The Arnold Classic 2018 was the best performance of my lifting career. I ended with an 1829lbs (830kg) total in the 105kg division, I was ecstatic. I even ended up winning a big check for $800 for placing first, literally the peak of my powerlifting journey at the time. Fast forward to March 14th, I wake up, half asleep and I see an email that says, “notification of doping failure”.
In short, it said that I tested positive for the SARM Ostarine and unless proven otherwise, that I could be banned for up to 4 years from competing or coaching at any USAPL meet. At this point, I think I’m dreaming so I fall back asleep for another few hours then I wake up again just to see that the email was all too real. I was in such shock and disbelief; I couldn’t imagine how or why my test could’ve come back positive. Confused as to what I should do next, I messaged a friend of mine that I thought would know more about how I should move forward dealing with this, mainly because she’s a stickler for the rules and the person I usually go to if I have any USAPL related questions. So, she told me to email the national office back and ask them what my options are. I know this seems like the obvious course of actions, but I was so in shock that it felt like I couldn’t think straight. In short, I was told that I had 3 options.
After seeing the options, I was slightly relieved, because while that was a lot of money, it wasn’t too bad. I was basically hoping for the best regarding getting the B sample tested but if that came back positive, I’d just have to pay around $1500 to get all my supplements tested. About a week or 2 later I get the results back from the national office regarding my B sample and it comes back positive. Then I’m just like FUCK, but ok. So, I email them back and let them know that I want to get all of my supplements tested. Until this point, while I was a nervous wreck and heart broken, I still had some hope, that is until they let me know that the quoted price was only to pay for one supplement. Meaning I had to pay over $1250 for each supplement I wanted to get tested. My heart sunk and not knowing what else to do I just went back to sleep. If you know me, you know that it’s extremely rare for me to be depressed but at that moment I honestly just lost all hope and felt like I was just fucked and that there was nothing I could do now. Paying for one supplement was going to be a stretch financially, I make decent money, but I don’t just have $1250 laying around, but 4 supplements, there’s absolutely no way. Funny enough, I didn’t even care about the news getting out. From the moment I got the news I contacted like 6 different people who I thought could help. For me though, since I know I didn’t take anything, I really didn’t care if people thought I cheated or not. The thing that had me so depressed was that the Arnold was my first good meet in a while. My previous 2 meets, well, let’s just say they were rough. So, when I got the email initially, all that went through my head was “is this the only reason I did so well?”. I felt like all my hard work to make a solid comeback meant nothing. I felt so defeated.
Fast forwarding a bit, I hardly trained for a solid 3 months. Probably a handful of actual squat sets, only singles on deadlifts when I happened to be at the gym, I did bench a lot, but only because it took to least amount of effort and will power to get myself to do. Now rewind a bit, so they tell me how much everything is going to cost, I go to sleep, wake up and see that I had a message from the friend I mentioned earlier, and she was asking what the national office told me. I told her everything they said and basically how I’m just fucked at this point. Then to my surprise she offers to loan me the money to pay for one of the supplements. At first, I was thinking there’d be no point, I was taking like 4 supplements at the time (Pre workout, Vitamin D, turmeric supplement, and astaxanthin (a herbal supplement) and I didn’t have the slightest clue which it could’ve been. Then after chatting for a little bit she made me realize that if nothing else, I should at least try to clear my name for my reputation’s sake. So now all that was left was for us to research the supplements I was taking and see which was the most likely to be the issue. So, the first thing, we thought I’d be a good Idea to reach out to each company. We concluded that it was likely the vitamin D company. Mostly because we had the hardest time getting any information on them, then even when we did, they were being extremely shady. By this time, we had already ruled out 2 of the supplements I was taking, and we were left with the pre workout and the vitamin D company. You might ask why we didn’t just go with the pre workout company. The answer for me was because for one, I knew a lot of USAPL lifters taking the supplement, and secondly, a buddy of mine was part of that company. That, and as I said, the vitamin D company seemed extremely shady at the time. So, we chose to get that supplement tested, and THANKFULLY, after talking with my buddy, he told me that the owner of the preworkout company offered to pay to have their supplement tested. Now from here all that was left to do was to send the money to the national office to get everything started. Fast forward a month, I got an email from the national office and it turns out that the pre workout was contaminated.
Because of this, I was only suspended for 1 year instead of the maximum of 4 years they could’ve banned me for. I know some people are asking how a supplement gets contaminated so here’s a quick easy explanation. Say there’s 2 supplement companies that use the same facility to produce their supplements. One of those companies actually makes a supplement that contains a prohibited ingredient. The next company to use the equipment may not clean the equipment fully. When they manufacture their supplement on the equipment cross-contamination can occur. The supplement now unknowingly contains a prohibited substance.
“The limit of detection for prohibited substances has increased substantially in the past few years with metabolites of drugs being detected in the nanogram and picogram per milliliter level. That’s 1 billionth of a gram (and smaller) of metabolite per milliliter of urine. All that is needed for an anti-doping rule violation is the presence of a metabolite of a prohibited substance, or the prohibited substance itself within urine. The amount of the prohibited metabolite doesn’t matter. Only a trace amount of powder, that has not been cleaned from contaminated equipment, is enough to generate a prohibited metabolite within the urine in very small quantities. Unfortunately, equipment contamination is becoming more and more common as companies try and take shortcuts and save money.
This is why the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) do not recommend that athletes take any supplements. If an athlete decides to take a supplement, they are fully responsible for any banned substance that enters their body irrespective of how it got there. If an athlete does decide to take supplements, USADA suggests that an athlete use a supplement that has been 3rd party verified – i.e. batch tested to prove it doesn’t contain prohibited substances. Companies such as NSF, Informed Sport, BSCG & USP will carry out 3rd party testing to give athletes peace of mind. The athlete must check that the product that they have purchased is of the same lot number that has been tested as shown by the online databases for these companies. Even given this testing an athlete will still be sanctioned if a metabolite of a banned substance is found within their urine and the supplement (when re-tested) is found to be contaminated.” – Huge thanks to the guys at @antidopingscience for writing these two paragraphs.
Based on a quick google search, the recommended dose is about 15-20mg which meant that even though the supplement was contaminated (100ng per gram), it couldn’t have had any training effect for me. A normal preworkout dose scoop is between 10 and 20 grams, so let’s use the larger figure. So let’s say 2000ng (nanograms) of Ostarine. This is 0.000002g of Ostarine, or 0.002mg of Ostarine. Given the recommended dose starts at 15mg, that means I took 0.000133% of a normal dose of Ostarine. While it might sound crazy, after all the hard work I put into that training cycle leading into the Arnold, thinking that some outside factor like SARMs had anything to do with my success at that meet was the main reason I was depressed during that time. Sounds stupid because I know many enhanced lifters and I know how hard they work, but in my head, at that moment it seemed like all my hard work leading into that meet was for nothing.
With all that being said, my sole purpose for writing this article is to warn people against just taking any ole supplement. If you compete in a drug tested federation, be extremely cautious when choosing to take any supplement that hasn’t been 3rd party tested. More and more, lifters are testing positive for any number of banned substances. Of course, not all of these situations are due to contamination, but my guess is that it’s likely more than people would like to believe. The price alone is likely the reason most of the athletes that are innocent choose not to fight the ban. In a sport that doesn’t pay most of us, it’s hard to justify paying $1000 plus per supplement to clear our name. With that being said, it’s 100% the responsibility of us as athletes to do our research about any supplements we choose to take. The Bottom line is that every time we choose to use a supplement that hasn’t been tested, we’re willingly risking taking a supplement that has ingredients in them that shouldn’t be.
So, to sum up this entire article up, just be cautious.
The writing of this article was prompted by all the social media posts I’ve seen talking about men’s mental health. Apparently November is men’s mental health month. That is unless you’re struggling with your own mental health issues. Then, every month, week, and day may very well be an ongoing struggle. Although throughout this article I’ll be referencing comparative data between men and women and differing demographics, the point is not to prop up men's suffering above women or anyone else for that matter. It’s simply there to elucidate the current state of men’s mental health, which is the central focus of this article. “Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution” (1). This mentality exists in contrast to the current lack of awareness pertaining to the drivers of psychological ill-health. Social media and articles routinely discuss what to do if you’re depressed, anxious, suicidal, etc. But seldom does anyone discuss the complexity of the subject. Unfortunately, without truly understanding the issues that lead to ill-health it’s unlikely to come up with an effective solution and subsequent prevention strategies. Therefore the aim of this article is as follows:
Optimizing exercise range of motion to maximize muscle growth is a popular topic to discuss. As new research emerges, it often leaves you with more questions about the fundamental mechanisms and application of hypertrophy training. Mechanical tension is known as a primary driver of hypertrophy. Therefore it stands to reason that training a muscle through larger ranges of motion will create more tension, resulting in a greater hypertrophic stimulus. Although this makes sense at face value, it’s ultimately an unsatisfactory answer. At deeper levels of analysis, mechanical tension alone (or at least our current model) can not explain some of the observed outcomes we see both in the literature and anecdotally. The aim of this article is to provide a brief review of the topic, provide context to the ROM discussion, and offer practical recommendations to implement into your own training.