Readers Roundtable: Supplements or Performance Enhancing Drugs?

English: Galen Rupp
Hmmm, what’s really in that nose strip? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While we didn’t have the same hard hitting journalism and expert witness testimony as the famed investigative reporter David Epstein had in his fascinating piece on PED use by coaching giant Alberto Salazar, we did cover this ever looming hot topic last year. After Epstein’s breaking news report was shared this past week, the inter webs and message boards went crazy.


“I knew it.”

“The whole sport is dirty.”

and my personal favorite,

“The Rupp-certified Saladbar is going down.”

What Epstein shared isn’t particularly new information, although possible testoreone use by Galen Rupp as a teen or Salazar giving his athletes prescriptions not prescribed to them is new and at the center of much of the controversy. Even so, the question has been looming for ages in all of sports as to where that grey area of supplement use crosses over to the black and white realm of performance enhancing drug (PED) use.

So, what do you think? Where is the line crossed in PED use?

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. This is such a tricky issue, and frankly, I’m not sure. I wonder if the only “real” solution is to create classes of competition (e.g., “natural” and “not-so-natural”).

    But even that leads to the need for a line, and I think it’s tough. Does caffeine fit in either category? What about vitamin I? Is this about creating a demarcating line of performance improvement where above that amount of performance enhancement for the normal runner the supplement, drug, etc is considered to be performance enhancing, and below that line it is not. I’m not sure, but it sounds like an area for much more research.

    Fun fact: Saying that this is an area for research is basically my favorite sentence to type in every situation.

  2. Yeah, I think people are naive when they insist that all athletes race clean. What does that mean? There is a huge gray area, especially in international competition. It sucks that world class athletes feel the need to push the doping lines in order to compete – the Lance Armstrong Syndrome, everyone else is doing so to compete I need to too. I feel like this is what’s going on with Salazar’s camp. He’s (allegedly) pushing the boundaries of the rules not to cheat, but compete (theoretically). A big issue I see with what Salazar is allegedly doing is that by pushing the doping boundaries for his athletes to compete on a world stage, he’s foreclosing the opportunity for clean(er?) US athletes to make it onto that stage. I wonder how many athletes competing to win World Championships are actually clean. I bet the number is depressingly low and I wonder if more US athletes took the (alleged) Salazar approach to medicating themselves how much better the US would fare on the world stage because we’d have a greater pool of talented runners experimenting with PEDs to choose from. Sad really.

  3. It sounds like Salazar is alleging that this is nothing even close to the stories I’ve read about entire teams of cyclists lying on the floor of their travel bus elevating their limbs after injections.

    But is it sad? I don’t know. Does it make it any less amazing that a human could do xyz thing? I don’t know. If only for the sake of argument, I’m willing to go out on a limb and say I’m kind of curious to see how far we could push it using PEDs. Even if it might get kind of gross: