Are you a cheat like Armstrong?

MICHAEL JAROSKY
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013
lance
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A LOT LIKE LANCE: He may be the world's most famous cheat, but he's certainly not the only one: We may all have crossed the line at times.

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January's news in Europe is last week's news in the US, and it is finally today's news down here - athletes are cheating. Lance has tarnished cycling's history, US pro baseballer Alex Rodriguez has allegedly done it again, and Australian sporting codes will soon find out the answer to the burning question - whodunnit there?

Let's face it - where fame and fortune meet gambling and winning, there will always be an element of cheating.

Similar to the theory that "if a tree falls and nobody is there to hear it, does it make any noise?"; if you or I aren't paid athletes and choose to cheat in the gym, is it really cheating?

Here are a few ways that people are cheating to get ripped, more energy, and lose weight.

Human Growth Hormone

Keeping up on my news from home, it seems that "Pharmageddon" in the US is gaining steam. From uppers and downers to pain and sex treatments, there's a pill for everything. And now, anti-ageing clinics are prescribing Human Growth Hormone (HGH) for those that want to build muscle, live harder, and be younger.

Last year in Sydney I heard whispers and questions in gym circles around obtaining HGH. Magazines claim it's plentiful for Hollywood's leading actors. So, just like Hollywood's lagged TV shows and movie premieres that eventually arrive in Australasia, so HGH has inevitably infiltrated Sydney's gym culture.

Dr Michael Elstein from the Eternal Health Medical Centre is the clinical director of the first anti-ageing program to be instituted in Sydney, so I went to him for a quick and dirty education of HGH and its effects.

Dr Elstein informed me that Dr Ronald Klatz's 1997 book Grow Young with HGH was the start of the boom. He agrees with Klatz's claims that HGH may help with muscle growth, bone mass and cognitive thinking, but it also speeds up the ageing process. Dr Elstein quoted research stating if cancer cells are present within an individual, HGH has the potential to help those grow as well.

As he is an anti-ageing expert, I thought Dr Elstein would be an outspoken proponent of HGH. I was wrong. His final conclusion?

Dr. Elstein does believe there's a place for HGH as a medicine. However that place is not for Sly Stallone wannabes in the gym - muscle growth might occur, but without the functionality and potentially with cancer growth promoted. Commerically, HGH could rocket, but the scientific community hasn't quite done the research required to determine its safety.

Ultimately, a few more muscles under your singlet to impress "da ladiez" could come at the extreme risk of your health.

Energy products

Some years ago, I was a chubby University of Chicago MBA student of economics... hungover most days, studying, eating, and turning into a blob. For a pep-me-up, I went into a globo-vitamin store and because I didn't know anybody better, out I came with a jumbo bottle of Ephedra which was meant to increase the heart rate and fat loss.

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Some days my hangover could stop a bull, but when I popped two Ephedra pills in my mouth I'd hit the treadmill running 15 to 20 km/h. This stuff works.

I was officially a gym cheat.

The International Olympic Committee and various sporting codes around the world had this product banned already, but Ephedra was legal and available in the US until the spotlight shone brightly after a Baltimore Orioles pitcher died using the very same pills. The medical examiner believed 'the toxicity played a significant role in the death'.

The US Government stepped in and these pills were soon off the shelves. But the supplement industry rebounds - from energy drinks and caffeine pills to fat metabolisers and fat burner pills, supplement stores offer energy highs to get us gym ready, full of energy.

Jack3d was a product banned in the UK, New Zealand, and other countries after an ingredient, dimethylamylamine, was found to be potentially lethal. It was put on the Schedule 9 poisons list along with GHB, heroin and LSD. Jack3d is still available for purchase online in the US... imagine that.

Dieting

Diets are shortcuts; they are cheating. Diets don't work. 

From African mangoes to Amazonian berries, it seems like the further away the fruit, the better the health and weight loss results. People shudder at their neighbours falling for Nigerian email scams, yet those same people fall for diet fads.

Billion dollar companies pimp diets that we sign up for, then buy their food; or we dial 1800 for that low-carb remedy that mirrors Atkins and all other high-protein, low-carb meals. We skip meals altogether for a protein milkshake filled with chemicals, or detox/cleanse ourselves with lemon juice and maple syrup.

I hear about the diets, but I don't hear much about exercise. Shame.

I can't say it any better than Kasey Edwards opined last year in the Sydney Morning Herald: "According to the US National Institute of Health technology assessment conference, [weight-loss] interventions produce short-term losses followed by weight regain, and no current treatments appear capable of producing permanent weight loss."

Not a single diet or weight-loss treatment works. Not one. And that doesn't apply just to extreme fad diets that come and go. What decades of research tells us is that diets do not work. Full stop.

Diets are painful and guilt-ridden, yet the industry is making billions and growing each year. That's ironic because what worked 50 years ago is the same thing that works today - not dieting, rather a healthy diet with some healthy exercise. It's called lifestyle change.

Suave marketing makes diets, pills, and drugs sound glamorous and beneficial, but do we really know what we are risking? Or are we just naïve, risk-taking purchasers seeking shortcuts on getting a six pack or losing 10 kilos?

I cheated. I admit it. But I'm smarter now, and my medicine cabinet only consists of Band Aids, contact lenses, and Sex Panther cologne. The only physician I see is Dr David, who owns the best juice bar in Sydney at Australia Square. Dr David's green juice (spinach, beetroot, celery, capsicum, ginger, lemon, and green melon) is the best gym drug I have ever used in my life.

Dr David has me hooked. I am an addict, but no longer cheating my health.

- Have you "cheated"? Used HGH? Energy pills? Wacky diets?

- Follow Mike on Twitter: @michaeljarosky

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