Are most Crossfit games athletes on PEDs?

It's hard to say what proportion of Crossfit games athletes are on PEDs. However, I believe it's possible to get to that level without PEDs. Everything comes from the perspective of men, where there has been more research/history in strength sports. The articles I've linked are summaries but they have sources that you can follow.

  1. Crossfit Games athletes are well within natural muscular limits. They are around 10–14% body fat at the time of the games. There are exceptions but a majority fall within limits. https://www.strongerbyscience.co...
  2. Crossfit Games athletes aren't considered elite in strength sports. For example, their average powerlifting total would put them in the Class 1 category by USAPL standards. The men wouldn't be competitive in national level weightlifting meets. https://www.usapowerlifting.com/...
  3. Steroids do increase strength but not by as much as most people believe for elite athletes. Most sources put it at around an increase in strength of 10% for at the same weight class. The Science of Steroids • Stronger by Science
    1. Crossfit isn't bodybuilding - your performance will suffer if you gain too much muscle. On average, Crossfit Games athletes are around 28 BMI and gaining additional muscle on top of that is detrimental. Compare Your BMI To Crossfit Games Athletes – Heatonminded – Medium
    2. For average people, steroids can increase strength by a higher amount simply because they start off at a lower level. For example, if your natural free testosterone level is 400 ng/dL, steroids can give you a huge boost. For elite athletes, their testosterone could naturally be at 800 ng/dL already and they won't get as much of a benefit. A genetically gifted person may be able to get to 28 BMI at 12% body fat naturally while a regular person may only be able to get to 26 BMI at that body fat level. Steroids would help regular person much more.
    3. Countries with a history of doping in weightlifting in the Olympics are typically 10% stronger than countries without state sponsored doping programs. The Science of Steroids • Stronger by Science
  4. Crossfit is a tested sport which forces athletes to use non-optimal doping cycles. Their strength gains from doping will be less than state sponsored, sophisticated doping programs which only manage to net a 10% increase in strength over a lifetime of doping.
  5. Crossfit is a relatively new sport without the money associated with other sports. Yes, athletes can afford basic steroids but most do not have the resources or institutional backing like Lance Armstrong or the athletes in the Russian doping scandal. Doping is an arms race and most Crossfit athletes can't afford to keep up with the latest designer drugs.
  6. The Crossfit Games qualifiers are not necessarily the most muscular individuals. There are plenty of athletes who are stronger and lower body fat that never make it past regionals. Strength is just one factor of many.
  7. Crossfit isn't a unimodal sport and there is less incentive to increase a single aspect of fitness via doping. For example, a 10.1s 100m sprinter will spend years trying to go faster. His whole livelihood may depend on dropping that time down to 9.8s. Chances are, he will never get there due to genetic limitations. After many years of no improvement, drugs will be very tempting. For a Crossfit athlete, if he is genetically limited in one aspect of fitness, he can still be successful if he works on another aspect.
  8. Steroids have negative side effects on other aspects of performance. Being strong with low body fat will effect your cardio and endurance. It may also effect mobility due to disproportionate muscle growth (typically upper body strength).
  9. There's a misconception that Crossfit Games athletes spends hours training at high intensity every day, with no rest days, and therefore need steroids for recovery. Crossfit Games athletes don't do maximal intensity workouts all day. On a typical day, they may do 15–20 minutes of a timed workout but the rest of the training day would be spent on traditional strength or endurance regimens.

Suppose an ideal steroid regimen, like the ones available to state sponsored olympic athletes, increases your strength by 10% after many years. A Crossfit athlete, with limited funds and drug tests, would not be able to go on an ideal regimen. Let's say his strength increases by 8%. As a consequence, however, he is a slightly slower runner so his overall performance increase may only be 5%. His endurance also suffers because he is at a lower body fat so the overall performance increase would be even lower. Overhead positions are slightly more difficult because his traps are larger and his flexibility has decreased. So, yes, steroids make him fitter but the negative effects reduces the benefit enough that a natural athlete can compete with a doped one.

Anecdotally, after a 2 years of training, with absolutely zero sports participation as a teenager/in college, I've reached a 1200 powerlifting total naturally at 30BMI and 15% body fat. The average Crossfit Games athlete would have a 1300 total. I can get to their strength levels after a couple years of consistent diet and training. In addition, without exception, these athletes have been training their entire lives at some sport prior to starting Crossfit. They are also genetically gifted. Combine all those factors and I do believe that there are some individuals that can get to the games naturally.


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