If you ever wondered which steroids were being used by Russia’s elite-level Olympic athletes, it’s your lucky day. New York Times investigative journalists Rebecca Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz have secured an exclusive interview with the man responsible for doping Russia’s top athletes.
Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, as the former director of the once WADA-accredited Moscow Anti-Doping Centre since 2005, was once recognized as one of the world’s top anti-doping experts in anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The man in charge of Russia’s anti-doping program had a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry and published scientific papers in well-respected, peer-reviewed journals. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) even invited him to speak at its annual anti-doping symposiums.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had no idea that one of the top guns on its team in the fight against doping was really working for the other side. The good will and respect that Rodchenkov achieved during his decade-long stint in international anti-doping circles quickly began to crumble after two whistleblowers exposed the truth behind Rodchenkov’s job description.
WADA created an independent commission to investigation the allegations. Its report concluded that Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) may have really been the front for a state-sponsored pro-doping program and the man in charge of the country’s anti-doping efforts was really helping athletes use steroids without getting caught.
In a New York Times article published on May 12, 2016, Rodchenkov finally came clean and admitted most (but not all) of the allegations against him were true. Of great interest to steroid-using athletes around the world, Rodchenkov spilled the beans on the secret steroid cocktail used by most of Russia’s elite Olympic athletes.
The secret Russian steroid stack included three extremely popular steroids that have been around for decades – trenbolone, methenolone (Primobolan) and oxandrolone (Anavar). The steroid names are well-known by athletes, bodybuilders and anti-doping authorities alike. These were not undetectable designer steroids like THG, the novel steroid created by chemist Patrick Arnold for BALCO during the early 2000s. And anti-doping scientists had well-established and effective anti-doping detection methods for identifying these substances in urine samples. So, how did Russian Olympic athletes get away with using these steroids?
According to Rodchenkov, the secret was to mix methenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone with specific alcoholic beverages in a certain ratio. The formula was simple, every milligram of the steroid stack was mixed with one milliliter of alcohol. Rodchenkov used different alcoholic beverages based on gender – Chivas Scotch Whiskey for men and Martini Italian vermouth for women.
Rodchenkov’s steroid formula allowed athletes to microdose these three steroids in a supposedly sub-lingual delivery method that allowed for quick absorption and a shortened window of detection. This became the secret formula of choice used by Russian athletes during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
How effective was Rodchenkov’s low-dose micro-dosing delivery method of methenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone? And did it really allow athletes to avoid detection by anti-doping authorities? It’s hard to be certain. Even Rodchenkov hedged his bets by engaging in a massive and elaborate campaign to destroy samples.
WADA had accused Rodchenkov of destroying 1,417 for the RUSADA facility. And Rodchenkov admitted destroying at least 100 samples at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. If the Russian secret formula was really undetectable, then Rodchenkov didn’t have much faith given the risks he took to destroy samples as additional insurance.
But if it really is that easy to use steroids and avoid detection then WADA has a major problem. It takes zero sophistication to to mix steroid powder in small amounts of alcohol and swish it around in your mouth for absorption. It’s so easy that anyone could do it. This is why many people are skeptical.