The story of steroids and performance enhancing drugs in the sport of CrossFit.
By Ben Garves
In 2017, Australian rookie Ricky Garard became the first podium athlete at the CrossFit Games to be caught in violation of the competition’s drug policy.
In this article, we delve into the untold story of performance enhancing drugs in the sport of fitness and how athlete testing has worked to level the playing field for the hardest working athletes of the Games.
The Ricky Garard Story
In a press release from CrossFit, it was announced on the third of October 2017 that Ricky Garad, the 23-year old rookie from Australia had been stripped of his third-place title. It went on to say he’d forfeited $76,000 in total prize money and was issued a four-year ban from the sport.
Garard had tested positive for use of Testolon and Endurobol – a steroid and a hormonal growth factor. In layman’s terms, he had cheated his way to a first-place finish in the Madison Triplet and Cyclocross events and his overall standing as the third-fittest man on earth.
As the result, Canadian athlete Patrick Vellner would assume the third-place podium finish.
In a tweet following the suspension, Garard’s girlfriend Melissa Bevacqua publicly accepted blame and pointed to not reading labels on some of Garard’s supplements: “…I blame myself for not doing more research into this [one] particular product we were convinced was okay.”
Word from Garard
Garard also took to Instagram with multiple messages disparaging the CrossFit organization:
I have obviously taken the rules & boundaries to the very edge. I looked into, researched & was willing to dabble into ways that could improve my performance legally & within the rules, with no intention whatsoever to be a cheat…
… Sorry to anyone I have affected personally & sorry to anyone that is sharing my pain. I trust that the people closest to me will understand, remain loyal and be there to support me.
Garard goes on to imply there are other athletes taking PEDs, like steroids, which CrossFit has not pursued and that it is not a legitimate, drug-free sport:
I really hope The CrossFit Games continues to tighten up their testing procedures, enforce the same level of strictness to all other competitors like they have to me & they continue to strive towards a legitimate drug free sport.
Word from CrossFit
The General Manager of the CrossFit Games, Justin Bergh, made an interview appearance talking about Garard’s accusations:
This is an opportunity for him as an athlete, if he has that information, he can share it with us, he can be a part of a solution…It’s not just ruining the leaderboard; it’s tarnishing the hard work, the talent, the dedication that your fellow competitors have…good clean athletes that are doing the right thing, it’s sullying their reputation and I don’t think it’s fair to them.
This wasn’t the first time athletes at the CrossFit Games had been caught using performance enhancing drugs. Nor would this be the last time someone took a shortcut to fitness greatness.
A Look Back
There is no single definitive list on CrossFit athletes who have tested positive for steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. We’ve done our best to compile one for you.
Jumping back to 2010, a very notable name stands out – Ben Bergeron. For those without encyclopedic knowledge of CrossFit history, the owner of CrossFit New England and the CompTrain fitness program did indeed compete in the games.
Now the coach of fan favorites Katrin Davidsdottir and Brooke Wells, Bergeron tested positive for methylhexanamine, a stimulant, in 2010.
He stands as an example that even great people make mistakes and that one can overcome those mistakes to continue to make a positive impact on the community.
A Look Forward
While no younger podium athletes tested positive for steroids or performance enhancing drugs in the 2018 CrossFit Games, a continued effort to test all regional and Games athletes saw an uptick in PED usage and resulted in two masters athletes losing their podium finishes that year.
In an effort to maintain full transparency, CrossFit published a full unified list of 2018 sanctioned athletes. You can read it here. The list includes Emily Abbott, a perennial crowd favorite.
How the Athletes Feel
A number of athletes have weighed in, not just on the Ricky Garard scandal, but on PEDs in the sport in general:
Those precious moments at the Crossfit Games are ones that I work so hard all year for, and they are moments that I can never get back. I lost an event win, I lost the experience of having back to back podiums, and worst of all, I lost the chance to stand on that podium with a fellow Canadian…When someone cheats, they aren’t simply cheating the sport, they are cheating the other athletes who have sacrificed a lot to get where they are.
As if we didn’t already get enough of the 💉 emojis and ‘no way these dudes are natural,’ comments. Now, I’d imagine that within our community and beyond it’ll be even harder for people to believe that we train and compete with all natural integrity.
I am disappointed in Garards actions, but happy that the CrossFit Games are coming down hard on these issues. In response to Garard I would like to say: Don’t try to justify your actions by dragging us all down with you. If you know of people cheating, name some names, contact HQ with your info and do your part in upholding the integrity of the sport. Don’t make us all look questionable in order to make yourself look better!
The List – Athletes Reported for PED Use
As far as we can ascertain, 43 athletes have tested positive for performance enhancing drug use since the 2010 CrossFit Games season.
It’s important to note the average suspension has grown from none in 2010 to an average of 3.8 years in 2018. CrossFit is indeed getting tougher on cheaters.
|Abigail Guerrero||Methandienone (Dianabol)||2|
|Steve Pinkerton||Anastrozole, Letrozole, 19-norandrosterone||2|
|Elia Navarro Garcia||Oxandrolone||2|
|Riyan Fischer||Compliance failure||1|
|Steve Marino||Unspecified AAS||2|
|Pawel Lesnikowski||Clenbuterol, Modafinil, elevated testosterone levels||4|
|Richy Garard||Testolone, Endurobol||4|
|Tony Turski||Anastrozole||Not disclosed|
|Josee Sarda||Ostarine, Testolone||Not disclosed|
|Shawn Ramirez||Endurobol, Ostarine||4|
|Andre Ganin||Elevated testostrerone||4|
|Nuha Almarri||Endurobol, Turinabol||4|
|Megan Benzik||Methandienone, Oxandrolone, Methanol, Letrozole, Amphetamine||4|
|Gena Malkovskiy||Clomiphene, Meldonium, Drostanolone||4|
|Andre Sanches||Epimentendiol, Methandienon, Ostarine, LGD-4033||4|
The List – PEDs Athletes Have Tested Positive For
This list only extends to the substances CrossFit athletes have been caught using and does not include the full list of banned substances from WADA. That annual list can be found here.
(S1) Anabolic Androgenic Steroids
Originally intended for chronic breathing disorders like asthma. Most notably used by the boxer Canelo Alvarez (WBA, WBC), and CrossFit athletes Stella Christoforou and Pawel Lesnikowski.
Also known as Dilaterol, Spiropent, Ventipulmin.
Originally intended for use in treatment of breast cancer. Gena Malkovskiy was caught using this substance by CrossFit in 2018. Also known as dromostanolone, Drolban, Masteril, and Masteron.
This drug was in testing for treatment of muscle wasting and osteoporosis, but did not pass drug trials. It is currently a black market drug.
Athletes caught using this are Shawn Ramirez, Lauren Shawver, Andre Sanches, Richard Bohlken, Nick Thomas, Josee Sarda, and Tony Turski.
The most common name for this PED is Ostarine.
Much like Enobasarm, LGD-4033 was originally intended for treatment of muscle wasting and osteoporosis, but has been withdrawn from the market and is not only available on the black market.
Also known under the name of VK5211 and Ligandrol, CrossFitters Carlos Castillo and Andre Sanches have tested positive for this. Most notably, it has also tested positive in Will Grier (a former Florida Gators football player) and Joakim Noah of the NBA.
Originally intended for the treatment of hypogonadism, this drug has been pulled from the market and is considered a black market substance.
It has been used in bodybuilding for years, most notably by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Common names include methandienone, methandrostenolone, epimentendiol, and Dianabol.
In CrossFit, it has been found in samples from Abigail Guerrero, Megan Benzik, and Andre Sanches.
Also known as 19-Norandrosterone, this drug is commonly used to treat a varying array of disorders, from anemias and cachexia, to osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Steve Pinkerton is the lone CrossFit athlete to test positive for Nadroline, to date.
A common AAS in professional sports for years, Oxandrolone is commonly associated with reports of use by baseball players Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
In CrossFit, Elia Navarro Garcia, Natalie Newhart, Rachel Campbell, and Megan Benzik have all tested positive.
Used in a number of situations to cause weight gain, treat severe burns, osteoporosis, and Turner syndrome, Oxandrolone has a number of brand names like Anavar, Antitriol, Anatrophill, Lipidex, Lonavar, Protivar, Vasorome, etc.
Also known as Androstanazol, Menabol, Stanazol, Stromba, Tevabolin, Winstrol, etc., Stanozolol was formerly used in treatment for lipodermatosclerosis and has been discontinued.
To date, it is still believe to be used in cases of cheating in horse racing. Also affiliated with accusations toward Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, it has been used by CrossFit athletes Maria Ceballos, Stephanie Araujo, and Vivian Bomfim.
Commonly known as “exogenous testosterone”, this is simply the case of elevated testosterone levels not created naturally by the body. Exogenous testosterone is commonly used to treat hypogonadism, breast cancer, and in sexual transitions.
Pawel Lesnikowski, Andrey Ganin, and US sprinter Justin Gatlin have all tested positive for exogenous testosterone.
It is commonly found in drugs like Andriol, Androderm, AndroGel, Testim, TestoGel, Sustanon, and Omnadren.
Also widely known as RAD140, Ricky Garard tested positive for Testolone in 2017. The drug is still under development and in trials, but is targeted to fight muscle wasting and in the treatment of breast cancer.
Also known as Trenabol, and commonly found in drugs like Finajet, Finaplix, Parabolan, Hexabolan, this substance was found in a sample from Charis Chan in 2016.
To this day it is only used in livestock to promote growth of muscle and increased appetite.
Has no non-performance medical use. Used by CrossFit athlete Nuha Almarri. Also known as CDMT and Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone
(S2) Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors, Related Substances, and Mimetics
Widely known by athletes as GW501516 (or GW1516), Endurobol was intended to treat metabolic and cardiovascular disease, but was abandoned when it was found to cause rapid cancer development in mice.
This has been a commonly used PED by fitness athletes. The list includes Ricky Garard, Fabio Botteghi, Joel Munro, Nuha Almarri, Shawn Ramirez, and Kelli Holm.
Designed for treatment of hormone deficiency, Ibutamoren has not yet been approved by the FDA. It’s commonly known as MK-677 and L-163,191.
Emily Abbott was reported by CrossFit as having tested positive for this in 2018.
Also referred to as Mildronate, Meldonium was reportedly used by tennis start Maria Sharapova and resulted in sanctions from the WTA.
The drug fights restricted blood flow disorders and is therefor used to treat ischemia. Gena Malkovskiy tested positive for this in 2018.
(S3) Beta-2 Agonist
This substance is found in various over the counter supplements and has unverified weight loss properties. Known as norcoclaurine and demethylcoclaurine, Laura Hosier was caught using this in 2018.
(S4) Hormone and Metabolic Modulators
Known under the brand name of Arimidex, Anastrozole is used in the treatment of breast cancer. Steve Pinkerton, Scott Jones, and Tony Turski have all tested positive for this substance.
Also spelled “clomiphene”, and used by hundreds of prescription names like Belcom, Biogen, Bleifen, Climene, Fertilphen, etc., this drug is used to treat infertility.
Athletes who have tested positive for this are Dean Shaw, Penny Kemp, Ryan Elrod, Andrea Barbotti, and L’duvit Czokoly.
Letrozole is sold under the name of Femara. It’s used to treat breast cancer and was found in the samples of Megan Benzik and Steve Pinkerton.
Intended as a breast cancer prevention method and treatment for infertility, Tamoxifen is sold under the names Nolvadex, Genox, and Tamifen. Gianluca Occino tested positive for Tamoxifen in 2017.
Sold in Adderall, Dyanavel, Benzedrene, Evekeo, etc., amphetamine drugs are used in treatment of ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. Both Olympic sprinters Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay have tested positive for amphetamine, in addition to CrossFit athletes Megan Benzik and Taylar Stallings.
Designed in 1944 as a nasal decongestant and withdrawn from the market in 1983, Methylhexanamine has been in the news recently. The FDA issued a warning to 14 companies for unlabeled use of the substance in their supplements. It is believed the chemical has unverified weight loss properties. Kara Paslay, Ben Bergeron, and Derek Mohammad have tested positive for this. Other names include dimethylbutylamine, methylhexamine, 1,3-dimethylamylamine, and 1,3-amphetamine.
Sold under the names Provigil, Alertec, and Modavigil, baseball player Barry Bonds was accused of testing positive for this substance. Additionally, Pawel Lesnikowski was confirmed as testing positive by CrossFit in 2017. This drug is commonly used to treat sleepiness due to narcolepsy.