Don’t Be A Dope

Story By Scot Gustafson • Photo By Adam Booth || Vent Hose, October 2014 issue of Dirt Rider Magazine

“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits… That means if you get one extra flair a week, just one… You’re in Yankee Stadium.” —“Crash” Davis in Bull Durham

At the highest level of sport, the smallest advantage over your competitors can be the difference between winning and losing. While motocross may not be a traditional athletic sport like track and field, it takes more to win than just twisting the throttle or having a fast bike. As more riders begin to rely on physical performance to gain that advantage, the pressure to use PEDs is greater than ever. There will be fewer cheats using big-bore engines and more using steroids or amphetamines if we don’t stop it now.

I’ve unknowingly competed against some big dopes. I sat among the cycling hopefuls at Olympic Trials when Lance Armstrong was chosen. I rode my heart out in a 100-mile breakaway with Michael Rasmussen, who, a few years later, would be thrown out of the Tour de France while leading the race. Both made the decision to dope, and both ruined their lives because of it. Armstrong’s Cinderella story crashed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. And now, whispers of doping are beginning to be heard in the motocross industry. As you’ve likely heard, James Stewart failed an FIM drug test during supercross, and while the details of this test never really emerged, rumors abound of countless other racers using performance-enhancing drugs. But I’m not here to talk about rumors; I’m simply commenting on the potential impacts of PEDs within our sport.

A survey was given to world-class athletes asking if they would trade years of their life for success, and most said yes. Success or not, doping will shorten your life anyway. Think of the countless cases of steroid abuse causing heart and organ failure or EPO causing athletes to die in their sleep because their blood was so thick. Looking back, would you take years off your life for success to be the quarterback of your high school football team? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

I have to applaud motocross and supercross for having the most proactive concussion-testing policy in sports. The ImPACT test developed by the UPMC is light years ahead of the NFL policy and provides safety and protection for the rider instead of treating them as a commodity. The same high standard should be used for testing PEDs. I want to see motocross and supercross use a single agency to test and regulate both series. We can’t have WADA regulate SX and USADA regulate MX. Just as we combine the points from the two series to create one numbering system, the testing system has to be one. Testing results need to be timelier. Drug testing for employment comes back before you are hired, usually within 24 hours. Results need to come back before the next race takes place. Penalties and fines need to be firm and unwavering. We can’t alter penalties for more popular stars. Not obtaining a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) before a drug test is unprofessional and should be punished. The exemption paperwork is lengthy, so there should be a legitimate paper trail.

Johnny O’Mara and I used to joke with one another when we cycled together. “Motocross racers have no clue,” he would tell me in regards to training and doing the work necessary to be a better racer. “I never went to one of those motocross schools, but I did burn through at least 5 gallons of gas every day I rode.” The rule of 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a field is true for motocross. Don’t become dependent on a pill for success. If you choose the wrong path and take PEDs to achieve success, you will have to live with a lie and hope you don’t get found out. The twisted world of the doper can be summed up from the 1978 Tour de France when a racer sat in doping control with a device full of someone else’s urine under his armpit and a tube leading under his shorts to try and fool the officials. When he was having trouble delivering a sample the official noticed the device, and the rider was thrown out of the race and fired by his team.

A few weeks after the incident, an official called him. “By the way, we tested the sample you gave, and congratulations. You’re pregnant.”