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    August 15, 2016

    Debunking the NYT's Olympic Size Steroids Stories

    April 15th, 2016 - Fort Russ News - 
    - Op-ed - By: Yakov Germanov - 



    As a lifelong power-lifting and bodybuilding enthusiast, I was completely dumbfounded when I read the New York Times article from May 12th,

    I was shocked to find that this reputable magazine contained some blatant lies, nonsense, and just downright stupidity.

    The article primarily sources Grigory Rodchenkov, and contains this glaringly brazen passage:

    By his own admission, Dr. Rodchenkov, who has a Ph.D in analytical chemistry, used his expertise to help athletes properly use banned substances and go undetected, which he says was done at the behest of the Russian government. After years of trial and error, he said, he developed a cocktail of three anabolic steroids — metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone — that he claims many top-level Russian athletes used leading up to the London Olympics in 2012 and throughout the Sochi Games.

    He said he did not administer the drugs himself but rather provided them to the sports ministry.

    The drugs, Dr. Rodchenkov said, helped athletes recover quickly after grueling training regimens, allowing them to compete in top form over successive days.

    To speed up absorption of the steroids and shorten the detection window, he dissolved the drugs in alcohol — Chivas whiskey for men, Martini vermouth for women.

    Dr. Rodchenkov’s formula was precise: one milligram of the steroid mixture for every milliliter of alcohol. The athletes were instructed to swish the liquid around in their mouths, under the tongue, to absorb the drugs.

    To the uninitiated, this passage will go right over your head how absurd it is, but firstly, It is highly unlikely an athlete would consume alcohol or any intoxicating drug during training preparation. This is merely a universally observed thing that most athletes observe. In the off season, during non-serious times, it has been noted that eastern European athletes have at times drank alcohol during or after exercise sessions, but there is no way that this is a regular occurrence, and certainly not during competition times. It simply is not done. I would know, as I live, work and train in Russia. To me it sounds like Rodchenko decided to have a little fun with his western audience by playing on the tired old stereotype that every Russian is a drunk. 

    The method of administration that is mentioned is glaringly incorrect and would never be used by anyone who has even the most basic information about anabolic steroids. To be metabolized orally, steroids must be 17 alpha alkylated, which means that they are coated with a protectant which allows the steroids to survive the first pass in the liver metabolism, thereby leading to absorption on further passes of the liver. If a steroid is not 17 alpha alkylated, it simple cannot be processed effectively by the body orally. It still be taken, but it makes little sense to do so when compared with the most common way medications are administered in Russia, which is by injection. It is unlikely a Russian would bristle at an injection, as it is common here when one is given medication by a doctor, and the alcohol serves no purpose – in fact it is more likely to cause harm.

    One side effect of this 17 Alpha alkylated process, is that is known to be liver toxic, and with the combination of alcohol, the liver toxicity is exponentially increased. Keep in mind something; when the liver is under heavy stress the main symptom is fatigue, leading to dropping energy levels. Atheletes would not be able to stay awake during their training sessions, as users undergoing heavy stress of the liver from steroid abuse often report falling asleep at random. It simply makes no sense to combine alcohol and steroids.


    Furthermore, the “steroid cocktail” mentioned “metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone” is problematic. Trenbolone is not 17 alpha alkylated, Nor is metenolone, and these are therefore rarely used as oral administrated anabolic steroids because it makes little sense. Oxandrolone is however administered orally, and is 17 alpha alkylated, so this one makes sense, but the others would have to be injected intramuscularly to have any noticeable effect.

    Then, when we examine the doctor’s methods he describes, there are some even further glaring inconsistencies with facts. Why are two totally disparate types of alcohol used? Why Chivas regal for men, which is 40%, but only vermouth which is 17% used, but the same measurement of one mg of steroid per ml is used? If one is making precise measurements, this would mean that at least 2 times the amount of vermouth would have to be used. 

    However, I can explain. It’s not medical or scientific at all; in Russian culture women do not tend to drink hard alcohol as much, as it is considered “unladylike” or simply they may find it is too strong in many cases. They do not like to be presented as masculine. Rodchenko’s problem is, he decided to go with this Russian cultural tendency instead of scientific consistency. The dissolving of medicines into a lesser potency of alcohol would not be effective. Most of the time when alcohol is used to dissolve drugs, a solution of 90-99% alcohol is used, making even chivas regal less potent and unfeasible for this. 


    In addition to all this, I have never heard of anabolic steroids being administered this way – ever. They are always injected or if 17 alpha alkylated, they are simply taken orally. There would be no need to administer them via alcohol, which would only have the effect of a diuretic on the system, which the mode of action can be replaced with a simple administration of a drug like Lasix, a medical diuretic commonly used for similar purposes.

    However, saying you drank your steroids in whiskey does have one great advantage – it sounds sexy and has a kind of bravado to it.The problem is that it has no place in actual performance enhancing reality.

    I do in fact know athletes cheat. And they cheat often. But the Olympic athletes I know who abuse performance enhancing drugs, (they are all Americans, by the way), use other things, in other ways. The most notable is testosterone suspension, which is a short acting testosterone base, that is injected several times daily. It is detectable for 1-3 days. So is human growth hormone which is frequently used, and Insulin, a potent anabolic hormone, which is not detectable at all, so it is the most commonly used. These are three of the biggest drugs Olympic athletes use because they can skirt detection times extremely easily(and ALL are injected). After that would come “banned stimulants” in the guise of “cold and flue medications” (ephedrine and pseudo ephedrine and clenbuterol).

    Compare this to the steroids used :metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone, which respectively have a 4 week detection period, 4-5 month detection period and a 3 weeks detection period. So why were these steroids listed instead of more reasonable shorter detected injectables?

    Wikipedia’s article on Metenolone states:

    “As an anabolic steroid, the use of metenolone is banned from use in sports governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.[2] Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive for metenolone at the London 2012 Olympic Games.[3]

    The NBA and NBPA also banned the use of methenolone under the Anti-Drug Program. In February 2013, Hedo Türkoğlu of the Orlando Magic was suspended for 20 games without pay by the league after testing positive for methenolone.[4]

    In December 2013, Natalia Volgina was stripped of her 2013 Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon title and received a two-year competition ban, subsequent to a final guilty verdict for using the steroid Metenolone.”

    It seems to me that a NYT “journalist” did some googling, and pulled up some hasty information, threw it together with a little bit of reading about Russian culture, and then sent it to an unaware Editor. The article makes no sense, and to top it off, it claims that if the above were not insane enough, Rodchenko went to great lengths to switch the urine out of samples, meaning that the clean samples were forged. So why go through all of this nonsense about alcohol being used to dissolve steroids to shorten detection time in the first place if the urine tests were going to be switched anyway? I guess either the New York Times is getting sloppy these days in perpetuating Russian stereotypes or Rodchenko is lying to be able to sell himself for an asylum application to stay in Los Angeles where he get interviewed on Bill Maher’s HBO show. No one could be this grossly incompetent on purpose.


    ----------
    Yakov Germanov is an American expatriot and aspiring Russian citizen who lives and works in the Russian Federation. He is an avid fitness buff who has been known to enjoy Chivas Regal, without the steroids, that is.









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