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Bodybuilders put weight behind their drug testing

So this is what we've come to. This is how little faith we now put in our athletes and how skeptical we are about any performance.

Nearly 50 competitors will perform Saturday in the 14th annual Northwest Natural and Pro Atlas Bodybuilding and Figure Championships at Timberline High.

To ensure that the athletes have not used performance- enhancing drugs — in a sport renowned for its chemical dependence — each competitor will be subject to a lie detector test before the meet. Some will be randomly selected for urine tests after the competition. Competitors who fail either test are disqualified.

In today's steroids-saturated era, the event and its organizers are pushing a novel concept — clean athletes.

The system is far from perfect. There are plenty of drugs that a simple urinalysis won't catch. And polygraphs aren't foolproof, either. But it's a welcome start.

Imagine what similar tests could do in other sports. Who wouldn't love to see if Barry Bonds could pass a lie detector test while insisting, as he did to the BALCO grand jury, that he never knowingly took steroids?

Do you think Mark McGwire would pass one? How about Sammy Sosa or Marion Jones or Tim Montgomery or Bill Romanowski?

Or hundreds of other less-known athletes who used to keep up with the stars?

Don't think the all-natural competitors haven't been tempted. They are, after all, competitors eager to taste victory.

"There are times when I think, when I'm so close to winning an overall title or getting a pro card, I think damn it. There's been times I've thought 'What would it be like to get that extra edge,' " said Patsy Rabdau, a 43-year-old Eagle mother of two who won the middleweight title at last year's event.

"But you're going to get exposed. I got pulled for a urinalysis at this show last year. My fellow athletes, I have enough respect for them."

And Rabdau cares enough for herself.

"I don't know what drug enhancement might do to me. It's a sport. It's a hobby. I'm not willing to risk it," she said.

That point of view, unfortunately, seems to be in the minority. With so much at stake — riches, success, fame and health — too many are choosing a chance at the first three over the last.

We've grown accustomed to better living through chemicals. Our television screens are overwhelmed with pills pushing a quick fix for baldness, high cholesterol and obesity.

Our e-mail in-boxes are deluged with pills promising, imagine that, a better sex life.

There's no disorder, no disease, no ailment that popping a few pills or taking a few injections won't cure.

And that's just for us regular folks.

It's no wonder that athletes, who make a living by making sure their bodies can perform at maximum capacity each and every day, have been seduced by better playing through chemicals.

And we were duped.

We dug the long ball. We loved the speed. We rushed to see just how far our baseball heroes could pound the ball and just how fast our track stars could run.

We didn't stop to ask ourselves how, suddenly, these impossible feats were possible — until it was too late.

So here we are.

Holding all-natural bodybuilding competitions because the other ones are, presumably, not very natural. Subjecting our athletes to lie detector tests because we simply don't believe them. Waging high-powered investigations to find out what was real and was, shall we say, enhanced.

And still wishing we could do more.

Wishing we could find a way to know for sure.

Wishing clean athletes didn't seem like such an oxymoron.