Anabolic steroids are rampant in all elite sports but few people will be surprised to learn that a handful of sports have bigger steroid problems than all others. When most people think of steroids, they think of the freakishly massive competitive bodybuilders. And bodybuilding is the drug-tested sport with the highest number of steroid positives of all other sports according to statistics compiled by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Bodybuilding topped the list of the 2015 WADA Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) Report released in April 2017. The ADRV Report included every failed urine and blood anti-doping sample collected by WADA and its national anti-doping organizations (NADOs).
Bodybuilding, weightlifting and powerlifting accounted for 270, 239 and 110 failed drug tests, respectively. These physique and strength sports accounted for a total of 619 out of 1,929 ADRVs from all sports representing almost one-third of athlete suspensions under the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC).
The rate of drug use is particularly alarming given that only 15,243 anti-doping control tests were collected from bodybuilders, weightlifters and powerlifters. A total 303,369 samples were collected and analyzed by WADA-accredited laboratories around the world.
Approximately 15% of the 1,787 samples collected from bodybuilders tested positive for anabolic steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs); 2.7% of 10,262 samples collected from weightlifters tested positive for PEDs; and 3.3% of the 3,194 samples collected from powerlifters were tainted with steroids and PEDs.
It is noteworthy that bodybuilding and powerlifting are not Olympic sports. Despite the best efforts of the late Joe and Ben Weider to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport, it will likely never ever appear on the Olympic program thanks to the perception that bodybuilding is practically synonymous with anabolic steroids. For the same reasons, it is unlikely powerlifting will ever receive Olympic recognition either.
However, the sport of (Olympic) weightlifting has a long history in the Olympic Games. Weightlifting made its debut at the very first Olympic Games in 1896 but it wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s that weightlifting became a regular event in one form or another. The era of the modern day Olympic weightlifting program consisting of the “snatch” and the “clean and jerk” didn’t become standardized until the 1972 Munich Olympics. Weightlifting has been a fixture ever since.
Steroid use has always been a big problem in Olympic weightlifting. It has only been highlighted in recent years with the implementation of the more rigorous and comprehensive anti-doping efforts. Due to the disproportionate high number of ADRV in Olympic weightlifting, anti-doping crusaders have sought to have weightlifting removed from future Olympic competitions. Fortunately, they have been unsuccessful so far.2015 WADA Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) Report