The three Olympians: Dara Torres top in 2008; center in 2000, and bottom in 1988.
While we're on the subject of performance enhancing drugs (see previous post), Dara Torres has been in the news recently too. She had her first post-Beijing race last weekend (she won the 50 at one of the Grand Prix meets). I've never believed her stories about how the transformation of her physique has been due to exercise and diet. A similarly skeptical friend sent me this set of pictures. Below is a post that I originally made on another website right before the '08 Olympic Trials:
Does anyone remember what Torres looked like from 1984-1992? She had a very pretty face, and also a feminine body which was always covered by a discernable layer of fat. She was strong, and there was -- and is -- no denying her talent (she still holds the 13-14 NAG record in the 50 yard free from 1982, a point in her life when she was undoubtedly clean). But it seemed at the time -- because of her feminine look -- that she had more female hormones (or at least fewer male hormones) than the average champion female swimmer of the time. (Of course, the average female champion of that era was East German, but that's a different story.)
When Torres came back in 2000 she had a totally different look: muscular and hard. It's possible to lose the baby fat through diet and exercise -- I've seen plenty of women who look fitter as 40 year olds than they did as teenagers -- but those are almost always women who didn't exercise as teenagers and then got religion later in life. Torres swam for Florida in college and certainly swam at least as much yardage back then as she did swimming with the Stanford program in '00, and certainly far more yardage than she is now swimming for Michael Lohberg in Coral Springs. So if the exercise doesn't account for the lack of fat, what does? Diet might, but it's almost impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time if you're dieting, and Torres definitely looked much more muscular in '00 than she did in her earlier incarnation.
The thing that really threw me was seeing how she was doing her lifetime best 200 lcm free after just one year of training at age 33. Now I could maaaaaybe believe that someone who's been keeping their swimming muscles fit could do their best 50 at age 33. But the 200 is an entirely different animal, it requires a lot of background yardage and a lot of cardiovascular conditioning. And over the course of seven years out of the pool you're going to lose a lot of that, a lot of your capillaries are simply going to close up from lack of use. Yet after just one year of training, Torres broke two minutes for the first time. The real shocker came when she broke the AR in the 100 lcm fly with a 57.59 after never having broken a minute in her earlier career. And, to be honest, I have a hard time believing that someone is going to come back after seven years away from the sport and do a lifetime best 50. (This is why all the "a's" in the maaaaaybe above.) You do sometimes see masters swimmers who will do lifetime best 50's in their late twenties or early thirties, but these are usually swimmers who never swam those events in college, other than on the way out to a 100, and none of these swimmers were world class when younger. You simply don't see it with world class swimmers for whom the 50 was their best event. (I'm not talking about the swimmers these days who hang on much longer but have stayed with the sport the entire time.)
I remember hearing people say she kept fit by doing tae bo during those years, but that's ridiculous -- it simply doesn't keep your swimming muscles fit. I did karate seriously for four years in my early thirties, and even swam two 2000 yard workouts a week during that time, but when I stopped the karate and tried swimming competitively again, I had lost a lot. Think about all the ex-swimmers you've known who tried running a marathon: were any of them nearly as fast in the pool afterwards? (Cross-training is one thing, but totally dropping swimming for another sport is another.)
I remember seeing a photo Torres had posed for for Speedo in '00. She was standing in a relaxed pose and you could see the veins coming out of the front of her shoulder and upper pectoral muscle. This is an area where most people don't have veins, and the people you see who do are usually the 'roid monsters you see on the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine etc. (Another abnormal area where 'roiders sometimes show veins is on the sides of their quadriceps.) What happens when you take steroids is that as the muscles thicken and grow, there is simply less room for the veins, so they pop to the surface of the body, where they become visible right below the skin. Those of you who are clean, look at the front of your shoulder/upper pectoral area. You won't see veins there the same way you do in your forearm or hand. Yet bodybuilders have them there all the time -- and it's not because they do a lot of cardio training.
Torres was supposed to have been close to Quick in '00, and Quick's name supposedly appeared on the Balco list. (Why else would he have had to leave Stanford so suddenly?) And why did Jenny Thompson dislike her so intensely? Torres certainly seems personable enough when interviewed on TV.
Everything I've said here is either circumstantial evidence or hearsay. Do I have an actual smoking gun? No. Then again, nobody ever has a smoking gun unless they've witnessed someone taking PEDs, and who ever does that? And add up all the circumstantial and hearsay, and it's pretty overwhelming. Then throw in a dash of common sense and the experience the rest of us have had aging, and it's very hard to believe she's clean.