The Bad, The Ugly, and The HGH
I am told you shouldn’t write when you’re angry but it’s happening because enough is enough!
Yesterday, I was catching a ride with this guy, when he asked, “Do you know what NSF is?” To which I replied, “No.” Not sure where this conversation was going, he pulled out a pamphlet containing various products and started his spiel about how NSF means a supplement is tested and approved for athlete use. I looked at the pamphlet and on the page next to the NSF stuff is information about the banned substance HGH. I turn back 2 pages and there is a testosterone support product. The guy then went on to tell me that everything in his pamphlet is safe, that he is very knowledgeable, and that if I want, I can even have my coach contact him because he has full faith in these products. He went on about how he uses these products and said that they have changed his life. The next statement was that oftentimes elite athletes like me have reached their threshold where training isn’t producing enough improvement; but with these products, I can start to improve my workouts and it will be as if I am getting younger.
I really believe there is a misconception about how a lot of athletes test positive for banned substances. There is no doubt that there are people out there who are trying to gain an advantage, but drugs are everywhere and many average Joes are unknowing distributors.
This is now the 3rd time in 18 months that I have been exposed to banned substances by someone who calls himself an “expert”. These were not back alley meetings and I didn’t go seeking out drugs, or even supplements for that matter. However, the reality is that if you’re an average Joe or “Weekend Warrior”, it’s okay to take this stuff so of course everyone is selling it.
The 2nd occasion was similar to the 3rd. I was at the farmer’s market trying to get organic greens, raw goat milk and grass fed meat. I started a conversation about being an Olympian and trying to make another Olympic team and out pops a pamphlet with products that “could change my life” and an offer to receive some for free if I agreed to give a testimonial.
The 1st experience is the one I have been trying to find the words to describe and explain for quite a while. To replay the series of events leading up to the fork in the road is incredibly painful and I still haven’t made sense of it all, but I feel like now it is time to write.
In this world, the more recognition you gain the wider your circle of resources. The problem is that not all resources are ones you should use and sifting through them becomes quite taxing. Plagued with nagging injuries over the years, at different times, I have asked fellow elite athletes who and what they were using to maintain their health. I got names from a few of my multimillion dollar buddies, but the lack of my own multimillion dollar budget prevented me from ever following through, until a long talk with a friend lead to me getting the hook up. “Go see my doc,” he had said many times over the years. Now, I was finally getting my chance.
The picture he painted was that this guy was the “sports doctor of all sports doctors,” well versed in all aspects of what an athlete needs. With a 5 year old mystery hamstring ailment that produces shooting pains down my leg and occasional numbness and tingling in my feet, I was excited to meet him. Additionally, I felt I was not recovering quite the same lately and believed it was related to my menstrual cycle. My theory was that if I could just get some sort of advanced blood analysis that could tell me what to eat at a particular time of the month, it might make a difference. I knew he provided supplements and that I would have to listen to why I should take them but that was not my focus. I have no problem hearing people out and if someone can logically explain to me how you get 37 servings of broccoli, 22 pounds of spinach and 7 pounds of asparagus into a single scoop of green powder I might jump on the band wagon. My problem with supplements is that they don’t make sense. I understand I am not a scientist so some of the process is outside my intellect, but it seems there should be a basic explanation that I can comprehend. When you run into these distributors no one can even begin to explain how these wonderful magic powders are produced and that bothers me.
This guy made his own supplements so I was optimistic that he could explain the process to me, but he couldn’t. Wait you’re the maker and you can’t tell me how it is made?? He began to get uneasy, likely because he has serviced many elites, his reputation precedes him and I think I was the first to ever ask him any detailed questions. But I kept going because I needed to know. I had been thinking he was medical doctor based on the way he was described to me, he is actually a chiropractor. He does have various certifications, which he described to me, but he emphasized his anti-aging certification. I was not knowledgeable enough at the time to know that should have been a red flag. Uninterested in that portion of his services anyway, I proceeded with various physical testing and analysis and ordered a blood and saliva test to conclude my visit.
A few days later, I described my visit to a medical doctor friend over breakfast and his response was to steer clear. He said, “We learn about these anti-aging guys in medical school. They are the latest snake oil salesmen.” Now I am the one feeling uneasy. A couple of weeks later the results of the test came in. I asked my doctor friend if he wouldn’t mind listening in on the conversation to help me know what questions to ask and he agreed. He looked at my blood work before the call and said, “I guarantee this guy tells you your hormone levels are all messed up. That is how anti-aging doctors make their money.” This blog is getting long so I will summarize the conversation. I had a food sensitivity to just about everything on the planet, high cholesterol and my testosterone was low. I said, “I am a girl, I don’t need high testosterone.” He then told me that there is this ratio that I am well below and need to maximize. This is when the alarms started sounding. I asked, “So what can I eat to raise testosterone.” He said, “You can’t eat enough of anything to supplement that.” I joked, “Well I read that Bolt is eating lots of yams and that seems to be working for him, so there must be something?” Suddenly he stated that he was walking into a meeting and would have to call me back later. That is the last time we spoke. After we hung up, my doctor friend called me back and said, “This guy could be the next Balco scandal. Please put something in writing saying you decline his services and stay away from him.”
I think the person who sent me to see this man had good intentions. I think the man distributing these products thinks he is smarter than everyone else when the reality is that he found a professional sports organization with lax testing policies where the things he sells aren’t tested for, so it was an awesome market to make big money. Then someone referred him to a track and field athlete who is a member of a much more complex testing organization paranoid about supplements and not afraid to ask questions.
I dodged a bullet but still have a lot of regrets about this series of events. The main one is that I didn’t hang up the phone and call USADA to report it. I guess I didn’t see how it would matter at the time when the majority of his clients participated in other professional sports not regulated by USADA.
However, from that incident, I learned a very valuable lesson. Decision-making gives you 3 options. You can do the right thing, do the wrong thing, or do nothing. I can’t say for sure, but it is my belief that this same person cost someone very close to me their career. At first I felt a tremendous sense of guilt, but as time passes the guilt is subsiding and I am composing a plan of action to spread awareness so that we can try to prevent it for others in the future. I don’t know everything but I do know that educating athletes is the starting point. I am sure others have stories to tell and we need to hear them so we can have tangible examples of how these situations unfold. Who’s next to share their story?