Want to help a fellow Oklahoman? Here’s how
In Tuesday’s Oklahoman, I wrote about the wild story of Yukon grandfather Roger Wenzel.
You can read it by clicking here.
The gist is that Wenzel, a 64-year-old who competes in senior-adult track and field events, has been found guilty of doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency because of the testosterone that he takes as part of treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Wenzel and his doctors say that the testosterone is necessary. USADA says that drug makes him a cheat.
Wenzel emailed me a day after his story appeared in the newspaper and on NewsOK.com.
“Oklahomans are amazing,” he wrote. “I’m getting calls and Facebook messages from people all around the state asking how they can help.”
Wenzel has decided that he will no longer appeal USADA’s decision about him — the next step in the process would likely cost him tens of thousands of dollars, and he doesn’t have the funds to spend on such a fight — but he has created a Senior Athlete’s Medical Bill of Rights. It basically says that any senior athlete (age 50 and older) cannot be suspended or banned for the use of prescription medicine being used at the direction of a legitimate medical professional. Working to get that bill of rights adopted by USADA and other sports governing bodies is now Wenzel’s focus.
So, people want to know how they can help?
Wenzel says they can help support him by supporting the bill of rights, and they can do that by contacting their representatives in the U.S. Congress.
“I have written to my own representative and both of our senators,” Wenzel wrote in his email. “Anyone writing a letter of support should include the text of the bill and reference your article (that appeared in The Oklahoman) since representatives from other congressional districts will not be familiar with the story or the bill.”
If you’re interested in helping Wenzel, I have pasted the text of his bill of rights and the text of the column that I wrote below.
Senior Athlete’s Medical Bill of Rights
No senior, amateur, level 2* athlete shall be barred from athletic competition in these United States, or penalized in any way, for the use of FDA approved medication prescribed by a licensed medical doctor for a recognized medical condition.
* Top national and international athletes put in registered testing pools and subject to out-of-competition random drug testing are level 1 athletes. Everyone else is level 2.
Wenzel fighting system for other senior athletes
Roger Wenzel extends his right hand and watches it shake.
Time to take his meds.
Wenzel has Parkinson’s disease, a condition that slowly destroys brain cells controlling muscle function. To manage the disease, the 64-year-old grandfather from Yukon takes numerous prescription medications. Among them is testosterone.
That’s where the United States Anti-Doping Agency comes in.
Yes, those are the folks who dropped the hammer on Lance Armstrong and many other athletes who have doped over the years.
They say Wenzel has doped, too.
Wenzel has competed in senior-level track and field events for the past few years, but now, he is facing what equates to a lifetime ban from USADA. He can’t compete if he takes testosterone, but if he doesn’t take his medication, he might die.
“This is not optional,” he said of taking testosterone as part of his Parkinson’s treatment. “I shouldn’t have to be fighting like crazy because I take meds to stay alive.”
At a time when the attention paid to catching athletes who use performance enhancing drugs is higher than ever, this is one time where the system has run amok.
Roger Wenzel is no Lance Armstrong.
Still, Wenzel expects USADA to hand down its final ruling in his case, brand him a cheater, even issue a press release about the matter in the coming weeks. His only recourse would be in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but a legal bill expected to run in the tens of thousands of dollars is something Wenzel can’t handle.
“Part of me just wants this to go away,” he said.
But he’s fighting the system and sharing his woes — even though he knows some of his business associates as a self-employed geologist will be learning of his Parkinson’s for the first time — because he wants the sports world to know his side of the story.
The tale begins in 2000 when Wenzel started experiencing some peculiar but seemingly unrelated episodes. He would have an unexplained cramp here, a mysterious twitch there. He struggled to write the numeral 3.
The symptoms persisted for several years before he saw a neurologist.
“Walk across the room,” the doctor told him.
“You’ve got Parkinson’s,” the doctor said.
Wenzel’s condition worsened rapidly over the next few months as he lost control of more of his muscles. The neurologist referred Wenzel to the OU Medical Center and Dr. Kersi Bharucha, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Parkinson’s treatment. Bharucha worked to give Wenzel as much of muscle control as possible.
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