Wrestling with Steroids: Athletes Attending the Gay Games in Chicago and the World Outgames in Montreal May Be Tested for Steroids. but That May Not Mean Disqualification

Article excerpt

Gay wrestler Michael Faraci doesn't take steroids. But some of his teammates have. It's not because they were trying to cheat: It's because they are HIV-positive and they need the drugs to prevent wasting syndrome and depression.

Faraci recalls a teammate who admitted to him at the 1998 Gay Games in Amsterdam that he was taking steroids as part of his medical treatment and feared he would be disqualified after failing a drug test. "In any other circumstance it would be considered a performance-enhancing drug, but it was prescribed for another reason," says Faraci, who won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2002 Games and a gold in 1998. "It was disappointing that he had to go through that."

But the Gay Games VII, which begin July 15 in Chicago, will feature an updated drug testing policy intended to deter abuse while being fair to those taking drugs for medical reasons. Later in July, athletes at the first World Outgames in Montreal also will be asked to obey that competition's antidoping rules, which strive for the same balance.

Both policies ban substances prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency, created by the International Olympic Committee. But drug testing is a delicate dilemma for organizers and athletes at gay sporting events: Anabolic-androgenic steroids help AIDS patients, but they also can be misused by HIV-positive athletes who cave in to competitive pressure. Someone could take a lower dose than prescribed by a doctor and then take a larger dose before competition to try to gain an edge. "It opens a whole can of worms," says Harrison G. Pope Jr., MD, director of the biological psychiatry laboratory at Harvard Medical School's McLean Hospital and author of The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession. "It's hard to arrive at a universally agreed-upon rule for people who have HIV infection."

The Federation of Gay Games first realized in 1994 that steroids posed a problem and tested athletes at the Gay Games in New York City. "People took it very lightly, and almost everyone failed," remembers Gene Dermody, sports officer for the federation, the Gay Games' governing body. "We had a very ugly problem."

Subsequent efforts also ran into problems. …