Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Doper Next Door

I have been reading “The Doper Next Door” by Andrew Tilin.  The premise of the book is a middle aged, father of two, husband, freelance writer and Cat 4 cyclist experiments with substances restricted by USA cycling.  The book is well balanced between performance and personal effects along this year long journey.

Aside from the performance enhancers, the life of a cat 4 cyclist is anything but glamorous.  This 145 pound 5 foot 8 inch rider trains as much as he can while keeping his family and work afloat.  He travels with friends to races in order to secure middle of the pack finishes after a grueling effort.  He has a coach and all the cycling bells and whistles he can afford.

The debate over performance enhancing drugs has gone on forever and will continue to rage for at least the balance of my lifetime.  There are numerous restrictions and exemptions in professional and amateur sports.  The level of controls is also significantly different at different tiers of the sport.

I personally have no problem with better living through chemistry.  I believe that pain medication, recreational drugs, physical performance enhancing drugs and mental performance enhancing drugs all have a place for those of sound and less than sound health.  I also understand that poorly researched and monitored use of external chemicals can be dangerous short and long term.  Addiction and withdrawal are also considerations.

The author struggles most with the ethical dilemma of being labeled a cheater.  I get this as often times amateur athletes are a tight community.  While all of us know what is right and wrong, there is a large continuum between accepting extra change during a transaction at the grocery store and cheating on your spouse.  There are probably more extreme examples, but I sleep just fine if I get a little extra change at the grocery store, but would have a nervous breakdown if I were having an affair.  If I were racing and knocked my buddy off the podium, it would probably end our friendship.  However, if we were training and I was able to keep up, I wouldn’t feel bad at all.

As far as health concerns go, I also see a lot of gray.  There is difference between marijuana and heroin.  There is difference between testosterone and anabolic steroid stacks.   There is a difference between  ephedrine and adderall.  There is a difference between ibuprofen and oxycontin.  

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