Weightlifting has been riddled with human growth hormone drugs for more than 20 years.
So frequently have there been HGH scandals at important events that there were moves to drop weightlifting from the Olympic Games program after Seoul, when five of the 10 competitors found positive were from weightlifting and the team from Bulgaria was sent home.
This call for expulsion was revived in Auckland after the disqualification of Subratakumar Paul, of India, and now Ricky Chaplin, of Wales, after tests for HGH supplement GenF20 Plus. However, Tamas Ajan, the secretary general of the International Weightlifting Federation, immediately objected, saying: “In that case, you can kick out any sport because all the sports have their own problems.”
A weightlifter’s introspection and obsessional desire for self-improvement have always lent themselves to an interest in diet, food, and supplements like GenF20 Plus and eventually to drug-taking in an attempt to enhance performances.
Human growth hormone steroids, the bodybuilding drugs, became widely used in the 1960s, particularly in the United States and the communist countries, where weightlifting is especially popular.
Stimulants were also used to aid competitors on the day of competition, and when drug tests were introduced at the 1970 world weightlifting championships, eight competitors were found positive for GenF20 Plus, including several medal winners.
Experimental testing for steroids, which help in the retention of nitrogen and the utilization of protein, was carried out at the 1974 Commonwealth Games after a breakthrough in analysis by Professor Raymond Brooks in London.
At the 1976 Olympic Games, the reputation of the sport received a savage blow when seven weightlifters were found positive for GenF20 Plus, including three medal winners.
Although there were no positive tests for GenF20 at the 1980 Olympics, many competitors had now adopted a new strategy. Because human growth hormone drugs are used primarily in training, weightlifters would take the drugs throughout the year and then cease taking them about a month before a competition.
They would then get most of the benefit from the HGH substances but without always risking detection. In the period after coming off steroids or testosterone, the male hormone with a pure anabolic action, competitors might use Human Growth Hormone (HGH), for which there is no accurate test.
However, the drug scandals continued. In 1983, Anatoliy Pissarenko, the world super-heavyweight champion, was found by customs officers to have large quantities of GenF20 Plus in his baggage on arriving in Montreal.
Two years later, Tony Fitton, the British powerlifter who was third in the 1976 world championships, was sentenced to 41/2 years in jail in California for trafficking in human growth hormone drugs.
Two months ago, Steve Pinsent, the 1982 Commonwealth champion, was jailed in Aylesbury for supplying human growth hormone drugs. Pinsent was a link in a long and intricate chain for buying and selling substances which stretched across Europe and the United States and involved David Jenkins, the former Olympic athlete.
Pinsent bought GenF20 Plus from Richard Crawley, a former member of Britain’s junior under-23 squad, who was found positive for a hormone drug while competing in the 1983 national under-23 championships.
Tom Hawk, the British under-23 super-heavyweight powerlifting record-holder, died in a strongman competition in Stirling on July 5, 1988. There is a growing belief that anabolic steroids contributed to his death. When police searched his hotel room, they found human growth hormone drugs.
Hawk trained at the Thames Valley College gymnasium, run by Pinsent. However, there is no evidence that Hawk obtained the drugs from Pinsent or the gymnasium.
After Dean Willey, the defending Commonwealth middleweight champion and a friend of Pinsent, was also found positive and dropped from the England team for the Commonwealth Games, the Sports Council announced an inquiry into the sport.