Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: Monday, July 15, 2013
In recent news, Tyson Gay was reportedly caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). According to the article, Gay was unaware that he was taking PEDs. The supplements (or whatever) were said to contain traces of substances banned by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Far too many track & field athletes have similar stories. When stories like this surface, the world shines the spotlight on the athlete and asks why? Why did you cheat? What’s interesting about a spotlight is that when it shines, it shines on one area and the areas surrounding that light are left hidden in darkness.
So we are asking, what’s in the darkness?
Who manufactures PEDs? Who distributes PEDs? Why are athletes the target market for these companies? How lucrative is this market? Track & field appears to be a niche for PED companies. If this is truly a niche, why? Why are track & field athletes pursued, when most elites incomes are relatively low compared to so-called revenue sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball). Are there other markets?
During the Bush Administration, a scandal erupted concerning a company called BALCO. Hadn’t heard of BALCO prior to 2004. In 2002, the administration lead investigations to, “clean up the sport.” By the Summer Olympics of 2004, guilty US athletes were embarrassingly ousted in front of the entire world. If you are unfamiliar with this case, you can read about it here. That year I asked, “why is the President of the United States and his administration getting involved in track?” Yes, Olympic athletes are often viewed as ambassadors representing their home countries; still, the government’s involvement in the investigation presented more questions.
I later looked up this BALCO. Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. “Co-Operative.” What does Co-Operative sound like? What does it mean? Why not just Bay Area Laboratory? Victor Conte, formerly of the music group Tower of Power, was a co-founder of this technologically advanced biochemical company. He was a bass guitarist AND biochemist producing technologies the world only imagined. The purpose of these technologies were to enhance human abilities or in sci-fi terms, create superhumans. He sought to make people faster, stronger, and more agile. He enhanced people’s ability to heal and recover faster after experiencing extreme physical distress (i.e. practice). His platform: the athlete. He used his products on the world’s best as a measurement and recorded the effects of his products on the human body. Why? Did he and his associates simply want to know at what lengths the human body could be enhanced?
For the most part, his PEDs were virtually undetectable by the USADA. This allowed him to sustain convert operations for 20 years. BALCO’s was eventually shut down in 2004. Conte however was not. After serving a sentence in 2005, he established another scientific company called: Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC).
At least this name sounds more athletic and nutritional.
If you want to know why athletes take PEDs, don’t look at the spotlight, shine some light on the darkness. BALCO was just one company known for “superhuman advancements” through biochemistry. To find more, follow who receives payment in exchange for the product. Research who funds the scientific findings of these biochemists. Most elite athletes are not biochemists, so why interrogate them with questions? Follow the money trail.
PEDs has a long history dating back to the 1930s and the World War II era. We’ll look into later. In the meantime, consider how these products come to be and you’ll find the answer is bigger than the athlete.