Can PEDs make sport safer for athletes?
Only way to know real impact of doping is to make it legal, says David Asprey
David Asprey believes everyone over 24 should be free to use any and all performance enhancing substances. Asprey, who runs an online health and wellness company, believes this evolution would make sport more entertaining, healthier and more valuable to society.
"It's my body. It's my biochemistry." Asprey argues. He dopes, and he's proud of it. He used to take Modafinil regularly until a few years ago. It's a wake-up drug that fights narcolepsy, helps shift workers and keeps astronauts awake during extended missions.
Modafinil is banned by WADA as a performance enhancing drug. In the BALCO era, American sprinter Kelli White was stripped of her world championship gold medals for using the drug.
Asprey's desire to push limits is fascinating. He built a successful career as an executive in Silicon Valley before starting his own company, Bulletproof, which targets people with high performance athletic goals. His labs boast hundreds of thousands of dollars in scientific and pseudoscientific fitness equipment.
He wears tinted glasses despite his perfect vision. "They block out harmful spectrums of light," Asprey explained. He feels they increase energy and make him feel better on cloudy days.
Asprey is also a fan of using thyroid hormones and boosting his testosterone; testosterone is banned by WADA. Before presentations and deadlines, he uses nicotine sprays. He celebrates ultra-marathoners and Silicon Valley executives who microdose LSD — below hallucinogenic levels.
"I study people who are pushing the limits because that is where we learn the most," said Asprey, who was born in California but makes his home just outside of Victoria, B.C.
Asprey believes that you can protect the long-term health of the athlete by doping smartly. "Risk is a part of life, and it's particularly a part of sport."
Even with strict anti-doping rules, there are athletes risking their health to cheat in clandestine manners. If doping were legal, there would be much more information out there on how to do it safely.
"If you want to take testosterone, see what could be done to mitigate the damage, but don't ban the testosterone," Asprey said.
Sport harms athletes that don't dope
Asprey questions the motivation behind WADA's banned list. "We are bowing down to rules that are incoherent – backed with some vaguely stated goal of human good. You know what happened to the first guy who ran a marathon, right? He died.
"If we are interested in harm reduction, we should ban most sports."
In Folke Rydén's 2013 Swedish Documentary, "The Price of Gold," five of 10 athletes surveyed retire due to injury. Four of 10 retired athletes continue to suffer pain even after giving up their sport.
When asked about drugs increasing athlete harm, Asprey had a quick retort. "If they legalized anything goes tomorrow, a few people would die of seizures on the field. When 100 million people watch a guy convulse and die on the field, you know what that was? An act of public service. What he just did was say 'Don't do this again.'"
My inner science fiction fan celebrates the progress, while my inner dad cringes to picture my grown son collapsing on the field of play.
Asprey insists PEDs are not for kids, that the brain must be fully developed. Age 24 is his threshold.
Open Source Doping
Asprey is a big fan of making all doping open-source and educating potential dopers on the risks and rewards. Presently, we have an unclear picture of how doping affects athletes. We don't know exactly what they take, how much of it or for how long. With proper education and a 24-year-old brain, athletes should be able to make good choices. Asprey argues that informed personal choice makes performance enhancement ethical.
Perhaps, WADA should morph into a regulated, transparent and medically supervised doping program that continues to place athlete health as its primary concern. It would involve extensive protective health testing, not as a punitive measure but to minimize any harm. Threshold testing, such as the 50% hematocrit rule in cycling, would be the norm and would extend to other physiological parameters and drugs. And you can only do this after you turn 24.
"When you put doping controls in high performance sport," Asprey argues, "you stop learning because you stop pushing the limits."
- A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Asprey still takes Modafinil. In fact, he stopped taking the drug three to four years ago.Jan 18, 2016 12:14 PM ET