Episode #18: Examining Performance Enhancing Drugs in Professional Sports with Mark Sisson


Description: Mark extends the thread from the previous week’s show about human performance by discussing the role of doping in professional and Olympic sports today. Far from a black and white issue, Mark explains that inconsistencies in the testing procedures and random demarcation lines for what constitutes a performance enhancing substance (e.g., Gatorade enhances performance when you are thirsty!). Also discussed is how the public perception that certain athletes cheat to gain an advantage is actually a more complex cultural issue than a true morality weakness. For example, in pro cycling, recent controversies have affirmed that an athlete was virtually compelled to boost blood with doping products to have a chance at being competitive. Furthermore, the highly selective and competitive nature of elite sports compels athletes to search for every possible recovery advantage, including those that cross the line into doping offenses.

Mark explains that we might view modern pro sports as theater, where athletes are performing for the pleasure of fans, with big money on the line, and hence we will always be fighting a battle – perhaps a losing battle – against dopers who might remain a step ahead of the testing efforts. And how there is a bit of hypocrisy with society at large, where use of “performance enhancing” substances (such as caffeine or prescription drugs to treat ADHD for example) is viewed differently than an athlete trying to recover faster.

Mark has an inside perspective on the topic, having served for over a decade as the anti-doping commissioner for the international governing body of the sport of triathlon. In that role, he helped draft the original guidelines for elite triathletes across the globe to be tested fairly and regulated for substances they can and cannot use as elite athletes. His efforts helped the sport of triathlon first gain acceptance into the Olympic Games in 2000.

Topic timestamps:
Early days of the anti-doping rules: 01:05
What does it mean to train to be elite athlete?: 04:26
What is and what isn’t a performance enhancing drug?: 07:34
Public perception that athletes are to be on high ground: 09:59
This is theater: 12:27
Public has blood on their hands: 13:47
Hypocrisy of the whole subject (EPO): 14:53
Is it healthier to be training?: 20:11
Tiger Woods’ eye surgery: 22:38
Press’s assumption that doping is waning: 23:18
Hearing of Floyd Landis: 27:06

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