AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article has not been written with the intent of ridiculing Ricky Garard. He is merely one of the more high profile PED related cases in CrossFit and subsequently a talking point that continues to divide the world-wide community. I hope that 2021 when we completes his ban, he is able to win his way back to the Games so that he may have a shot at redeeming himself in the eyes of the community and his peers.
Ricky Garard's 2017 CrossFit Games third place was a lightning bolt that energised the world-wide CrossFit community. It was the first time a relative unknown had blazed their way through a stacked Games field to claim a medal in their rookie year.
In August he was the rising start everyone wanted to get behind until all of a sudden he wasn't.
It was the first time a highly placed individual Games athlete had tested positive to a banned substance. Prior to Garard the majority of the positive tests came from the masters athletes who misread or did not abide by the CrossFit Games policy regarding hormone replacement in competition, and individual and team athletes using supplements containing banned substances not found on labels.
The anabolic agent and beta-2 agonists Garard took are specifically named as banned classes of drugs in the CrossFit Games Rulebook and yet his ban has divided the community - not united it.
The traditional 'CrossFit haters' leapt onto their 'Social Media Lecterns' claiming it only proved every CrossFit athlete is 'juicing of popping pills' but they can be easily ignored.
Others suggested a well-crafted conspiracy - the powers that be wanted a Performance Enhancing Drugs scapegoat and Garard was their man. Another argument that can be easily dismissed.
It is those that have leapt to Garad's defence that are the hardest to explain.
There's no denying Garard worked exceptionally hard to earn his place at the CrossFit Games.
An athlete can take all the PED's they want but it will never guarantee success or results - nothing trumps hard work.
And yet there are people - members of the greater CrossFit community - who suggest the 'hate' for Garard is out of jealousy.
They believe all those who condemned Garard did so because they wish they could be him but never will be.
They're right to a point but also completely wrong.
Yes some 'everyday athletes' would love to be in Garard's position. They'd love to have even half the strength, endurance, skill and mental fortitude of a Games athlete. But they want it knowing they earned every part through pure grit, sweat and maybe the odd drop of blood.
There are of course plenty of 'everyday athletes' who have zero desire to be a Games athlete - heck some of them can't even tell you where the Games are held let alone who won.
They're at the Box everyday content to build a better version of themselves.But when a big-time athlete gets 'popped' they know - everyone is talking about it at the Box after all.
They, just like other athletes, are not jealous though. Their emotions range anywhere from frustration to disappointment - not jealousy though.
When the Opens roll around every year we enter knowing it's a level playing field. We enter accepting the fact that after five gruelling Open WOD's the best of us will naturally rise to the top. We watch them progress to the next stage of the competition (be it Sanctionals or the older Regionals model) and eventually to the Games.
We pin our hopes and support to our favourite athletes and watch with enthusiasm. And when they or an unknown win - we rejoice.
Knowing a Games athlete cheated makes the whole journey seem hollow.
In a 2017 social media post Garad said he 'on the pursuit of becoming all I could be as a CrossFit athlete, I have obviously taken the rules and boundaries to the very edge. I looked into, researched & was willing to dabble into ways that could improve my performance legally & within the rules, with no intention whatsoever to be a cheat.'
But does it really matter?
Intentionally or not rules were broken. The CrossFit Games has a Drug Testing Program/Policy and athletes that go against that should and will be punished.
'Any athlete wo uses performance-enhancing drugs is directly attacking his fellow competitors, our community and our sport' 2017 General Manager of the CrossFit Games Justin Bergh said.
'It is our responsibility along with the athletes themselves, to identify those threats and remove them. As the heads of the sport, we will do our part to provide the means necessary to ensure this continues to happen.'
Perhaps we should leave the final word to Patrick Vellner - the man who was eventually named 2017's third fittest man on earth.
'There are no shortcuts to success. Success made at the gym on a Tuesday afternoon when you are one piece into a 5 piece workout and you want to just call it and go home to watch Netflix, but you don't. Success is looking at the guy next to your and knowing if he works hard, you gotta work harder. It is built one rep, one grind at a time. So to anyone out there who thinks it might be a good idea to give him or herself the extra edge. Put down your PED and pick up a goddam barbell.'
Jason - the geek who lifts.