Drug-testing rules for USATF masters track to be kept secret?We know that drug-testing is coming to USATF masters track. We know such tests will start at 2011 outdoor nationals in Ohio. But we don’t know the details, and the latest minutes of the Masters T&F Executive Committee only fuel the mystery. According to Max Hamlyn’s summary of a June 30 conference call, “It was not clear whether all the rules for testing would be made known to the general athlete or not.” Say what? A game with no rules? What the heck does that mean? Answers might come at Sacramento nationals this coming week. Info sessions by USADA reps are set for 5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday. The traditional Friday night athletes meeting — where complaints about the meet are fielded — has been canceled this year.
Here’s the portion of the June 30 conference call that dealt with drug-testing:
a] There will be two sessions held during the Masters Outdoor Championships in Sacramento (each approximately 1 hour long) at 5:00 p.m. on Friday July 23rd. and at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday July 24th. These are educational meetings run by USADA and will be held in the registration building. It is only necessary to attend one meeting.
b] There was considerable discussion on an age cut-off for drug testing with 80 as the most likely cut-off, but there was considerable discussion about whether an age cut-off was either advisable or legal by WADA Rules.
c] Much discussion, without reaching consensus, was held on TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions).
d] It was not clear whether all the rules for testing would be made known to the general athlete or not.
The good news: Our leadership is tackling the toughest issues head-on. They’re trying to figure out how to make masters drug-testing bulletproof from a legal perspective.
The bad news: They haven’t a clue how to resolve these issues.
No consensus on TUE’s? Then forget about getting athletes to fess up to doctor-prescribed medications on the banned list.
Fact is, the science of masters drug-testing is barely out of diapers. How much don’t we know? Well, try this eye-opening study on for size.
Researchers in Rome did a study titled “Prevalence of Undiagnosed Testosterone Deficiency in Aging Athletes: Does Exercise Training Influence the Symptoms of Male Hypogonadism?” It was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by the International Society of Sexual Medicine. A friend sent me the 10-page article, which is very technical — and doesn’t mention masters track.
But the report’s abstract starts out:
Worldwide many aging males practice sports. A high prevalence of late-onset male hypogonadism has been observed in general population. Sport-participation influences the neuroendocrine system and may decrease serum testosterone. . . . This preliminary study was designed to estimate the prevalence and the symptoms of undiagnosed testosterone deficiency in aging athletes.
So what does that mean to us?
Well, if you have this condition, your doctor may give you testosterone — which might be one of the baddest banned PED’s (performance-enhancing drugs).
So how many older athletes have hypogonadism?
Here’s what the Italian researchers say:
The mean sample age was 61.9 (plus or minus) 7.5 years (range 50â€“75). Severe or mild testosterone deficiency was observed in 12% and 18%, respectively, of overall athletes, with the highest prevalence in athletes >70 years (27.5% and 25.0%, respectively). TT did not correlate with age, training duration, or questionnaire scores. No differences were observed for nonspecific symptoms of hypogonadism, IIEF-15 and CES-D scores between eugonadal and severe hypogonadal athletes.
So what’s the bottom line? The study says:
A significant percentage of aging athletes had undiagnosed testosterone deficiency. In a relevant number of these cases, testosterone deficiency was not overtly symptomatic. Our results suggest that sport-participation per se can influence the symptoms of hypogonadism. The history of clinical symptoms may be inaccurate to diagnose testosterone deficiency in aging athletes. Future research should address the clinical relevance and the specific risks of testosterone deficiency in aging athletes, and the need of a systematic pre-participation serum testosterone evaluation.
So we’re in a bind. Lots of older men might have “undiagnosed testosterone deficiency.” If we get checked out, we can get healthier with some good ol’ testosterone. But that means we’re drug cheats. If we don’t get checked out, we might have serious health problems, or shorter lives.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Further, the researchers wrote:
Perhaps as a result of limited sexual opportunity, to the paucity of symptoms or to their absence, individuals have no reason to check serum testosterone, and so a high prevalence of undiagnosed testosterone deficiency probably exist.
It is possible therefore that also a noteworthy number of aging individuals doing training or practicing sports are affected by undiagnosed testosterone deficiency. Owing to the association between the reduced effects of testosterone and increased body demands, hypogonadal athletes are exposed to further specific health risks, depending on the type of performed physical activity.
There has not been adequate research into the prevalence and symptoms of testosterone deficiency in males practicing sports in advanced age.
Yikes! This means we don’t know beans. And this is just one study of one health issue involving masters athletes.
The guy who sent me the study wrote me:
This is a case of the elephant in the room. This problem isn’t restricted to testosterone. Many older athletes have sleep apnea and required drugs like modafinil (Provigil; a banned substance) to stay awake. These athletes are particularly disadvantaged when they must cross multiple time zones. There (needs) to be some compromise between fair competition and the legitimate medical needs of athletes.
Can USATF masters track thread this microscopic needle?
We’ll find out soon.