Olympian Feels Forced to Take Steroids : Shotputter Doehring Admits He Uses the Drug to Stay Competitive

Times Staff Writer

Jim Doehring, a 1988 Olympic shotputter, is caught in a contradiction: He is concerned about the abuse of steroids but is not willing to give up his own use for fear of being left behind.

Doehring admitted Friday that he has used steroids to help him remain a world-class track and field competitor, but he also said he wishes he didn't feel a need to do so.

"I'd love to do that (compete drug-free against drug-free opponents)," he said. "I know I can throw clean just as far as anyone can."

Asked whether he would consider taking the first step by giving up steroids, Doehring said:

"Well, then you'd throw 61 feet and everyone (would) think you're a loser."

Doehring, who recorded a personal best of 70 feet 9 1/4 inches in June, will compete at Jack in the Box Invitational Sunday at UCLA, along with 1988 Olympic silver medalist Randy Barnes and Olympian Gregg Tafralis.

Doehring said: "As far as I'm concerned, the human body has an ability to throw 60-67 feet without steroids. Add steroids to that and you got guys going 75 feet. . . .

"It's hard to say what the world record would be if they never came out with steroids."

Ulf Timmermann of East Germany set the world outdoor record last year at 75-8. Barnes set the world indoor record in January at 74-4.

Doehring said he believes it is impossible for an athlete to train--and therefore compete--at the current world-class level without performance-enhancing drugs.

Anabolic steroids, a synthetic derivative of the male hormone testosterone, are used to enhance the growth of muscle tissue.

"Let's take shotputting, for instance," Doehring said. "(In training) you have to bench 500 pounds, and lift 700 pounds to (be able to put the shot) 75 feet. If you took 500 pounds and bench-pressed it without the sauce (steroids), you'd be sore for a month. Your muscles would be all bruised inside."

Doehring, an alumnus of San Clemente High School and Saddleback College, believes The Athletics Congress' system of drug testing will never be sophisticated enough to catch most violators.

"There's no way that the testing is going to catch up to the athletes," said Doehring, a Fallbrook resident. "The athletes are too far ahead. They've got blocking agents, masking agents . . . you've got all kinds of things helping the athletes out. . . . I'd have to say everyone's using something and I'm not excluding myself from that.

"The athletes will always be one step ahead until blood testing (is implemented)."

Currently, TAC conducts its tests by urinalysis. Although blood testing is considered more absolute, it involves a lengthier and more expensive procedure.

In March, TAC's board of directors unanimously approved a year-round, out-of-competition random drug-testing program for the top 25 athletes in each event. The testing is scheduled to begin Oct. 1. If an athlete tests positive for anabolic steroids or testosterone, the penalty is a two-year ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second offense.

Doehring said he is most concerned about athletes who try to gain an edge by experimenting with untested drugs.

"If I have to take my body to that point where my body is at toxic levels, I'll quit. I'm not going to take toxic amounts, I'm doing the (same) things (that) hundreds of people have done. I'm not going to mix things, experiment, I'm just using safe amounts to enhance training and go to meets and throw. If I don't win, that's fine.

"(But) people will go to any resort (to get an edge). We'll have to draw the line when people start getting sick, start to die, get cancer . . . I wish they never invented steroids, as far as I'm concerned.

"I'd like to do other things instead: train better, lift better, eat better, sleep better, the way it used to be. I wish the sport would get cleaned up and that everyone can compete on a even level."

But Doehring also believes track and field will lose its crowd appeal if athletes quit using performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's going to be a dying sport if they finally clear it up," he said. "You'll have guys running the 100 (meters) in 11 flat, throwing the javelin 220 feet, throwing (the shotput) 65 feet. Who's gonna come see that?"

Promoters of the Jack in the Box meet are offering a $500,000 prize if one of the entrants in the long jump Sunday breaks Bob Beamon's 21-year-old world record of 29-2 1/2, and Doehring said that in itself tempts athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs.

"You're gonna get guys pumping themselves with everything to break that record, that's the sickening thing," Doehring said. "Of course, they'll be drug tested, but . . . "

Told of Doehring's comments, one of the meet's promoters, Don Franken, said athletes will be tested Sunday, but added: "Who knows? We just put on track meets. We don't know what people are using what. If you worry about those things all the time it takes the enjoyment out of it. . . . You can't speculate on it."

Said Doehring: "I don't want to sound too negative. Track and field is a great thing. It's been around forever.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'd love to see the thing cleaned up, then you will (compete) as equals. Then you're going to see great competitions."

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