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Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes Upload file. Download as PDF Printable version. Add links. The information compiled by the AP included players who appeared for multiple years on the same teams, making it the most comprehensive data available. For decades, scientific studies have shown that anabolic steroid use leads to an increase in body weight.
Weight gain alone doesn't prove steroid use, but very rapid weight gain is one factor that would be deemed suspicious, said Kathy Turpin, senior director of sport drug testing for the National Center for Drug Free Sport, which conducts tests for the NCAA and more than schools. She would not speculate on the cause of such rapid weight gain. The NCAA attributes the decline in positive tests to its year-round drug testing program, combined with anti-drug education and testing conducted by schools.
The AP's analysis found that, regardless of school, conference and won-loss record, many players gained weight at exceptional rates compared with their fellow athletes and while accounting for their heights. The documented weight gains could not be explained by the amount of money schools spent on weight rooms, trainers and other football expenses. Adding more than 20 or 25 pounds of lean muscle in a year is nearly impossible through diet and exercise alone, said Dan Benardot, director of the Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance at Georgia State University.
The AP's analysis corrected for the fact that players in different positions have different body types, so speedy wide receivers weren't compared to bulkier offensive tackles. It could not assess each player's physical makeup, such as how much weight gain was muscle versus fat, one indicator of steroid use. In the most extreme case in the AP analysis, the probability that a player put on so much weight compared with other players was so rare that the odds statistically were roughly the same as an NFL quarterback throwing 12 passing touchdowns or an NFL running back rushing for yards in one game.
In nearly all the rarest cases of weight gain in the AP study, players were offensive or defensive linemen, hulking giants who tower above 6-foot-3 and weigh pounds or more. Four of those players interviewed by the AP said that they never used steroids and gained weight through dramatic increases in eating, up to six meals a day. Two said they were aware of other players using steroids. Oldenburg's weight increased over four years from to , including a one-year gain of 53 pounds, which he attributed to diet and two hours of weight lifting daily.
I just ate anything. Oldenburg told the AP he was surprised at the scope of steroid use in college football, even in Colorado State's locker room. The AP found more than 4, players -- or about 7 percent of all players -- who gained more than 20 pounds overall in a single year. It was common for the athletes to gain 10, 15 and up to 20 pounds in their first year under a rigorous regimen of weightlifting and diet.
Others gained 25, 35 and 40 pounds in a season. In roughly cases, players packed on as much 80 pounds in a single year. In at least 11 instances, players that AP identified as packing on significant weight in college went on to fail NFL drug tests.
But pro football's confidentiality rules make it impossible to know for certain which drugs were used and how many others failed tests that never became public. What is bubbling under the surface in college football, which helps elite athletes gain unusual amounts of weight?
Without access to detailed information about each player's body composition, drug testing and workout regimen, which schools do not release, it's impossible to say with certainty what's behind the trend. But Catlin has little doubt: It is steroids. Football's most infamous steroid user was Lyle Alzado, who became a star NFL defensive end in the s and '80s before he admitted to juicing his entire career. He started in college, where the pound freshman gained 40 pounds in one year.
It was a 21 percent jump in body mass, a tremendous gain that far exceeded what researchers have seen in controlled, short-term studies of steroid use by athletes. Alzado died of brain cancer in The AP found more than big-time college football players who showed comparable one-year gains in the past decade.
Students posted such extraordinary weight gains across the country, in every conference, in nearly every school. Many of them eclipsed Alzado and gained 25, 35, even 40 percent of their body mass. Even though testers consider rapid weight gain suspicious, in practice it doesn't result in testing. Ben Lamaak, who arrived at Iowa State in , said he weighed pounds in high school and pounds in the summer of his freshman year on the Cyclones football team. A year later, official rosters showed the former basketball player from Cedar Rapids weighed , a gain of 81 pounds since high school.
He graduated as a pound offensive lineman and said he did it all naturally. I had fun doing it. I love to eat. It wasn't a problem. In addition to random drug testing, Iowa State is one of many schools that have "reasonable suspicion" testing. That means players can be tested when their behavior or physical symptoms suggest drug use. The associate athletics director for athletic training at Iowa State, Mark Coberley, said coaches and trainers use body composition, strength data and other factors to spot suspected cheaters.
Lamaak, he said, was not suspicious because he gained a lot of "non-lean" weight. We keep our radar up and watch for things that are suspicious and try to protect the kids from making stupid decisions. There's no evidence that Lamaak's weight gain was anything but natural. Gaining fat is much easier than gaining muscle. But colleges don't routinely release information on how much of the weight their players gain is muscle, as opposed to fat.
Without knowing more, said Benardot, the expert at Georgia State, it's impossible to say whether large athletes were putting on suspicious amounts of muscle or simply obese, which is defined as a body mass index greater than Looking solely at the most significant weight gainers also ignores players like Bryan Maneafaiga. In the summer of , Maneafaiga was an undersized pound running back trying to make the University of Hawaii football team.
Twice -- once in pre-season and once in the fall -- he failed school drug tests, showing up positive for marijuana use. What surprised him was that the same tests turned up negative for steroids. He'd started injecting stanozolol, a steroid, in the summer to help bulk up to a roster weight of pounds.
Once on the team, where he saw only limited playing time, he'd occasionally inject the milky liquid into his buttocks the day before games. Maneafaiga's coach, June Jones, meanwhile, said none of his players had tested positive for doping since he took over the team in He also said publicly that steroids had been eliminated in college football: "I would say percent," he told The Honolulu Advertiser in Jones said it was news to him that one of his players had used steroids.
Jones, who now coaches at Southern Methodist University, said many of his former players put on bulk working hard in the weight room. For instance, adding 70 pounds over a three- to four-year period isn't unusual, he said. Jones said a big jump in muscle year-over-year -- say 40 pounds -- would be a "red light that something is not right. While the use of drugs in professional sports is a question of fairness, use among college athletes is also important as a public policy issue. That's because most top-tier football teams are from public schools that benefit from millions of dollars each year in taxpayer subsidies.
Their athletes are essentially wards of the state. Coaches and trainers -- the ones who tell players how to behave, how to exercise and what to eat -- are government employees. On paper, college football has a strong drug policy. The NCAA conducts random, unannounced drug testing and the penalties for failure are severe. Players lose an entire year of eligibility after a first positive test.
A second offense means permanent ineligibility from sports. Exactly how many tests are conducted each year on football players is unclear because the NCAA hasn't published its data for two years. And when it did, it periodically changed the formats, making it impossible to compare one year of football to the next.
Even when players are tested by the NCAA, people involved in the process say it's easy enough to anticipate the test and develop a doping routine that results in a clean test by the time it occurs. NCAA rules say players can be notified up to two days in advance of a test, which Catlin says is plenty of time to beat a test if players have designed the right doping regimen.
By comparison, Olympic athletes are given no notice. They all know. And they know how to beat the test," Catlin said, adding, "Only the really dumb ones are getting caught. Players are far more likely to be tested for drugs by their schools than by the NCAA. But while many schools have policies that give them the right to test for steroids, they often opt not to. Schools are much more focused on street drugs like cocaine and marijuana.
When schools call and ask about drug testing, the first question is usually, "How much will it cost? Most schools that use Drug Free Sport do not test for anabolic steroids, Turpin said. Some are worried about the cost. Others don't think they have a problem. And others believe that since the NCAA tests for steroids their money is best spent testing for street drugs, she said.
Wilfert, the NCAA official, said the possibility of steroid testing is still a deterrent, even at schools where it isn't conducted. For Catlin, one of the most frustrating things about running the UCLA testing lab was getting urine samples from schools around the country and only being asked to test for cocaine, marijuana and the like. That helps explain how two school drug tests could miss Maneafaiga's steroid use.
It's also possible that the random test came at an ideal time in Maneafaiga's steroid cycle. The top steroid investigator at the U. Drug Enforcement Administration, Joe Rannazzisi, said he doesn't understand why schools don't invest in the same kind of testing, with the same penalties, as the NFL. The NFL has a thorough testing program for most drugs, though the league has yet to resolve a long-simmering feud with its players union about how to test for human growth hormone.
Of course, but college football makes a lot of money," he said. That's about 0. Testing all athletes in all sports would make the school's costs higher.
In at least 11 instances, players that AP identified as packing on significant weight in college went on to fail NFL drug tests. Ben Lamaak, who arrived at Iowa State in , said he weighed pounds in high school. He graduated as a pound offensive lineman and said he did it all naturally. I love to eat. That means players can be tested when their behavior or physical symptoms suggest drug use.
Despite gaining 81 pounds in a year, Lamaak said he was never singled out for testing. The associate athletics director for athletic training at Iowa State, Mark Coberley, said coaches and trainers use body composition, strength data and other factors to spot suspected cheaters.
But looking solely at the most significant weight gainers also ignores players like Bryan Maneafaiga. In the summer of , Bryan Maneafaiga was an undersized pound running back trying to make the University of Hawaii football team. Twice — once in pre-season and once in the fall — he failed school drug tests, showing up positive for marijuana use but not steroids. On paper, college football has a strong drug policy.
The NCAA conducts random, unannounced drug testing and the penalties for failure are severe. Players lose an entire year of eligibility after a first positive test. A second offense means permanent ineligibility for sports. And when it did, it periodically changed the formats, making it impossible to compare one year of football to the next. NCAA rules say players can be notified up to two days in advance of a test, which Catlin says is plenty of time to beat a test if players have designed the right doping regimen.
By comparison, Olympic athletes are given no notice. Most schools that use Drug Free Sport do not test for anabolic steroids, Turpin said. Some are worried about the cost. And others believe that since the NCAA tests for steroids their money is best spent testing for street drugs, she said.
At Alabama, coaches have wide discretion. The University of North Carolina kicks players off the team after a single positive test for steroids. At UCLA, home of the laboratory that for years set the standard for cutting-edge steroid testing, athletes can fail three drug tests before being suspended.
Since there was no fear of personal identification or of reprisal for positive test results, they may have felt participation was risk-free regardless, or they simply may have felt that they could beat the system or wanted to test the system to see if they might go undetected. Confirmation or refutation in the two positive cases was not pursued.
However it is felt that most likely these were true positives. The reasons for this assumption are based on known percentages of drug use among college athletes and previous reports of the incidence of false positive results on initial testing. On the other hand, Dehennin and Scholler reported the incidence of false positives at 15 per 10, 0. The two positive results in this group of college athletes represented 1. The more important issue is that the use of anabolic steroids among athletes, although not increasing, has not diminished under the current testing programs.
Even in this study, where volunteer athletes were recruited to participate only if they were non-users, positive test results occurred. This is not to say that the testing programs are ineffective, but they are not entirely effective in acting as a deterrent to drug use. The fear of testing positive and risking disqualification or sanction clearly deters a certain percentage of athletes considered at risk for drug use, but others continue to use drugs and either hope to or try to beat the system.
Testing programs vary among sports governing agencies. Random testing leaves a chance for an athlete to avoid detection, yet testing of all athletes one or more times during a season is cost-prohibitive. In addition, those motivated to gain a competitive edge, legal or otherwise, will seek novel ways to avoid detection, including taking masking substances. Drug use is a serious concern, not only for the concepts of integrity and fair play in competitive sports, but because of the health threats to the athletes.
Certainly drug testing programs should continue with increasing numbers of athletes being tested and increasing penalties for detection, since these are most likely means of deterrence. Drug education programs must also continue in a further attempt to curtail the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs by empowering the young athlete with the information and skills to make responsible and healthy decisions.
Drug testing programs are designed to promote fair play and deter drug use among athletes. Under conditions of anonymity a group of professed non-user athletes volunteered for drug testing. Two positive results were identified indicating the importance of continued testing and need for further testing and education, as testing alone is not a sufficient deterrent to eliminate drug use among college athletes.
This study was supported by a student institutional grant by and performed at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Previous Next.