Every year thousands of natural bodybuilders, et al, compete in contests worldwide and are, allegedly, tested for performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in an effort to produce a level playing field. Testing methods might include urine, blood, hair, and the abbreviated so-called polygraph, among others. The cost of testing is borne by the contestants in one form or another via inflated entry fees or separately-designated testing fees. But, are contestants really being tested or are they simply paying to line the pockets of unscrupulous promoters and/or organization heads?
Who really knows for sure? No one is asking questions – certainly not the athletes. They are characteristically content to accept the status quo among the sanctioning organizations, and they don’t seem to care who gets their money as long as they have an opportunity to compete and add more trophies, medals, swords, plaques, and other laurels to their personal glorification and sense of achievement. It doesn’t seem to matter to them if drug tests actually being performed as long as the contests are perceived to be “natural” so that they can boast to their followers about their drug-free status, whether it is true or not. Perception is everything.
In reality, athletes rarely, if ever, know whether testing is actually taking place or not because, with few exceptions, the names of the cheaters who fail the drug testing are never exposed. Moreover, the athletes do not receive copies of their own test results as a standard practice to confirm that they were actually tested. They willingly submit their urine or blood samples and pay their testing fees (one way or the other) blindly trusting that they will be tested when, in fact, most will not.
Most natural bodybuilding organizations utilize the urine test as the backbone of their testing protocol. However, since the cost of urine testing is prohibitive, actual tests are usually limited to class winners, overall winners, certain categories of competition (bodybuilding, figure, physique, etc.), or some combination thereof. In other words, all of the contestants are essentially subsidizing the tests for the few who win or place. Everyone gives a urine sample, of course, and the physical act of peeing in a cup creates the false illusion that everyone is being tested when, in fact, few samples are actually tested. Even so, the athletes who are tested are typically not provided with their urine test results.
Some organizations boast that ALL of their contestants are urine-tested, a claim that is highly implausible but, again, athletes never seem to question it. Some organizations claim to test but never test anyone. Athletes never seem to question this either.
The abbreviated so-called polygraph is also used by some organizations in addition to urine testing even though it is contrary to every legally-acceptable standard for polygraph. In most cases, all contestants are subject to this cursory exam and pay for it separately in addition to any other fees required as a condition of competing. But, again, the charts from these exams are typically not provided to the athletes, together with a written chart analysis by the examiner.
Drug testing in natural bodybuilding is largely lacking in transparency. There are some legitimate and well-meaning organizations that rightfully pride themselves in the efficacy and protocol of their drug testing, but if athletes who have been tested (or who have been told they have been tested) never see their actual test results, how can they be sure that the organization is even testing at all? Why are athletes not asking their sanctioning organizations to see their test results? They have paid for those tests and should be entitled to a copy of the results from the testing laboratory or polygraph examiner. Otherwise, they have peed – and paid – for nothing.
If athletes ask for their test results, and the organization is unwilling to provide those results, it should raise serious questions about whether the organization is more interested in pocketing the money or truly serving the sport. Of course, if the athletes don’t even care enough to ask for their test results, it says something else about the sport because if the testing is being compromised and nobody cares, there is nothing “natural” or legitimate about the sport anymore.