There are a few lines in blogging that even I have historically been unwilling to cross, namely, triathlon.
One of my two subscribers recently emailed me a tale about an age-grouper tri-dork who, after his second bust for testosterone, recently received an 8-year ban. If there is nothing interesting about triathlon, and trust me, there isn’t, how could there possibly be anything interesting about a grouper doper? Good news–there isn’t!
The tale of grouper doper Kevin Moats does obliquely spin over to cycling, however, because his first bust for testosterone in 2012 laid out a compelling reason for other groupers to use this performance enhancing drug. The reasoning was simple: Kevin was old, he had low-T, he took it under medical supervision, and afterwards he felt lots better. The fact that it happened to be a banned PED was a coincidence. The message was that for most of us groupers, life in general really will improve if we start rubbing on a bit of testosterone cream on a regular basis.
Moats took the time in 2012 to do a radio interview in which he laid out the most detailed rationale I’ve ever heard for testosterone replacement therapy. And as you’d expect from a serial cheater, the rationale is completely false. As I read through the transcript it struck me that even though Moats knew he was simply doping to win races, at some level he probably also did believe that he had a medical condition necessitating testosterone replacement therapy.
You may come to the same conclusion about yourself. I hope not.
Testosterone doesn’t fix “low T”
First off, let’s settle a couple of things.
- Testosterone is a performance enhancing drug for athletes.
- Testosterone replacement therapy has not been clinically shown to remedy symptoms associated with “low T.”
It’s important to understand these two points because in the grouper doper world, they get swapped around as justifications for each other. As a PED, testosterone helps you rebuild muscle after you tear it down in training. And it works.
You might think that if you have “low T,” applications of testosterone would give you “high T” and therefore resolve your “low T” symptoms. You would be wrong. There are still no published, long-term, large placebo-controlled trials examining clinically meaningful outcomes in hypogonadal men.
In case you missed it, that last sentence really does mean what #2 above says: You can’t fix low-T with testosterone. If you bother to read the entire article, you’ll also see that the authors of these guidelines for the use of testosterone replacement therapy in men concluded that all of the recommendations for testosterone replacement therapy were based on evidence judged to be very low or low, and the majority of the recommendations were based on very low-quality evidence.
Why does that matter? Because grouper dopers like Kevin Moats, and a long line of other grouper dopers who claim that they are under “medical supervision” for “low T” are absolutely getting a performance benefit even as they are absolutely not getting any meaningful medical treatment for their fake “low T.”
The chance that you have hypogonadism is nil
Low T is a real thing. It is not, however, diagnosed by going into a Youth Clinic and having your testosterone levels checked. Hypgonadism is better understood as a complex of symptoms for which low testosterone is a key marker, but that are brought about by a variety of causes. Prime movers and shakers in the world of Low T are obesity, depression, diabetes, anxiety, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle. Sound like the typical age grouper doper? Nope.
In fact, activities such as triathlon and bike racing, or more precisely, training for those activities, is exactly the kind of thing most likely to counteract the complex of symptoms associated with Low T. As one physician points out in this article in the Atlantic:
“The hard part,” said Dr. Anawalt, “is the man who is 50 pounds overweight and sedentary, who sees a TV ad and goes to see his doctor. Let’s say he has a thoughtful doctor who does the right test, at the right time of day (morning), and the test comes back low. Many of these guys will have low or slightly low testosterone. We have no evidence for whether or not it’s a benefit to give these guys testosterone.” He added that concern about their testosterone level could be a good thing if it spurs men to lose weight and exercise. “A low testosterone level can be a marker of poor health,” he said.
An actual diagnosis of hypogonadism, according to Dr. Alvin Matsumoto, MD, of the University of Washington, “may be challenging because in addition to unequivocally low serum T levels, it should be based on clinical manifestations of androgen deficiency, which may be subtle, nonspecific, and modified by the severity and duration of androgen deficiency, previous T treatment, the patient’s age, co-morbidities, and variations in androgen sensitivity.”
Compare this to the typical grouper doper, who tells his doc he’s not feeling as spry at 55 as he did at 25, and walks out with a fistful of test cream. By the way, “that guy” has also dropped 30 pounds, is cut, works out at the gym, and went from being DFL to Always In The Mix … and he does three different crits on race day and doesn’t ever appear tired. Now he’s not taking the testosterone for its performance enhancing benefits, you understand, no sir, not he.
Guys like Kevin Moat, grouper doper champions who get booted forever from competition, will remain rare because the rank and file testosterone dopers are mid-pack hackers who will never be tested. But the next time you are standing around after the race and hear some yahoo talking about “low T,” you might want to ask him how it’s “cured” his symptoms. After he gets his podium photo, of course.
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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.