Letter: Drugs in sport

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The Independent Culture
Sir: I am a powerlifter, of international standard, and although I have never taken a performance-enhancing drug, I can fully understand why athletes resort to such measures ("Fears over sport's new `legal steroid' ", 8 December). Being a top-level competitor, in any sport, necessitates an all-consuming lifestyle. Your sport will dictate your eating and sleeping patterns, dominate your free time and, for strength athletes, leave you with constant muscular pains. It takes dedication and determination to reach the top in Britain and we endure our crippling training schedules in the certain knowledge that in the international arena, we cannot win.

I have recently returned from the women's European powerlifting championships in the Ukraine (where Britain achieved a creditable third place). The winning "women" in several weight classes (mostly from Eastern Europe) had deep voices, square jaws, acne and facial hair. These women are not just unfortunately masculine looking. I saw some of the same women two years ago and there have been dramatic changes that could only have been caused by steroid abuse.

Almost every team manager was offered steroids at the competition venue. Our manager was outraged and when she explained that they were illegal in our country, the vendor offered to mix the steroids into a batch of creatine (a legal supplement).

Britain is one of the few countries that undertake out-of-competition random drug testing. Therefore I am certain that we have the cleanest athletes. Other athletes can pump their bodies full of performance-enhancing substances and stop just long enough to clear the chemicals before the competitions.

All countries should have the same drug testing procedures, testing athletes randomly and at any time. All good athletes have an overwhelming desire to win. It is only when international random testing systems are in place that British athletes will have a chance of winning. It is only then that true athletes will not cheat.


London E17