How to Dope and Not Get Caught

by Casey Barrett

French study reveals: Take a little, take it at night, never fail a test… See your results soar. 

The next time you hear someone proclaim innocence by pointing to all the drug tests she’s passed, try not to laugh. If a cheater is versed in the latest in the dark art of doping then there’s little chance of ever testing positive.

In a study publicized by the television station France 2, the massive benefits of ‘micro-dosing’ were laid bare. In a medical trial, eight athletes were injected with EPO, human growth hormones, corticosteroids, and other drugs – all in tiny doses. While the micro doses left no trace in drug tests, their benefits certainly showed up in performance. One of the runners reported an astonishing drop of 31 seconds in the 3,000 meters – in under a month of testing and clean results.

It appears it’s not just in the dosage, it’s also when you take these banned substances. Take them at night, before bed, and by the time you wake for morning workout they’ll be out of your system. Officially, the World Anti-Doping Agency can test you in the middle of the night, but they don’t. In fact, it requires ‘specific justification’ – ie, they’ll tip you off before they do.

Now, in case you’re reading this and you possess more ambition than integrity, don’t go rushing out just yet to your local GNC and load up with banned over-the-counter concoctions. The study stressed that micro-dosing is not for amateurs. It requires a level of medical expertise, or at least a working knowledge in human performance. In short, you need a doping pro in your corner.

Despite this apparent free pass around drug tests, we continue to hear about athletes testing positive all the time. Particularly in certain countries, like say, Russia… So, who tests positive these days? Those who do tend to fall into two camps: the inadvertently stupid and the dirty stupid.

There are plenty in the prior camp. Those who fail to carefully read the ingredients on a supplement, who may trust a physician they shouldn’t, who take a stimulant while cramming for a midterm. There are many ways that otherwise innocent athletes inadvertently fail drug tests. Despite the inherent stupidity, I have a good deal of empathy for them. I’ve been taking asthma medication since I was 8-years-old and I still remember the panic I felt during tests, making sure my inhalers were documented by my doctor. It’s a terrible terror to fear testing positive when you are clean. It’s up there with being falsely accused of sex crimes. To be lumped in with those you condemn, accused of sins that you’d sooner die than commit? It’s a horror to consider. It’s a stain that can never be scrubbed away, no matter how innocent you may be.

Those poor souls make up a portion of positive drug tests, and it’s brutal.

In the other camp of stupid are those who are truly cheating – and are not very good at it. They’re akin to dim getaway drivers who also get life when their partners kill someone, or to junkies who steal to feed a habit. They may be criminals, but they’re in the shallow end of the criminal pool. They make up most of our prisons – and also most of the failed drug tests out there.

For the rest who choose to dope and do it well, the only way they’re getting caught is circumstantial. No one dopes in a vacuum. The drugs have to come from somewhere. They must be administered by someone. There is always a trail, no matter how careful you may be. That’s the way the true cheaters, the champion cheaters, are eventually caught. Sometimes it takes years, after a career has concluded, but few escape for good.

But some do. Maybe you’re tempted? Maybe you found this story while Googling with less than noble motives. If so, maybe micro-dosing is for you. Go ahead and take those banned substances in miniature doses. It will cost you a few bucks, and a bit of medical guidance, but if you’re smart about it you probably won’t get caught. At least not by a drug test.

Oh, here’s one more cost: the price of your soul and dignity as an athlete.