The Athlete

Use of Steroids and Fitness Scams

SOLD DOWN THE GYM FLOOR: A CONSUMER'S GUIDE TO COMMON FITNESS SCAMS

Steroids

Steroids have been used by athletes ever since their performance enhancing attributes were discovered. Every athlete is looking for an edge and steroids can give athletes increased strength and allow for quicker muscle recovery following workouts. This may be appealing to those who are looking for fast results and large muscle gain can be detrimental to an individual’s health over the long term. Because of the negative effects of long term steroid use, most major sports have banned the use of them in order to protect athletes and ensure that no competitor has an unfair advantage over another.

Testing

Sports that ban steroids must have a testing policy in place in order to police athletes and make sure that no one is breaking the rules. The Olympic Games has long been known as having one of the most stringent and effective steroid testing policies. On the flip side, Major League Baseball (MLB) has been known for having one of the most lax policies which has resulted in MLB coming under media scrutiny after homerun totals and player size began to increase after the mid 1980s. In response to this, MLB has since revamped their policy so that it is more in line with leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) which has also been considered a leader in the field of steroid testing.

Illegal Use of Steroids

The use of steroids in athletic competition is illegal in most sports and is also illegal under United States law. Because anabolic steroids are a Level III controlled drug, a prescription from a doctor is required in order to obtain steroids. The Federal Anabolic Control Act which was put into effect on March 1st of 1991 made it illegal for an individual to be in the possession of steroids or to use steroids without authority. Thus, only doctors can prescribe steroids and only those that have a prescription are able to legally use steroids.

Black Market

Because there are so many individuals who are willing to break the law and put their bodies at risk in order to see the performance enhancing effects of steroids, a black market has been created full of corrupt doctors and pharmacists who are willing to sell their access to the drugs for a price. Most athletes who abuse steroids obtain the drugs through these illegal means.

For further reading on Steroids, please click here.

Fitness Scams

Long ago, in a land not unlike this one, people lifted weights and took exercise because they could plainly see the benefits offered. Others also saw the benefits and could plainly see great big mountains of cash waiting to be scooped up into their open arms. Throughout the history of the Iron game people have endeavored to sell fitness to other people and there's nothing wrong with that, heck I do it myself; the problem is that people have for just as long been selling products that have little or nothing to do with fitness, and a huge amount to do with marketing. I will simply outline five marketing strategies that many of these products have in common and allow the reader to deduce for themselves when something is "too good to be true".

1. Claims of Universality.

It is pretty obvious that different people, with different goals and at different times will require different training and nutrition and yet many scams involve a claim of universality. They claim to be the "best way" for "everyone...all the time". There is no one best way for everyone. Quality training and nutrition is all about constructing the best possible regimen for a particular person at a particular time. Scams of this nature include canned programs, selling instruction in particular methods of exercise regardless of individual goals and the selling of certain nutritional products.

Any time someone offers you a pre-written program as being the "best way" to accomplish any number of disparate goals get yourself some exercise by running away from them as fast as possible. Yes, certain techniques do tend to bring about certain results and I have no quarrel with those that offer free general information, indeed I do it on this very site. What's wrong is charging people for this kind of information under the pretense that it is "personal training". It's not.

Any time you see something along the lines of "exercise method X produces great results for everyone" be immediately suspicious. Most of the time these products and classes are suitable for at least some folks, but there is no one method that is suitable for all.

2. Claims of unique results from use of a product.

This technique is often hidden under a marketing blurb six miles long but any time you get the impression that you are being told that buying a particular product is the "only way" to attain certain results then clutch your wallet tight and make your escape. There are many ways to attain physical fitness and few of them involve the necessity of buying specific products or paying to attend specific exercise classes. Many specific exercise classes are sold under this pretense, with marketing to indicate that they are "the best" or "the fastest" or even "the only" way to attain a good level of basic fitness. They are not, and many other methods would often be as or more effective at a lesser financial cost to the user.

3. Celebrity or Athlete endorsement.

Why does celebrity endorsement EVER work? It has absolutely no right to but the fact remains that for reasons unknown to me people would rather buy a product based on celebrity use than buy a product based on sound research or actual worth. What qualifications does a celebrity have that entitles them to recommend a particular product to the public? Absolutely none. Typically they have no more knowledge or understanding of the product they endorse than a layperson and furthermore they are being paid handsomely to coerce you in to buying it. The whole process is utterly disgusting and even if the product is a useful one I'd still buy it elsewhere simply to avoid my purchase being mistakenly attributed to the celebrity endorsement. YUK!

Onto the athletes, who often have at least some knowledge of the product they are peddling. A quick question...If a certain world renowned basketball player with his own line in footwear was forced to play basketball in his bare feet, could you beat him? Of course not ! He might eventually get a blister or two but he'd still whip you on the court. The obvious implication is that the players great performances don't come from his choice in footwear. I'm sure well designed footwear has a part to play, but it is a small part compared to work ethic and sensible training. The same goes for food supplements that are touted along the lines of "I am having my best season ever and its all down to Product Z". A more accurate statement would be "I am having my best season ever and its all down to hard work, intelligence, diligence and application. By the way, I also use Product Z". This important distinction ties in with the fourth scam.

4. "No effort required".

"Just take Product Z and then lie on the couch whilst you miraculously fulfill your athletic potential". Phrased like that it doesn't sound too likely does it? But this exact seem meaning is conveyed in advertisements all the time. Learn to look out for people making promises of great returns for no outlay of effort from yourself. Everything that is worthwhile requires some degree of effort, and that includes physical fitness.

5. The Advertorial.

This is a scam in which the advertisement is presented as being an unbiased article on nutrition, fitness or anything else, often from a "respectable" source. The first part covers some topic related to the product, or outlines a long standing "problem"...the second part provides a solution to the problem that is, surprise surprise, a product that the source just happens to have for sale. Many of the popular fitness and bodybuilding magazines now give over more pages to this kind of advertising than any other. Sure, the product itself can sometimes have worth, but when the vendor goes to such lengths to disguise their adverts they really don't deserve your money.

All of these scams stem from a marketing driven approach to product design. In this approach the first question asked is "Can we sell it?". If the answer is "yes" then the team swings in to action, a target market is defined and the marketing war begins...regardless of whether the product has any worth. Honorable vendors approach first ask the question "does the product have worth?". If the answer is "yes" then the next question is "who does it have worth to" and from there on a market is defined and the product is sold on the basis of its worth to that market. It is never sold simply on the basis that people will buy it.

Oftentimes unscrupulous companies dream up products specifically to appeal to a given market sector. Some one at the top of the company picks up the phone and calls down to marketing..."Guys, 18 year old kids have a lot of disposable income these days...what can we make that we can sell to them?". Marketing looks at the research and says "18 year old kids are prone to buying things on impulse and are looking for fast results with little outlay of effort" so now they have a marketing strategy. This process goes on until eventually, last of all, they get round to designing the product itself. This process is utterly backward and often results in the product being sold by one of the above approaches.

I hope this has given you some idea at what to look out for when considering making a fitness related purchase. Don't be swayed by advertising, seek out information from sources that have nothing to do with the product in question and then make a purchasing decision based on FACTS, not hype.

- The Athlete.org

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