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Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarznegger and Performance Enhancing Drugs (part 1)

by Roy Winston |  Published: May 27, '10


While playing golf this past week one of the topics that kept coming up in the clubhouse and on the course was Tiger Woods. I guess with all that’s gone on with him lately that’s no big surprise, but what was interesting was the nature of the conversation centered on him and performance enhancing drugs. I googled the topic online and there are even sites that follow his size increase from his early days until present times and I guess it is somewhat interesting. Especially now that his physician has been criminally charged, and implicated with distributing performance-enhancing drugs to patients.

I have talked about this topic before with relation to baseball and Bonds, Clements and so on, where there is the same issue. I guess anytime you have a performance aberration you need to take a look and see if it’s natural or artificially enhanced. As a physician myself and somewhat of an expert in the field I feel in a good position to discuss the issue. When in the past there were congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball, now that was a little out there, but the broader question for a society of what constitutes performance enhancement and what is medically indicated is sometimes a blurry line with shades of gray. There are also huge advances in training capabilities, which offer a large advantage to athletes. Even in the old days of the cold war when the Russian and Eastern European athletes were selected and trained starting at very young ages for things like gymnastics at “professional” government run schools gave an unfair advantage.

Taking a look at Lance Armstrong who had a testicular tumor and needed to be on testosterone supplementation for health reasons after surgery raises the question from a different vantage point. What about those who are on medications to help them focus and perform better mentally with attention deficit disorder that are being tremendously overprescribed. Drugs like Addaril are commonplace in poker and used in other competitive sports as well. In LA it’s used as an appetite suppressant to help facilitate weight loss. Human Growth Hormone or HGH as it is commonly known is another such drug which may help slow the aging process according to some, but definitely can help maintain lean body mass as you age.

All of us as we age undergo physiologic changes to our hormone production. In men testosterone production usually starts to decline in the thirties and continues declining as we age. Testosterone which is responsible for mediating a variety of functions including bone density, red blood cell mass, sexual potency, as well as maintaining and building lean body mass. If you look at standard laboratory tests for serum testosterone the “normal” range is quite large and is not commonly age adjusted. So is the 20-year-old athlete with a level of 800 versus a still normal level of say 400 in another athlete at a competitive advantage?

There is a great short story by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in his collection of stories Welcome to the Monkey House, called Harrison Bergeron, where social equality is achieved by handicapping the more athletic, intelligent or attractive people so that everyone is brought to the same mediocre level and are on a “level” playing field..

As science progresses and the ability to provide more and better drugs and biological agents, stem cells and other advancements that are still science fiction how do you decide what is performance enhancement and what is scientific advancement?

Look at the current Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who in his day had to be on mega doses of anabolic steroids. His use of anabolic steroids, which were in a large part responsible for enabling him win body building events which then catapulted him into a movie career, marrying a Kennedy and now politics, steroids are in a large part responsible for his success. Where would we be without all the Terminator movies (which I have to admit I am a huge fan of)?

There are nutritional supplements up the yin yang available, which may or may not offer some advantage. There is a whole new class of drugs in the statin family like Crestor and Lipitor, which can slow, and possibly reverse atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. (part 2 coming soon)

Roy Winston finished 16th in 2007 Card Player, Player of the Year race. He won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and finished the year with well over $2 million in tournament poker winnings. Roy plays online exclusively at Full Tilt. For more information on Roy Winston, you can visit his website: or send an email to: with your questions or comments. The contents presented herein on this blog are purely the opinions of Roy Winston, and are not intended to reflect or promote the opinions of any other person, group, or entity. If you like what I write than thanks for reading, and if not well, thanks anyway.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


over 11 years ago

I prefer Sam Adams, but Corona will do just fine. There actually is one medication, Atenolol, which is a Beta Blocker, and can help quiet the adrenaline rush some players get while playing a hand, particuarly in a big situation. It was actually popular on the PGA Tour for a while to help with the "yips" on those short putts.

Just to be clear I am not advocating or recommending it, nor have I tried it myself, but for some players it might be useful.

For a lot of players, including myself on some days, a sleeping pill would be useful so I would actually sleep through the event and save the buy-in, this method not recommended if you pre-registered, and you should refrain for operating heavy machinery.


over 11 years ago

Great job putting "performance enhancing drugs" into context. So many times you here people giving the substances way more power than they actually have. When steroid use in the MLB started to become public, people acted like all you had to do was start taking roids and you'd automatically hit 50 HR's.

No one wanted to take the time to thoroughly analyze the true causes and effects of using these substances. It was much simpler for fans and media personnel to simply say these guys used the drugs because they are dirty cheaters and every single thing they have accomplished is a direct result of the drug use. As you said, its way more complex than that.

Given the perpetual scientific advances and the competitiveness of professional sports, how would any logical person not predict that 32 year old athletes might start looking for an advantage to keep up w/ the 24year old trying to take his job.


over 11 years ago

It's really quite simple from 1900 to 1990 17 player hit more then 50 hrs. in a season. If you take out the 2 greatest players of all time Ruth(4 times ) Mays(2 times) also Mantle and Kiner (2 times each)you are left with 7 times in 90 seasons. Only 2 times in that 90 years Ruth(60) in 27 and Maris(61) in 61 did a player hit 60 hrs. in a season.Then from 1990 to 2008 24 times players hit more then 50 hrs.Then from 98 to 01 4 times players hit 60 or more hrs and 2 times players hit more then 70 hrs. Something unnatural was happening for these numbers to explode like that. Yes Barry Bonds was a very talented (max 45 hr per season) player who was greatly aided by steroid use. Every player on the 50+ hr list after 1990 is suspected of steroid use or been proved to have used steroids. If they were not cheating why were they using banned substances and fighting every attempt at testing.


over 11 years ago

Remember when most baseball players were thin athletes? If you don't, look back at some of the pictures from the Hank Aaron days.

If you don't believe that Barry Bonds used some type of anabolic steroid, then how do you suppose that he morphed from a "whippet" into a "bull mastiff"?

In his case, it was all completely unnecessary. He was a cinch for the BHOF. His stats were so superior.

Performance enhancing drugs will not improve your ability to put bat on ball, a complex process, but only enable you to hit it harder or further.


over 11 years ago

PGA tour guys have been using beta-blockers for years, and it has helped many of the games TOP players.

TexRdGambler...Thats what makes the Bonds case do pitiful. He didnt HAVE to take steroids to be a great player, but his ego could not stand watching MM and Sammy Sosa overtake him in the Summer of 98'. That was the start of his use.

My company participated in a study done by NYU Professors, and it was shown that in elite baseball players (The study was done on players ages, 19-25, some were minor leaguers, others played in Mexico and PR) anabolic steroids equates to playing with a metal bat versus a wooden bat. Reaction time, bat speed and bat restraint were all increased in huge amounts.

It is not to say that ANYONE could go out and hit 50 HRs...But take a closer look at Luis Gonzalez or Brady Anderson, and you will see exactly what steroids did to "good" baseball players.


over 11 years ago


Thanks for the very interesting data.


over 11 years ago

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