Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Born to cheat! How world class athletes can take drugs... and get away with it

Cause for concern? The percentage of each race who have the 'impunity gene'
Cause for concern? The percentage of each race who have the 'impunity gene'

This is a very revealing article that only makes sense. To me it is obvious that each individual is different and will react to training, nutrition, and, of course, drugs, differently. While the political powers that be claim to be motivated by constructing a "level playing field", that is far too simplistic to make a reality. There is still too much that we don't know and understand about the human body to be able to insure a completely "fair" competition. Is it unfair for someone with naturally lower levels of testosterone, for example, to augment their natural chemistry to reach the norms? If we know, or even have a reason to believe, that some athletes have a natural genetic  makeup that allows them to pass the current tests, can we justify testing everyone and holding each to the same standards. I am not an advocate of anything goes, but I am certain that there are no simplistic answers to providing an even field when so many are so dedicated to pushing their limits to the max.

Eight of the most explosively gifted sprinters in the world are settling into their blocks on the start line of the 100m final at a major championship. The tension is almost unbearable; the rewards for success are huge.
To the spectators in the stadium and millions of fans watching on TV around the world, it is a spectacle without equal in sport.
But what very few of them will even suspect is that it is statistically likely that at least one of those runners will have a genetic make-up allowing him to take performance-enhancing steroids for his entire career — and never fail a drug test.

Science fiction? Far from it.
Now imagine the starting blocks of a swimming final at a significant international event in Asia — the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, for example.
It is quite feasible that half of the athletes about to dive into the water — perhaps as many as six out of eight depending on whether they are Chinese, Japanese, Korean or from another background — also have bodies that naturally allow them to take drugs but not get caught.
Astonishing though it sounds, significant numbers of sportsmen and women are born to dope, and get away with it. The proportion ranges from around one in 10 of those with European ancestry to one in five with African heritage, and up to a staggering two-thirds of people in some Asian countries, notably Korea.
These shocking statistics, largely unknown to followers of sport, go part of the way to explaining the vast difference between the numbers of elite athletes who are taking banned performance-enhancing drugs and the numbers being caught.
The most common type of drug test globally analyses urine to compare levels of testosterone (T) and another hormone, epitestosterone (E) to give a T/E ratio. This test can signify the use of all kinds of illegal drugs, including anabolic agents, which are the most commonly found drugs in dopers, 50 per cent of positive drug tests being for steroids — or artificial testosterone.
When the T/E ratio exceeds four to one, it signifies possible doping. But people who have the ‘doping with impunity’ gene variant — carriers have two copies of a particular version of a gene called UGT2B17 — do not return positive tests, even if they have been doping.
The gene variant keeps the T/E level low, naturally. That means huge swathes of the population have a licence to dope.
Christiane Ayotte, a veteran in the fight against doping, says this is both shocking and frustrating because tests exist which could catch more drug cheats — including those whose genetic make-up enables them to dope with impunity — but these tests are not used by all anti-doping organisations or national sports federations.
Ayotte said last week: ‘I am sure many people will be shocked by the fact that sportsmen and women can be doping under the radar.
‘It would not be scientific to guess how many of all the tests in the world are still simple urine screening tests, which allow those with this gene to pass tests, but it remains the most  common testing procedure.
‘That is frustrating because it would not be so difficult to introduce other layers of testing, not just the T/E ratio, to catch people. But too many [anti-doping] organisations and federations don’t do it. We need to change this.’
Ayotte has served in the past as the International Olympic Committee’s overseer of doping laboratories, has worked on the medical commission of athletics’ world governing body, the IAAF, and runs a laboratory accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Canada.
Official figures on global testing in sport in 2012, collated by WADA, show that anabolic agents — steroids to you and me — remain the most commonly found illegal drug in the cheats’ armoury.
More than half of all positive tests in the world in 2012, or 50.6 per cent, were positive for anabolic agents, which placed them way ahead of the next most common category of banned drug, stimulants, which were responsible for 15.5 per cent of failed tests.
Steroids may seem ‘old school’ but even some of the most high-profile cases of recent times have involved them, including the positive test just a few weeks ago of American’s former world 100m champion, Tyson Gay.
He was caught because the testing used on his sample was a more advanced test, known as a carbon isotype test. These are not ‘standard’ and are typically used when a T/E ratio test has already flagged up a problem. An athlete with the ‘lucky’ gene make-up would not fail a T/E test in the first place and so would not expect to be subjected to more advanced testing.
A landmark Swedish study found that the ‘doping with impunity’ gene variant occurs in 66.7 per cent of Asian populations and almost 10 per cent of Caucasians. That study, partially funded by WADA, recommended that ascertaining every individual’s gene make-up would help to close the loophole open to those born to dope.
But such additional profiling of athletes would be expensive, and possibly controversial among those who would regard it as a further invasion of  privacy, and does not happen.
As the umbrella body that encourage national doping agencies and governing bodies to do more testing and more complex testing, WADA face an uphill task. Wholesale changes in the WADA code, to be updated by 2015, will address this, as part of a wide range of new ‘smart’ testing.
A WADA spokesman says: ‘The idea behind this better practice [from 2015] is that, at present, some anti-doping organisations do minimal or no testing for the prohibited substances or prohibited methods which are performance-enhancing in particular sports.’
Another study into the ‘doping with impunity gene’, which looked at football players and was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), found that up to 81 per cent of some Asian populations had the ‘impunity’ gene variant, although this varied between countries.
Around 30-40 per cent of Japanese and Chinese have the gene, and almost double that in Korea.
The BJSM work found the levels to be 10 per cent in Caucasians and seven per cent in Hispanic populations.The BJSM, like the Swedish scientists, also recommended that athletes should have an ‘endocrinological passport’ to prevent them exploiting the gene loophole. Ayotte echoes this, saying: ‘The best way forward would be to have subject base profiles.’
She explained that much like the biological passports increasingly common in sports like cycling, where an athlete’s blood is monitored over years, base profiles would flag up individual’s genetics that could be relevant.
David Epstein, an American is an expert on genetics in sport and the author of The Sports Gene, published in America earlier this month and in Britain this week. His fascinating book delves into various ways that genetics influence sporting ability.
‘If we really wanted to be technologically savvy about drug-testing, we’d have to have genetically personalised testing,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘And if I were an athlete bent on cheating, and I was aware of that gene, I would certainly get tested for it [to confirm an advantage on the testers].
‘If I were doing the drug testing, I would want to do carbon isotope ratio testing on everyone, to get around this problem and look straight for synthetic testosterone, but that test is costly and laborious and is infrequently done.’
It is impossible to know how many athletes are doping but passing tests because they have the ‘impunity’ gene. But certainly official WADA statistics show that certain major accredited labs in some Asian countries are returning many fewer negatives than counterparts elsewhere.
Of 267,000 drugs tests conducted globally last year, 1.19 per cent had ‘adverse’ findings — or were positive — with a further 0.57 per cent ‘atypical’ and needing further investigation.
Rates of adverse findings were broadly in line with this at London’s major laboratory (0.74 per cent adverse findings), and in Sydney (0.76 per cent), Paris (1.97 per cent) and Stockholm (0.14 per cent). But the corresponding numbers in Tokyo were 0.16 per cent, and 0.34 per cent in Beijing and 0.48 per cent in Seoul.

It is impossible to know how many athletes are doping but passing tests because they have the ‘impunity’ gene. It may just be coincidental that laboratories in the regions where the gene is most common are finding fewer cheats. Or it may not…

Viking Power

Here is a little Thanksgiving inspiration. You don't see this very often. Nice and upright, very deep, walked out of a rack, 475 kg.! Even with the knee wraps and suit, this is still a very impressive lift.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finding a Way

These guys found a way!

You've got to love this. I love improvisation. I love overcoming obstacles. I love thinking outside the box. In this case this is not an abstract  mental exercise or game, but a struggle for sheer survival. These strong people have my deepest respect. They are showing us how to not only solve serious problems, but to do it with a positive attitude and good humor as well. They are in my prayers and we can certainly remember that we can always find a way to train and get better, no matter what our circumstances are.

Usually a fisherman catches a fish and puts it in the fridge. In one typhoon-wrecked Filipino village, fishermen are putting themselves in the fridge and then going fishing.
Typhoon Haiyan crashed into the central Philippines on Nov. 8, laying waste to just about everything in its path, including the long, stylish fishing boats moored along beaches.

Making something out of nothing.
Jimmy Obaldo, 52, was the first of Tanauan's fishermen to try it out. "We got the idea from my children - they just asked me if we could use it as a boat," he said.
Enjoying the journey.

Friday, November 15, 2013

To the Ladies- Why Heavier Weights Will Make You Smaller, Not Bulkier

Lifting Heavy Weights Does Not Make Women Masculine

Newsflash!! Men and women are different! Personally I am glad. It makes life much more interesting. With a few rare exceptions (beyond the scope of this post) men want to get big and strong, while women would prefer to get stronger, but not necessarily more muscular. The beautiful thing about this is that the training is not much different for either purpose. Proper training makes men more masculine and women more feminine. This article is for the girls and women and also for the men who encourage them. If you are knowledgeable and experienced at all, this is probably old news to you. However in my classes I still have some girls who avoid working too hard for fear that they will become "masculine". This is absolutely false. Below is a short article that recently appeared on a national news site. It tells the truth, but I would recommend even heavier training than described. At the end of the post are a couple of video clips that make the same point well. So, ladies, if you want to feel great and look great; stick to heavy basic exercises and work hard. 

First things first: lifting heavier weights will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk. In fact, lifting a heavier set of dumbbells can actually lead to a smaller, stronger you. Sound like just what you're after? Here are two important reasons to ditch the two-pounders and grab heavier weights.
You'll lose weight faster: Who doesn't want to drop pounds the most efficient way possible? Healthy chef and trainer Katy Clark recommends this test: "Whatever weight you're bearing - if you're doing five pounds, if you're doing 10 pounds - if you're not tired by [rep] number 10, then you need to go a little bit heavier. If you are consistently doing that, you're going to see changes in your strength and in your muscle mass." More muscle mass equals more metabolism, so maximize your body's fat-burning potential by challenging your muscles with heavier weights.
You can reshape your body: Cardio may help you shed excess pounds, but it's the weights that will help you sculpt the strong, toned look you're going for. "You're not going to change the shape of your body [with cardio], you're just going to be exactly like you are but you'll be a smaller version," says trainer Tia Falcone, who helped Miss America lose over 50 pounds. "All your flaws will be the same, everything will just be smaller." She recommends doing four weight-training routines a week to sculpt and reshape your problem areas.

Of course, if you're not used to a weight-training routine, start small and work your way up to heavier weights; starting too heavy can lead to injuries that can sideline all your weight-loss efforts. Here's a chart of common dumbbell sizes for beginners to help you get started; in general, aim for a weight that will fatigue your muscles in eight to 12 reps.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Young Warrior Laid to Rest

View image on Twitter
Charles Youvella, Hopi Warrior

There are always tragic events that deserve our attention, support, and prayers. Of course the misery and suffering in the Philippines right now is massive. I am grateful that I belong to a country and a church with the resources and desire to assist. Meanwhile another tragic event much closer to home has also required our attention.
We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly known as Mormons. Our church does not have a professional clergy but relies on it's members to minister to one another. We are organized into local units called "wards" which are contained in a larger geographic region called a "stake". Our stake is one of two in the entire world wide church that is entirely on an Indian Reservation. Our stake is the only one that contains two Native nations. We cover the western half of the large Navajo Nation and we have in our stake the entire Hopi Nation. Many non-natives don't realize how much different the cultures, languages, and characteristics of the various tribes are. We consider the Hopi Nation to be the treasure of our stake. They are a humble and resilient people. While the Navajo Nation is the largest tribe in the United States numbering over 300,000. The Hopi, on the other hand, number under 8,000. The Navajos traditionally live spread out far apart from one another. The Hopi live in villages atop of three remote mesas in Northern Arizona. These villages are the longest continually inhabited settlements in the U.S. They are a humble people who do not seek recognition or personal aggrandizement. In fact the word "Hopi" means humble. We were greatly saddened by the death of one of our members this weekend. I remember when the Hopi High School first opened, many wondered if football was even compatible with the Hopi way of life. It was decided to go ahead, and while never a powerhouse, their teams proved to be very competitive and played hard. They are small in stature but do not lack for courage and resourcefulness. We would like to honor Charles Youvella as a Warrior and champion. We know that you are busy now doing even greater things.

PHOENIX -- A high school football player died Monday night at a Phoenix hospital, days after he suffered a blow to the head during a game.

Keams Canyon, Ariz., Hopi High School football running back Charles Youvella suffered a critical head injury Saturday night during a Division V playoff game against Arizona Lutheran Academy.

The Hopi Bruins trailed 60-6 at the time of the injury. Youvella had already scored the team's only touchdown and, on defense, sacked the Coyotes quarterback.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Youvella caught a pass and was taken down in what officials said appeared to be a typical football tackle. On the way down, the back of Youvella's head hit the ground hard.

Witnesses said Youvella got right back to his feet and lined up for two more plays before collapsing on the field. He was conscious and talking when paramedics took him away, but by the time he arrived at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix he was in critical condition. He remained that way through Monday.

Late Monday night, the Arizona Interscholastic Association told KPNX-TV Youvella had died.

Chuck Schmidt, Associate Executive Director of the AIA, said the organization would start an account through which people can donate to help the family with medical bills. Youvella's father, Wallace, is a member of the AIA.

"He has a significant amount of family around him," Schmidt said before Youvella's passing was announced by hospital officials Monday night. "I can't believe the support up there. The family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers."

Youvella was the second-leading rusher on a Hopi team that had its best regular-season record (9-1) in school history.

His family declined interviews.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Shoeless Mexico Indian kids win at basketball

I love this story. It reminds me of another true story about the 1957 Little League World series and how a team from Mexico won. It has been made into a movie, "The Perfect Season."  A preview is below.

MEXICO CITY • A team of Trique Indian boys swept through a youth basketball tournament despite their generally short stature and the fact that most play barefoot, earning acclaim in Mexico and abroad.
The team from the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca won all six of its games to become this year’s champions at the International Festival of Mini-Basketball held recently in Argentina.
Other teams in the tournament dubbed the boys the “the barefoot mice from Mexico” because they are smaller than the other competitors, said Ernesto Merino, one of the team’s coaches and a Trique Indian. He said they compensate for their short stature with “strength, speed and resistance.”
Children are given tennis shoes when they join the team, but many don’t wear the sneakers because they are accustomed to going barefoot, Merino said.
Merino said they grow up in large, poor families who struggle to find the money to buy clothes and shoes.
“For them it’s normal to not have shoes, to walk barefoot,” he said.
The team’s performance won it a minute of applause Wednesday on the floor of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, as well as accolades from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and basketball experts.
“The victories of the Trique Indian team from Oaxaca’s Academy of Indigenous Basketball make Mexicans proud,” Pena Nieto said in a tweet.
Horacio Muratore, president of the International Basketball Federation-Americas, which organizes the annual tournament, said the boys were the best players.
“These boys deserved (the championship) more than anyone,” Muratore wrote on the organization’s website.
The boys’ achievement has come at a particularly sensitive time for Mexico, which is agonizing over the poor performance of its once well-regarded national soccer team. The Tri, as it’s known, has barely kept its hopes alive for qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Merino said the boys who played at the tournament held in Cordoba, Argentina, are part of a basketball program designed to help poor children in Oaxaca, which is one of Mexico’s poorest and most marginalized areas. The Oaxaca state government gives them tennis shoes, uniforms and a monthly $46 stipend.
“We see a basketball as an opportunity to grow in life,” Merino said.
The program was started three years ago and it currently has 40 children enrolled, including five girls.
To enter the program, children must have good grades in school, speak their native tongue and help with chores at home.
“We want them to be prepared in life,” Merino said.

They came to be known as “Los pequeños gigantes,” the little giants. In baseball, a game full of real and imagined fairy tales from Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ’Round the World” to Bernard Malamud’s fable The Natural, no story may be more inspiring or surprising than the story of the 1957 Little League team from Monterrey, Mexico. The team was composed of mostly poor kids from an industrial city who’d started playing baseball only a few years earlier, clearing rocks and glass from a dirt field and playing barefoot with a homemade ball and gloves. They’d only imagined Major League games, gathering around a radio for Sunday rebroadcasts in Spanish of Brooklyn Dodgers contests (Roy Campanella, the Dodgers’ catcher had played in Monterrey in 1942 and 1943, enchanting their parents). Even when they reached the Little League World Series, most of their opponents outweighed them by 35 or 40 pounds. But over four weeks and 13 games beginning in July, they were magical. On August 23, 1957, behind the pitching wizardry of Angel Macias, they defeated La Mesa, California, 4-0, before 10,000 people in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to become the first team from outside the United States to win the Little League World Series. That day, Macias pitched what remains the only perfect game in a Little League World Series final, setting down all 18 batters in order – Little League games are only six innings, striking out 11 with pinpoint control, nasty breaking balls and sheer guile. La Mesa didn’t hit a ball to the outfield. “I think the magnitude of the upset, to me, rivals, if not exceeds, when our U.S. hockey amateurs in 1980 beat the Red Army team at the Olympics,” says W. William Winokur, who penned a book and screenplay based on the team’s story. The movie, “The Perfect Game,” stars Jake T. Austin, Ryan Ochoa and Cheech Marin and opens in theaters this month. The Monterrey team arrived in Williamsport after an unlikely road trip that started when the players crossed the border on foot, taking a bridge over the Rio Grande from Reynosa towards McAllen, Texas, hoping for rides to a small hotel before their first game of the championship tournament. Monterrey had been granted a Little League franchise with four teams only the year before. They expected to lose and return home. “We didn’t even know Williamsport existed,” remembers Jose “Pepe” Maiz, a pitcher and outfielder on the team who now runs a Monterrey construction company and owns the Sultanes, a Mexican League baseball team. “We were just [supposed] to play a game in McAllen.” They won their first game in McAllen 9-2 against a team from Mexico City filled with players who were the sons of Americans working south of the border. They swept through the rest of the regional and state tournaments, winning by at least five runs, until they reached the state semifinal game in Fort Worth against Houston. There, Maiz came on as a relief pitcher in extra innings to lead them to a 6-4 comeback win. Along the way, their visas expired. Only intervention by the U.S. ambassador to Mexico kept them in the country. They were homesick; only Maiz had ever left Monterrey. They often didn’t have money for food, settling for two meals a day. They ate through the kindness of strangers and new friends, who offered them meals in a restaurant or gave them a few dollars after a victory, Maiz says. Despite the challenges, they kept winning, 11-2 in the Texas state championship, and then 13-0 over Biloxi, Mississippi, and 3-0 over Owensboro, Kentucky, in the Southern Regional Championship, earning the 14 players a bus ride to Williamsport. Teams from Canada and Mexico had made it to the Little League World Series before, but they’d never won. International competition was still so new that the Monterrey team played in the Texas state tournament and advanced through the U.S. South region. Little League officials in Williamsport gave them new uniforms with “South” across the chest, emblematic of their regional championship. None of them fit; the Monterrey boys were too small. They averaged 4 feet 11 inches and 92 pounds while the La Mesa team averaged 5 feet 4 inches,and 127 pounds. After he watched La Mesa handily defeat Escanaba, Michigan, in the semifinal, Maiz was worried. Joe McKirahan, La Mesa’s star southpaw pitched a one-hitter and socked two homers, one a towering drive to right field. “I say to myself, ‘Wow, what will happen to us tomorrow?’ “ he recalls. Angel Macias, number 8, was 5 feet and 88 pounds, a rare ambidextrous player. This day, he decided to throw only right-handed. Lew Riley, his opponent on the mound, led off for La Mesa, drilling the first pitch down the first base line. “It was just foul by an inch,” recalls Riley, who now lives in Yorba Linda, California. “That was as close as we’d come to a hit.” McKirahan, who batted cleanup for La Mesa and was later signed by the Boston Red Sox, struck out both times against Macias. “My recollection of Angel during the game was he was sneaky fast,” he says. “He was the first pitcher we saw who clearly had pinpoint control. Even at 12 [years old], you sensed this kid knew exactly where the ball was going. He just dominated us like no one else had come even close to.” Richard Gowins, an outfielder, didn’t get in the game for La Mesa, but he watched Macias plow down one batter after another from his spot as first base coach. As the game went on, the crowd shifted, backing the boys from south of the border. “They were fast. They were upbeat. They just had a spirit about theRiley was cruising along himself until the fifth inning. The first Monterrey batter walked on four pitches. The second bunted perfectly between Riley and the third baseman, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Maiz came to bat. He saw a fastball from Riley, drilling it into centerfield for a double that scored the game’s first run. In the inning, Monterrey sent nine batters to the plate and scored four times, leaving La Mesa one last chance. With two outs in the sixth and final inning, Macias threw three balls, then came back with two strikes to La Mesa’s Byron Haggard. For the next pitch, he reached back for a curveball. Haggard swung and missed. The crowd in Williamsport exploded. So did those listening to the radio broadcast in Monterrey. Fifty-two years later, their victory remains the only perfect game in a Little League World Series Championship. After the celebration, Maiz says the team’s first thoughts were to go home. That would take nearly a month. The Monterrey players traveled by bus to New York to see a Dodgers game and go shopping with $40 each (given to them by Macy’s). Then, they made stops in Washington, D.C. to meet President Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon before going on to celebrations in Mexico City. When they finally returned to Monterrey, they were met by hundreds of thousands in the streets. Each earned a high school and college scholarship from the Mexican government although Maiz says only he and one other went to college. Angel Macias was signed by the Los Angeles Angels and invited to their first spring training in 1961 as a 16-year-old. He played briefly for the Angels in the minor leagues before going on to a career in the Mexican League. “All the doors opened and everywhere we went somebody would point us out or want an autograph,” Macias told an interviewer a few years ago. “People knew our names, and my name was Angel Macias, champion child.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Science of Ankle Extension in Jumping and Weightlifting

Ankle extension is important.

For those who are deep into weightlifting, an ongoing argument over the past several years has been the role of ankle extension. Some claim it is more of a follow through and after-effect of an explosive hip extension and should not be actively executed. Another camp teaches to drive hard onto the toes and extend as high as possible. Film study of high level lifters shows some from each camp, although I seem to see more triple extensions as a rule. If you are using weight lifting as a training method for another sport, then there is no doubt that triple extension is vital. Below is a short article by Sean Waxman, who we have featured here before, giving his perspective with some references. Good stuff.

DID YOU KNOW? Scientific literature on the biomechanics of the vertical jump sheds light on the role of the ankle in weightlifting. It explains why active extension at the ankle during weightlifting is not a mere style preference nor executed just to add last-minute height to the bar. 

Just as in maximal weightlifting, maximal vertical jumping depends on creating maximal vertical velocity of the center of mass at the proper time. Decades of undisputed biomechanical research tell us that active extension at the ankle (characterized by concentric contraction of the gastrocnemius and soleus, extension/downward rotation of the foot, and increased vertical distance between the hips and the toes) is the only known way to maintain vertical velocity of the hips and achieve peak vertical acceleration of the center of mass up until the hips reach full extension (i.e. are at their greatest vertical distance from the toes). 

In weightlifting, just as in jumping, without properly-timed and active extension at the ankle, the vertical velocity of the hips already starts slowing down well before the hips reach full extension. Because of this, those who eliminate active ankle extension may be giving away up to 30% of their peak vertical power potential.

See e.g.:

1. Bobbert MF, van Ingen Schenau GJ., Coordination in Vertical Jumping., J Biomechanics; 21(3):249-62. 1988;

2. Bobbert, M.F., and A.J. Knowk Van Soest. Why Do People Jump the Way They Do? Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 29, No. 3, pp 95-102, 2001;

3. Luhtanen, Segmental Contribution to Forces in Vertical Jump, European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 15. IV. Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 181-188, 1978;
4. Pandy and Zajac Optimal Muscular Coordination Strategies for Jumping, J. Biomechanics, 24(1) 1-10, 1991.