Can Eating Meat Cause a Positive Drug Test ?

March 24, 2009

Ed McNeely

 In recent years drugs in sport have received a lot of attention thanks to major league baseball and the Tour de France. One of the first claims by many who have tested positive is that they took a contaminated supplement and while there is evidence that many supplements do contain traces of substances that may cause a positive test athletes are well aware of the risks and can make informed choices about the supplements they use. Not as commonly known are the potential risks in the foods we eat and in particular meat consumption.

 The administration of steroid to animals to “fatten” them up before consumption is controversial but common in many countries. The consumption of steroid laden meats can increase blood levels of steroid metabolites high enough to cause a positive drug test.  A study by Kicman (1994) found that 50% of their subjects tested positive as long as 24 hour after consuming chicken that had received a steroid injection eight days earlier. Several other studies have found positive tests following the consumption of ground beef and veal.

 Interestingly it is not just meats that animals that are injected with steroids that can pose a drug testing risk. Some animals, in particular boar are naturally high in nandrolone and norandrostenedione. Traces of the metabolites of these substances have been found in the blood up to 24 hours after consuming boar meat in concentrations high enough to result in a positive test.

 So what does this all mean? Is it something that we should be worried about or is it really a sign of the problems in the drug testing system? The amounts of steroids that are resulting in the positive tests from consuming meat are not enough to have a physiological effect or improve performance but are enough to get you banned from your sport. I guess the lesson here is if you are subject to drug testing be careful of the meats you eat when traveling to foreign countries.

 Debruyckere, G., de Sagher, R., & Van Peteghem, C. (1992). Clostebol-positive urine after consumption of contaminated meat. Clinical Chemistry, 38, 1869-1873.

 Debruyckere, G., Van Peteghem, C., & de Sagher, R. (1993). Influence of the consumptionof meat contaminated with anabolic steroids on doping tests. Analytica Chimica Acta, 275, 49-56.

 Kicman, A.T., Cowan, D.A., Myhre, L., Nilsson, S., Tomten, S., & Oftebro, H. (1994). Effect on sports drug tests of ingesting meat from steroid (methenolone)-treated livestock. Clinical Chemistry, 40, 2084-2087.

 Sterk, S., Linders, S.H., von Ginkel, L.A., & Stephany, R.W. (2002, June) Liverwurst, a possible source of a positive doping test? Poster session at the 4th International Symposium on Hormone and Veterinary Drug Residue Analysis, Antwerp, Belgium.

Jump training for rowers part I

February 3, 2009

Ed McNeely

Many rowers and coaches include jumpies and other plyometric activities into their program.  Jumping can be a great alternative to weight training for developing power as you approach the racing season, it has the advantage of being done at much higher speed than squats or leg press and combined with on water strength rows it can save trips to the gym for those with limited training schedules. However, jumping can be very taxing and there are several precautions that should be taken before starting into a jump training program.

Plyometrics are a very high intensity form of training, placing substantial stress on the bones, joints, and connective tissue. While plyometrics can enhance an athlete’s speed, power and performance it also places them at a greater risk of injury than less intense training methods. Prior to starting a program there are several variables to consider so the training sessions are performed in a safe and effective manner.

Landing Surface

Plyometrics can be performed indoors or outdoors. The landing surface should be able to absorb some of the shock of landing. Gymnastic or wrestling mats are good indoor surfaces as are the sprung wood floors found in many aerobics studios. Thick exercise mats will absorb too much impact, are unstable, and eliminate the stretch reflex needed for plyometrics. Exercise mats should be less that 15 cm thick. Outdoors, plyometrics are done on the grass or sand. Jumping on concrete or asphalt can lead to knee, ankle and hip problems and should be avoided.


One of the advantages of plyometric training is that it can be done almost anywhere with very little equipment. Most equipment that is needed can be made or bought at very little cost.


Plastic cones can be ordered from sporting goods catalogers and many sports stores. Several height cones are needed. Cone heights should range from 15-60 cm.

Steps or Stadium Stairs

Steps are a useful plyometrics tool as long as they are safe and of suitable material. Concrete steps should be avoided because the landing surface is too hard. The stairs should be deep enough to allow the athlete to easily place their whole foot on the step. The steps should be closed to prevent the toes from getting caught under a step.


Boxes can be constructed out of wood. A sturdy frame is covered with plywood. Several different box heights are recommended 15cm, 30 cm, 45 cm, and 60 cm are the most common heights. Boxes of 90-145 cm may be needed for advanced athletes. Angled boxes can be created for lateral jumps and drills. Boxes should be of solid construction with a non slip surface.

Medicine Balls

Medicine balls can be made of rubber, plastic, or leather. Leather balls should only be used indoors with a partner because they are less durable than rubber or plastic balls. Medicine ball typically range in weight from 0.5-15 kg. Several different weights towards the lower to middle of this range are sufficient for most programs. Medicine balls can be quite expensive. Individuals or institutions that are short on money can make medicine balls from old soccer, basketball, or volleyballs. Cut a small hole in the ball insert a funnel and fill the ball with sand to a desired weight. Patch the hole using a bicycle tire patch and some duct tape.


Hurdles should be adjustable and can be made of wood or pvc piping. Hurdles can also be made by placing a dowl or taping string between two cones. Hurdle heights can vary form 30-120 cm. The cross bar on the hurdle should readily fall when hit during a jump or hop.


Footware should provide a good grip, lateral support, ankle support and still allow the foot to move naturally. Cross trainers and court shoes are better than running shoes, which often lack adequate lateral support. If landings are done on a proper surface the cushioning provided by the shoe is not very important. 

Other equipment

Shot puts, dumbells, kettlebells, and bars can all be used for throwing and increasing resistance while jumping. Weighted vests, with adjustable weights, are a good way to increase resistance without excessive low back strain.

Physical Requirements

Medical Clearance

Athletes should have an annual physical in which joint stability and strength are assessed. Any athlete with a history of spinal, shoulder, or lower limb injuries should be cautious when starting a plyometric programs. Strength or flexibility imbalances between the right and left side or between agonist and antagonistic muscle groups increases the likely hood of injury during plyometrics. Strength differences between the right and left side of the body of as little as 5% can increase the risk of injury 25 times. When returning from an injury the athlete should have full strength in the injured area prior to returning to a plyometrics program.

Body Size

Large athletes, over 100 kg, need to be cautious when doing plyometrics. Large athletes are at a greater risk of developing injury due to the compressive forces on the joints experienced during landing. High volume and high intensity plyometrics should be avoided. Depth jumping from a height greater than 45 cm should be avoided completely.


Plyometrics is the link between strength and power. In order to take advantage of the stretch shortening cycle and make sure the plyometrics are done safely the athlete should achieve specific strength goals prior to starting plyometrics. The athlete should be able to squat at least their bodyweight for lower body plyometrics and bench press 0.75 times bodyweight for upper body plyometrics. Until these strength goals are met the training program should focus on developing strength. If plyometrics are done, limit them to single response double leg jumps.

In the next column we will look at designing a jump training program.

The Right age for strength training

January 20, 2009

By Ed McNeely


Strength and power are important part of hockey fitness. One of the biggest questions many parents have is when to start their young athlete into a strength training program. While many trainers will give you a standard answer like 15 or 16 years old the answer really isn’t that simple and will vary from athlete to athlete based on their rate of growth and development.

 Age Does not Equal Development

Children develop and mature at different rates, even as little as six months of age can make a tremendous difference in size, strength and speed of young athletes, this is particularly true as kids approach their teen years and their major growth spurt. How often have you seen a 14 year old who is six feet tall and weighs 200 pounds playing against others who are five feet tall and weigh 100 pounds.

Growth and Development

Growth is the change in body size as measured by height and weight. Development is the maturation process related to growth but includes social, emotional, intellectual and movement skill changes.

As a child grows their muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, nerves and hormones all develop at different rates and different times. These differences create what have been called “windows of opportunity” for training i.e. periods of time when their body is going to adapt most effectively to certain types of training. Taking advantage of these windows of opportunity will allow your child to maximize their development and future performance, missing a window of opportunity or having the wrong training emphasis will have a long term negative effect on their performance making it more difficult for them to reach their full potential.

Parents through the use of a something called Peak Height Velocity (PHV) can easily assess growth, maturity and windows of trainability. PHV is a measure of how quickly a child is growing. While children grow from birth through to about age 20, there are variations in the rate of growth. During the first year of life a child will typically grow 25 cm, from the ages 5-10 growth rate is usually 5-6 cm per year. During puberty, growth accelerates to an average of 9 cm/year for girls and 10 cm/year for boys. This rate of growth continues for 24-36 months.  By taking monthly measures of your child’s height you will know where they are in their growth and development cycle and be able to determine the type of on and off ice programs that are most appropriate.

Around the time a young athlete starts their growth spurt is a critical period of physical development. This stage in their life represents a period of trainability for endurance, speed and strength. It is critical for parents to continue to monitor changes in height during these years as the child’s growth determines the effectiveness of certain types of training. Endurance is most effectively improved at the start of PHV while strength training is most effective in girls when the reach PHV and in boys 12-18 months after PHV. This doesn’t mean that strength training is started at those times; it needs to be started 6-8 months earlier. Weight training technique takes time to learn, a good weight training technique program that starts before the window of trainability will allow your child to get right into a program and take full advantage of an important developmental period. If they wait and start the program during the window of trainability they will lose six months learning how to do the exercises.

As an aside, It is common to hear hockey parents proudly talk about how quickly their child has grown and how well they are doing in sports. These early maturers seem to have a definite advantage in contact and collisions sports because they are bigger and stronger than the other kids they are playing against. Do not worry if your child starts their growth spurt a little later than their peers, while it may be difficult playing against bigger kids those who grow more slowly have extra time when they are most adaptable to skill development and often become more skilled players than those who reach PHV at a younger age. When they do grow and catch up to their peers in height and weight they are ahead of the game because of their greater skill.