Life-saving meds cheat Roger Wenzel out of competing

by Jenni Carlson Published: March 4, 2013
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“I didn’t think anybody really cared about what a 64-year-old person was taking,” he said.

But just to make sure, he contacted USA Track and Field and told them about his meds.

USA Track and Field replied with a notification that his inquiry had been turned over to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. There was no indication that anything was wrong, just that USADA would better be able to help him.

Wenzel went to nationals, and to his surprise, he finished third in the weight throw and fourth in the hammer.

But after the weight throw competition, he was pulled aside for random drug testing.

A few weeks later, he got his results. The multi-page report with all sorts of charts and graphs and numbers indicated that he’d failed because he had synthetic testosterone in his system. This came as no surprise. Wenzel had told USA Track and Field that testosterone was among his Parkinson’s drugs.

He takes testosterone because his Parkinson’s has all but eliminated his body’s ability to produce it naturally. Because of that, his energy is low, so low that he has fallen asleep twice while driving.

Still, Wenzel’s testosterone level is lower than the average man his age.

The average: 56.2 nanograms per milliliter.

His level on his drug test: 35.0 ng/ml.

So, Wenzel failed his USADA drug test even though he has to take testosterone to treat his Parkinson’s and has a testosterone level that is still lower than average.

“I violated the letter of their rules,” Wenzel admitted.

But ...

“I gained no benefit from it. I wasn’t cheating.”

Still, USADA said he was doping.

“The Therapeutic Use Exemption Committee, which is made up of independent medical and technical experts, evaluates all requests in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Cod and determined that the use of a potent performance-enhancing drug like testosterone, under the circumstances of Mr. Wenzel's case, did not meet the requirements to be granted a (therapeutic use exemption)," USADA media relations manager Annie Skinner said. "As in all cases, Mr. Wenzel is being provided the opportunity for full due process under the rules and can choose to have his case heard by independent arbitrators who would determine the outcome, but at this time, Mr. Wenzel has indicated to USADA that he is not interested in moving forward with the independent arbitration process."

What miffs Wenzel most about this whole case is that he believes USADA is holding him and other seniors to the same standard as an Olympic hopeful.

“There is no reason for these people to be out regulating old guys who are out having fun,” he said. “We're doing it for fun.” Wenzel says senior events are like a Friday bowling league.

“It’s the greatest time I’ve ever had as an athlete because it’s so friendly and fun. You’re competing against yourself. You’re trying to get a personal best. You may be doing something wrong, and the guy you’re competing against may say, ‘Do you know you’re releasing a little early?’ And they’re not screwin’ with you.”

Right now, Wenzel is resigned to never competing in senior events again. He has appealed USADA’s decision but has been denied.

With no options left for him, Wenzel has turned his attention toward helping other seniors. He has created a Senior Athlete’s Medical Bill of Rights that would prevent senior athletes from being penalized for using prescribed, necessary medication.

He has shared it with anyone who will listen.

“I’ve gotten to where my goal is real simple,” he said. “I don’t want other people to get stuck with what I got stuck with.”

Wenzel has been branded a doper and a cheater, but look at the man and the circumstances of his case, and it’s sure hard to lump him in with the Lance Armstrongs of the sports world.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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