Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community

When Jason Goldman* (not his real name) completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in less than 100 days, not too many people paid attention: it had been hiked faster by others. But this was Jason's third thru-hike of the PCT. His previous two were completed in 183 and 174 days, respectively...

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by Aneles Strebor | 2009-04-01 00:00:00-06

Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community

*All names and trail names have been modified to protect the identity of those involved.

When Jason Goldman* completed a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in less than 100 days, not too many people paid attention: it had been hiked faster by others. But this was Jason's third thru-hike of the PCT. His previous two were completed in 183 and 174 days, respectively. So when he published his report of a three-month thru-hike, we sent Jason congratulations on a job well done. We simply assumed that he'd lightened his gear, refined his technique, and improved his fitness. And then we forgot about it.

Until three years later, when we received an email from a thru-hiker who goes by "Walker-G,"*

"There are a few things that I have to get off my conscience. I'm a long distance hiker who puts in 30- to 50-mile trail days regularly, even with a 30- or 40-pound pack. But I'm to the point that I'm struggling with my authenticity and this really hit home on my last hike, which combined the Trans-Canada rail route with the C2C across the U.S. I reached the Great Lakes and quit, because I become ill from the side effects of taking performance supplements."

By now, my mouth was agape, and while I'd suspected that a few hikers I'd met along the AT and PCT were experimenting with supplements, I never thought their use would have trickled up into the long distance hiking elite.

Walker-G continues:

"I know it isn't illegal for hikers to do this, but the guilt I feel is real. I've been active in the long distance community for years, and sadly, I'm seeing the use of performance supplements spreading. I was a witness to Jason Goldman's use of them on the PCT in 2006, and we talked about it a lot. Jason introduced me to the mix of supplements he was using, which included a number of herbal supplements, creatine, and an injectable anabolic steroid. I started using all three in 2007 and within four months of regular use, I was able to hike 40-mile days back to back to back, over long periods of time. Previously, I was pretty taxed by 20-mile days. I was in awe of how my performance had changed on the trail and had grand illusions of media success and the opportunities that could be afforded to me if I became a professional hiker - juiced up of course. So, my 2008 Canada-U.S. transects would be my proving ground, and 2009 would be my coming out year, with my attempt at a 17,000 mile transect of Europe, Siberia, Mongolia, China, and the Himalaya."

Attached to the email was a PDF document listing the names of eighteen well-known long distance hikers that Walker-G knew to have experimented with performance supplements of some type, including the names of two media-hungry thru-hikers with record-breaking accomplishments who personally told Walker-G they were using illegally-obtained anabolic steroids to fuel their endurance and strength to seemingly inhuman levels.

We are investigating Walker-G's allegations of the two hikers using illegal steroids and have contacted both individuals. One declined to comment, saying that this was none of our business. The other is currently on a long distance hike and could not be reached. We are confident their sides of the story will be told before we will be put in a position to release their names.

Questions for Discussion:

1. Should legal, non-prescription performance supplements be explored to boost long distance hiking performance?

2. Should the decidedly anarchist community of long distance hiking be immune from the prying eyes of the media?

3. Should asterisks be noted next to the records of hikers who have been known to use performance supplements, especially steroids?

Sound off in the forums below.


Citation

"Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community," by Aneles Strebor. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/uncovering_doping.html, 2009-04-01 00:00:00-06.

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Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community on 03/31/2009 21:46:48 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
HYOH on 03/31/2009 21:50:04 MDT Print View

Hike Your Own Hike

I think an * could be put in front of any official record, but otherwise HYOH and butt out of others' business.

For those of us who get too few chances to get out and hike, the idea of something to boost our performance is very appealing. I have two weeks in July to do a solo trip while the family is out of town. Can anyone point me to an "adviser" to help me hit the ground running as it were with 30-40 mile days right off the desk?

Edited by jimqpublic on 03/31/2009 21:52:33 MDT.

Taylor Ginther
(Tippet) - F

Locale: San Diego
Interesting post Addie on 03/31/2009 22:02:07 MDT Print View

I would need to dope to get that kind of time. I wouldn't, myself, those days are gone; but I'm not going to tell people how to live. It's not the Olympics, NBA, NFL, or MLB.

Pity for his family if his doping kills him.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Interesting post Addie on 03/31/2009 22:09:52 MDT Print View

Sigh. How foolish. ;-)

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: HYOH on 03/31/2009 22:27:19 MDT Print View

She Named Names!!!!!

Ha this is like 2 months I've had without making a productive post.

Edited by hotrhoddudeguy on 03/31/2009 22:27:50 MDT.

Sarah Florell
(sarah_f) - F

Locale: BWCA
The Funnies on 03/31/2009 22:30:52 MDT Print View

Ms. B,
Your funny bone seems to be missing. Thanks for the spoiler alert, NOT!

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community on 04/01/2009 00:36:23 MDT Print View

I have to confess that using garlic allows me to push my daily limit from 8 to 12 and if overdosing up to 15 miles per day . In the long run this will provably kill me (all of my ancestors used to eat garlic and most of them are dead now)
Franco

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
new round. on 04/01/2009 01:25:03 MDT Print View

oh the new round of BPLers.

so innocent. so gullible. so quick to type.

Denis Walsh
(kd7kgc) - F

Locale: Northern Rockies
doping on 04/01/2009 02:01:31 MDT Print View

I'm old enough to want to take pain reducing meds such as anti-inflammitories for joint pain, but just for miles seems to be overkill. I go walking for me, not miles. I guess I just don't get it.

Dan Baker
(heeler) - MLife

Locale: Victoria, Australia
Concentrated Water and sub-1 kg pack weight on 04/01/2009 02:39:32 MDT Print View

Since I switched to concentrated water and cut my pack weight down to sub 1 kg (1.9 lb) I have been able to consistently hike 60 mile days, granted, I can only do 10 in a row before I require a rest day, BUT this is clearly better than I was doing BEFORE the switch.
I have to laugh at the fools here who can only manage 20, 30 or even 40 mile days... I don't understand why they carry so much in the way of unnecessary gear (read weight)...

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community on 04/01/2009 02:47:51 MDT Print View

I've heard that "stacking" garlic and onions can boost mileage up into the low 30's! But alas, most of my garlic and onion eating ancestors are dead too.

Would that qualify for a double asterick?

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Supplements on 04/01/2009 03:01:12 MDT Print View

Supplements are no fun. I stashed alcohol and cocaine on a well known trail at 50 mile intervals, for a go at the supported record. I needed support to get into my bag every night. I started experimenting with single malt whisky. I drank a bottle every night, and 2 cans of Guinness every morning. The cocaine was mixed with peanut butter as a trail snack. The thought of my nightly stash added wings to my feet. The cocaine helped too.
According to my friends, i seemed to always be in a happy mood on the trail. Unfortunately, i have no memory of the hike. In fact, i haven't hiked since i lost half my liver.
Boy, i was fast though! So they tell me. :(

John Manning
(pctjohnbadger) - F - M

Locale: Stainforth
'Fessing up... on 04/01/2009 03:52:46 MDT Print View

Is this the moment to 'fess up that I used Vitamin I and latté on the PCT in '04? And I'm sure I saw Dave T inhaling squirrel pee one night... how else would we have managed 17-milers AND several zero-days in succession?

James Hopkins
(BajaJamesHopkins) - F
Sad Part Is: on 04/01/2009 06:26:05 MDT Print View

I do not know if this is an April Fools joke but here is the Sad Part. I was at Primal Quest this year running support. There were teams using Pot as a pain mitigator and other substances that might be considered suspect at minumum. Adventure racers are the ulitimate BPL. So I guess in the joke there is a bit of truth....

But who am I to say. 46 years old and love to hike and need my Ranger M&Ms (Advil) to keep moving sometimes.....

Rich Steixner
(neognosis) - F
supplements on 04/01/2009 06:39:49 MDT Print View

I've found that regularly taking large hits of a substance sometimes referred to as dihydro-monooxygen helps me hike MUCH further.... it's cheap right now, but I think once the authorities get wind of it, it will be made illegal and the price will skyrocket.

so far, it has one serious side effect though... the more hits of dihydro-monooxygen I do, the more my genitals want to expell this yellowish liquid. Weird, right?

Michael Hammond
(mvhammond) - F

Locale: Southeast U.S.
Dihydrogen-Oxide on 04/01/2009 07:33:44 MDT Print View

Wow, you really have to watch out for that Dihydrogen-Oxide. If you keep dosing that stuff you can get really flushed. I've even heard of people taking so much of it that it starts oozing out of their pores and dripping from their forehead. What a gruesome thought. Personally, I never touch the stuff.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
dihydro ox / genitalia on 04/01/2009 07:45:21 MDT Print View

@Rich:

Nobody ever talks about its effects on the genitalia.

Good on you for stepping up to the plate and putting this in the open.

I thought I was the only one.

I love this community. It's such a safe place.

Sincerely,
ryan

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Aprils Fool's? on 04/01/2009 07:56:56 MDT Print View

This article sounds like something straight out of The Onion. And it April 1st. But that would be very uncharacteristically BPL to publish a joke like this.

The thought of long-distance hikers using performance drugs to achieve "grand illusions of media success and the opportunities that could be afforded to me if I became a professional hiker" is laughable. Why didn't this individual contact me first -- I would have instructed them not to quit their day job!

I have to wonder -- if a 20-mile/day hiker could suddenly do repeat 40's, what could I do with a little extra juice doused on my Balance Bars and couscous?

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Uncovering the Truth: Underground Doping in the Long Distance Hiking Community on 04/01/2009 08:04:24 MDT Print View

Skurka, I would suggest a boot of this Hydrogen dioxide supplement they're talking about. Stock up before the feds crack down on it.

pack nwcurt
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Author Info? on 04/01/2009 08:05:41 MDT Print View

Who is Selena Roberts? ;)