Part III: Cheaper Than Protein
If you spend any time training in Brazil you will notice that a lot of dudes appear inhumanly shredded and have the strength to uchi-mata a bison. You will probably conclude without a great deal of pondering that these bodies have not been attained by chicken and rice or the twenty press-ups performed in the warm-up. If you bring your conclusion to someone with a little more knowledge of Brazil, you will invariably be informed steroids are cheaper than protein.
To unpack this longstanding claim, a 900g tub of a decent protein in Rio – will cost around 200 reals (£50). For some bizarre reason the smallest tubs of protein come in 900g portions rather than a whole kilo. A month’s supply of synthetic anabolic steroid, Winstrol also costs 200 reals. For an athlete training twice a day, 900 grams protein isn’t going to last too long. So, in essence this claim is in-fact true.
Winstrol was definitely not the only substance being used, amongst other things TRT was widespread, but PED use was very much unspoken. When questioning someone who appears to have had their head inflated with a balloon pump, they will invariably deny any infraction, thus making it difficult to gather information.
This use of PEDs for athletes in Brazil could not be more apparent than at tournaments themselves, regardless its size, from small region competitions to the CBJJ’s huge events, one only has to look around the bullpen to see their prevalence.
To call testing in jiu-jitsu lackadaisical would be to lavish it with high praise, the IBJJF test a handful of athletes each year. While, the most prestigious submission grappling championship, the ADCC does not test at all; testing in Brazil is completely non-existent.
You can notice PED usage most acutely in the Master’s division. Dudes in their forties with jaws as jacked as Andre the Giant and abs like the Ravishing Rick Rude. These aging black belts are some of the most intimidating men on Earth, many look like Mongol warlords who could rip limbs from mere mortals with relative ease.
The real concern for me are the teen athletes – purple and even blue belts who look as though a perfect set of abs has been superglued onto their frames.
Adults are responsible for themselves and should have done the necessary research before using PEDs, if they haven’t they deserve to suffer any negative consequences for their ignorance. But, impressible and in many cases uneducated teens for whom the top of the podium can seem like a matter of life and death can be convinced of upping their testosterone to astronomical levels by unscrupulous adults who they look to for guidance. These teens may have little or no understanding of possible long-term effects upon their bodies.
Competing in Brazil, you need to be aware that there is a very good chance that you will be competing against cats whose testosterone levels dwarf your own. I have both won and lost matches against such opponents. One always looks for excuses after losing, but, it is genuinely difficult not to feel aggrieved after being defeated by someone who has an unfair advantage.
The issue of PEDs is a highly divisive one, I think to be against them as an absolute is to not take into account all the nuances. There is an argument that at the highest level if everyone is using them, there is a level playing field, so how can it be considered cheating? That being said, competitions in Brazil are beset by people who abuse them; from my perspective the onus should be on organisers, but frankly there appears no desire in Brazil to clean up the sport.