WHAT’S REALLY IN THAT SHAKE?: CROSSFIT STEPS UP DRUG TESTING
The CrossFit Games have been held annually since 2009, and they’re now entering their fifth year. They’ve grown from a small group of hardcore gym rats into a global phenomenon with over 200 competitors competing in all different kinds of fitness levels. The games are organized by CrossFit Inc., a company based out of Colorado Springs, CO that was founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman (who goes by “Iron” when he’s not coaching).
In 2013, CrossFit announced a new drug test policy. The rules were simple: All athletes would need to pass a urine test before being allowed to compete at the games. If they failed, they wouldn’t be able to participate.
While it sounds like a no-brainer, there’s still some confusion about what exactly constitutes a positive test and whether or not athletes will actually face any consequences if caught taking banned substances.
What Is A Positive Test?
A positive test means that your body produced a certain amount of a banned substance. You could be using something like testosterone, EPO, human growth hormone, or even marijuana. If you take the above substances without a prescription and exceed the legal limit, then you’ll likely get flagged for testing.
How Is the Sample Taken?
Your sample will be taken in a WADA-accredited lab located in the Los Angeles area. You’ll be given a small cup to pee in and you’ll have to do it right then and there. This is why many competitors will dehydrate themselves before taking the test, since it will be easier to produce a clean sample.
Does It Matter If It’s In My System Or Not?
Yes and no. You can still compete even if the test comes back positive. This is because Crossfit follows the protocol established by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In this case the WADA code states that an athlete can only be banned from competing if their urine sample tests above a 300 ng/ml testosterone level. An athlete’s “baseline” testosterone level is also taken into account. If your levels are naturally high, then it will be harder to test above the threshold.
The Crossfit Games have also done this on purpose. They don’t want to punish people for having naturally high testosterone levels since this is a natural advantage. In other words, if you’ve been supplementing with illegal substances in the past but your “baseline” testosterone levels are low, then you may still fail the test.
This standard is different from other athletic competitions. For example, Olympic athletes must only test below a 10 ng/ml testosterone level to pass the test. The Crossfit Games also don’t test for HGH or EPO (Erythropoietin), otherwise known as “blood doping.”
What Are The Punishments For Failing?
Crossfit follows the WADA code, so if you fail a drug test you’ll be given three warnings. If you fail a fourth time, you can be banned from competing. However, this rule hasn’t been implemented yet and nobody has been punished under the new policy.
What About The Games This Year?
Nobody has failed the test yet. Last year, there were over 100 tests given out during competition and in the months leading up to it. Several athletes were afraid that they would fail since many of them have been taking risks by supplementing with performance enhancing drugs.
Which Athletes Use Performance Enhancing Drugs?
Good question. Nobody really knows, since most of them fail to admit it. There is speculation that the top 5-10 men and women at any Crossfit competition would have tests come back positive for a banned substance.
The most common drug that is used is testosterone. Other drugs include HGH and EPO, which are used to boost endurance. All of these drugs are taken on a regular schedule and users will usually keep logs to track when they need to take their pills or inject themselves.
Why Do People Do It?
The benefits of passing a drug test are pretty obvious. Getting your photo on the podium is a big deal and ensures you get more recognition and more money in endorsements. Since Crossfitters make almost nothing, any little bit helps.
Besides the money, many Crossfitters take drugs to increase their strength and endurance for their own reasons. Maybe they have a fear of needles and don’t like injecting themselves. Maybe they want to break into the top 20 so they can get free entry into the games next year.
Maybe they like the attention or maybe they just want to be as big and muscular as Rich Froning. Only they know why they do it.
How Can I Get Drugs?
The most common way for people to get drugs is via the internet. Since some of these illegal drugs are sold by rogue labs, people taking them run the risk of getting something poisonous.
There is a Crossfit message board that covers the topic and I’ve been on there for a while. Since nobody really trusts one another, nobody has really tried to buy anything from one another. However, there are distributors who can provide performance enhancing drugs to anyone with a name and address.
What Should I Do?
That’s up to you. If you do decide to take drugs, be careful. Rogue labs tend to spike their products with dangerous chemicals since they don’t care about the people who buy their stuff. Your best bet is to buy from a website based in China. They seem to be reliable and they won’t ask questions.
What Should I NOT Do?
Don’t go on the message board and ask people where you can get drugs. Many of these people are competitors and it’s not like they’re going to tell you so you can one up them in the next competition. If you really need testosterone, just write down this website address and go somewhere else. We don’t need your business.
Before and After Pictures
This webshots account has several pictures of people who have taken drugs to improve their performance in Crossfit.
Several of the pictures are of people before they started taking drugs (on the left), and several are of those same people after they started taking drugs (on the right).
These pictures are meant to be shocking. I assure you, they’re not. If you’re actually surprised by what drugs do to people, then you haven’t been paying much attention to the world around you.
Crossfitters who take drugs don’t just change on the inside, they change on the outside as well. You probably know somebody who takes testosterone. Maybe you just didn’t know about it.
Testosterone isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it can be quite beneficial to one’s health. The problem comes when people start abusing it.
If you’re going to take drugs, make sure you don’t overdo it.
A couple of times a year, a man would stumble into the ER where I worked at in Fort Worth.
He’d walk in with his head wrapped in a towel or t-shirt, and blood would be pouring down his face from two spots on his skull where his eyebrows once were.
He’d go up to the nurse at the counter and she’d gasp and say, “Bobby, what happened this time?”
He’d say, “I was riding my motorcycle and a dog ran out in front of me and I hit it.”
I was always skeptical of that story because obviously the man was taking drugs.
Sometimes when people take drugs, their bodies react badly to them and they start having nosebleeds. I was under the impression that perhaps this man was having a bad reaction to the drugs he was taking and hitting himself in the face in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding.
After asking a few of the other nurses about him, I found out his name was Robert Peebles and he was a local rapper who went by the name of “Bobby B-O-B”.
Basically, he was a one-hit-wonder back in the 90’s with a song called “I Do Drugs”.
If you listen to the lyrics, it’s pretty obvious that he was singing about doing drugs.
Sources & references used in this article:
- The Impact of the CrossFit Environment on Women’s Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Eating Behaviors. (P Coyne, SJ Woodruff – International Journal of Multiple …, 2020 – search.ebscohost.com)
- Archive for the ‘Skepticism’Category (JC Herz – 2015 – Harmony)
- Geographies of (cross) fitness: an ethnographic case study of a CrossFit Box (…, WAW Fat, CPS Novella, WY Don’t Really Need… – killsessionmusings.wordpress.com)
- The World of CrossFit (SE Edmonds – Qualitative research in sport, exercise and health, 2020 – Taylor & Francis)
- Be More Human-An Anthropological Analysis of Subject Formation in a Late Modern Crossfit Community (P DiPrimio – 2020 – books.google.com)
- Compensatory exercise in CrossFit Diploma Thesis (W Hansson – 2017 – lup.lub.lu.se)