"There is hardly a medal winner at the Moscow Games, certainly not a gold medal winnerâ€¦who is not on one sort of drug or anotherâ€¦usually several kinds. The Moscow Games might as well have been called The Chemistsâ€™ Games."
-â€“ excerpted from 1989 study by Australian government on 1980 Moscow Olympics
Most of the rumors you heard about how the Soviets ran their Olympic training camps are true. KGB agents were omnipresent at Soviet athletes' practices. The scientists who were evaluating the athletes on a daily basis had to sign over all of their lab work to a KGB agent at the end of every day. Scientists were routinely questioned about who they were sharing their data with and, while on site at an official Soviet Olympic training camp, they were restricted from leaving voluntarily without a personal permit from a high-ranking KGB official.
"The KGB was always around us and among us, peaking over our shoulders as we were doing work,â€ť Dr. Moris Silber says. "They would often invite us to drink with them after work in their apartments and it usually turned into heavy drinking until midnight. It was a friendly thing, but not from the heart. They wanted to find out what we were really thinking and what our intentions were. They also wanted information about this athlete or that athlete."
Dr. Silber was a scientific advisor and biomedical consultant for 23 years to the former Soviet Union Olympic teams. His main job was to mask the substances they were using so they could find out what the optimal benefits were. Some would say his main job was to hide the Sovietsâ€™ cheating, but this is a distinction that Dr. Silber says is a matter of semantics.
He says that he never recommended that athletes take steroids to become champions. Rather, his goal was to bring back or maintain the testosterone and cortisol levels in an athletes' body at the physiologically optimal level needed for training and competition.
This philosophy allowed him to select the most efficient, minimal and safest dose of any hormones, based on regular endocrine and metabolic tests, that would help an athlete achieve their goals.
"This approach warranted confidence in passing safely any dope test," Dr. Silber says. â€śWe did not know when drug tests were going to be given. They were always at random. This was a source of pride that no athletes got caught despite us not knowing when the test would be coming."
Getting caught, in this regard, means testing positive for a substance deemed as illegal for use in competition at the Olympics. However, again, Dr. Silber doesn't look at it that way.
"I did not view it as cheating,â€ť he says. â€śIt was viewed as something to optimize the athletesâ€™ results. Many people can take steroids and improve personal results, but these athletes were gifted. They were born to reach elite levels.â€ť
Dr. Silber's team included 51 researchers who worked with the various Olympic specialties, from shot putters and pole vaulters to swimmers. The objective from the Kremlin was essentially, "do whatever you want, we have to win."
"I strongly believe that when applied professionally and with sophistication, a rational hormone correction (oral supplementation via specific delivery mechanism) does not have anything to do with cheating,â€ť he says. "It is simply a fair professional health support. Athletes try to hire the best coaches, they shave their heads and bodies, they pay big money for tight suits and on and on. The modern way is commercialized and has no merit in true human fitness."
Thus, Dr. Silber claims that this was the most exciting period in his scientific career, as not a single one of his athletes tested positive at the Olympic Games from 1975 to 1990. During that time, Dr. Silber says that the KGB, in addition to monitoring everything, actually provided protection for the doctors so that they could do their work without fear of repercussion.
In a few instances, the KGB even provided a little scientific espionage.
"During my time with the Soviet Union, the East German sprinters were all huge guys," Dr. Silber says. â€śOur champion was a small guy. Very strong, but small. During a traditional meet, we asked the KGB agents who were working with our team to find out about the East German teamâ€™s diet to help us convince the Vice Chairman of the Soviet Olympics Committee that we needed to improve our athletes' protein to carbohydrate ratio. At the time, we could change nothing without approval. The KGB agents went to the hotel where the East Germans were staying and got their entire menu and diet protocol from the chef there. That helped us a lot."
The Tom Clancy-like Olympics tales involving Soviets weren't limited simply to performance enhancement in the athletic arena. At one point, Dr. Silber says he was tasked with inventing a gum that would negate the effects of a hangover.
"We made chewing gums filled with various bio-active substances,â€ť he explains. â€śI recommended the KGB take available antioxidants, along with herb remedies like milk thistle or Silimarin about an hour before having alcohol and first thing in the morning. They loved it and it really worked."
Throughout his time with the Soviets, Dr. Silber was building up a reputation as the foremost expert in a much less controversial substance than steroids: Creatine. On this subject, he is more than a little proud of his work.
"You could call me the Michael Jordan of Creatine,â€ť he says. â€śMJ didn't invent basketball; he was just the best ever. I didn't invent Creatine, I just make the best ever."
After leaving the USSR in 1990, Dr. Silber moved to the United States and continued his pioneering Creatine research, while training athletes around the world using his scientific approach to its use. In this capacity he has contributed to the Russian, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Israeli and Australian Olympic efforts, all without the use of banned performance enhancers, he says. This is where his patented product, Rugenix, comes in.
"I created Rugenix because not everyone is a world-class athlete with time and money to spend," he says. "The effects of my formula are so tuned in to how the body functions that the results are like nothing else on the planet."
If this sounds like a sales pitch, it is. But it's one that has worked, steroid-free, he says, for some U.S. Olympic athletes.
While Rugenix is a natural, steroid-free extension of Dr. Silber's methods in Moscow, his attitude toward athletic enhancement has remained the same.
"My motto is always to never do harm and to create a scientific approach to create the ultimate athlete,â€ť he says. "I never had any guilt."
-- Jon Finkel is the author of The Dadvantage: Stay In Shape On No Sleep With No Time And No Equipment. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Finkel.