did such a bang-up job with the Russian track teams, they're definitely efficient and trustworthy to handle this fairly.

#15 goc


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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:45 AM

I don't even understand why people care about steroids in wrestling, especially in the current era where it's easier to get it through a doctor in the form of something like TRT instead of getting roids from some guy in a gym. It's not going to create a "competitive disadvantage" because it's not real competition and steroids help you recover quicker from injuries & workouts.


Steroids taken in moderation don't have worse side effects than most other prescription drugs it's only when guys go crazy overdoing them, combine them with a bunch of other drugs/alcohol or have some genetic heart condition that they are really a danger. 

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