On (the Commentary on) Steroids in CrossFit

The conversation about performance-enhancing drugs is a tricky one.
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A while back, CrossFit HQ posted a photo of a CrossFit Games veteran with his shirt off (of course), and the conversation immediately became about steroids. Now, for full disclosure, the athlete in question is a friend and a respected figure in CrossFit.

I’ve seen athletes in multiple sports use steroids, and I’ve even been lightly accused of using them myself. In professional baseball, it was pretty abundant. I can’t say how abundant it is in CrossFit, but I’ll give the line that everyone loves giving on the topic and say: “There are steroids in CrossFit.” Albeit, my uneducated opinion would be that it’s likely most prevalent in the lower, newer ranks. I know people who have stood on the podium clean, so I don’t buy the argument that to win, it’s required in the way that cycling, for example, has become.

Will that always be the case? Time will tell. That’s not what this is about. This is about commentary.

The topic of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) is a tricky one. When people rudely accuse an athlete of steroids on social media, what they might really be saying is that they can’t fathom his or her performance or physique to be natural. It’s that good. What is heard, however, is that the athlete in question is a liar.

It’s the dishonesty that we don’t like, after all, isn’t it? No one is walking around saying, “I can’t believe Lance Armstrong would do that to his kidneys!” If they’re angry, it’s because he lied so vigorously, hurting others along the way.

The other thing that makes performance-enhancing drugs tricky is that it’s not always a game of “what you see is what you get.” Many of the ballplayers that I personally know who got suspended for PEDs would be the last people you’d expect to be on drugs based on size or strength. Sure, Mark McGwire was 300 pounds of newly minted muscle when he blatantly juiced his way through the home-run race. Ryan Braun, on the other hand, looks like he’d scale the thrusters on “Fran.” Both are at the epicenter of steroids and baseball.

At the end of the day, making a pointed comment on social media about an athlete using steroids is easier (and more fun) than making a thoughtful comment. Thus, the trolls comment on. Except in a perfect world, we’d realize that the accusation of illegal performance-enhancing drug use in CrossFit is more than a backhanded complement about how “ripped” one looks or about how impressive his or her “gains” are. In our society, it’s demanding and strips (some) hardworking athletes of credit that they deserve.