To be clear, I’m not sure what Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun took to get a rest-of-the-season ban – whether it was illegal or just against the rules of baseball. If it was the latter, well, then I can relate.
I’ve taken performance-enhancing drugs, too. Sort of. In fact, I’m on them at the moment.
It started late in high school with creatine. I had started lifting weights as a way to change my physique – when people called me Pipes, it was not sincere – as to improve my (middling) performance in sports. (You know, because the outcomes of North Dakota high school tennis matches were so important.) All I knew was that it was legal, easily obtained from the local health-food store and already being made in small amounts. I was supposed to drink a bunch of water and keep working out. Done and done. I put on enough weight to look less like a 98-pound weakling, although that feeling never entirely goes away.
Things got shadier in college. Creatine use was intermittent – protein powder, too. And that led to a short experimentation with andro, some version of the stuff made famous by Mark McGwire. And I really do mean some version – I’m not entirely sure what it was or what it did. But it was legal at the time, obtainable through a catalog and I was looking for a way to boost my workouts – the thing that scratched my athletic itch after interscholastic sports – and my chances of meeting girls. Yes, that teenage insecurity followed me to college, too.
There were results, no question. I topped out around 205 pounds, up maybe 50 in a couple years and about 25 from where I am now. But there were also side effects, mainly that I felt overly aggressive outside of workouts. Fortunately, nothing ever came from it. And then I just sort of crashed. I developed shoulder problems and got a brutal case of mono, ailments I’m convinced resulted from my body being forced by drugs to do things it wasn’t built to do.
Yet now, almost 15 years later, I’m dabbling again, recently trying out a pre-workout mix that’s made of, well, I’m not sure what. But it gives me energy and makes my skin tingle. It also gave me a reason to buy a Blender Bottle.
It’s not that I’m trying to get in marathon shape or anything; rather, it’s a pick-me-up along the lines of a cup of coffee. In fact, it’s replaced my morning cup on most days. Again, why? Because the workout is the most important part of my day from a mental health standpoint. Sweat often feels like anxiety leaving my body. One scoop of fruit-punch flavored powder mixed with 12 oz. of water ensures that I can get the most out of that important time.
Ideally, I wouldn’t drink a pre-workout mix or caffeine or beer or anything that can alter a mood or energy level. But that’s not my reality in light of having four kids, a wife, a house, a job and a blog to attend to. Oh, and I have a mild case of narcolepsy. In that sense, what I’m taking indeed is a performance enhancer. It’s just that my reason for using has nothing to do with competition or money – it’s about being able to complete every task required of me in a given day.
Is that better or worse than that Braun has done? I’m not sure. I’d like to think I’d draw the line at illegal substances, but there’s no way to know that because nobody has dangled unforeseen riches in my face. I’m too average to seriously consider using banned PEDs, if that makes any sense. Others aren’t so lucky.