Steroid scandals hit the Olympics, then the Tour de France, and most recently, Major League Baseball. At times, it seems that top competitors in every arena of competition are "juicing" to gain an unfair advantage. Now come rumors that some top ham radio contesting competitors may be turning to chemical enhancements to provide an edge.
Even with the graying of the ham radio hobby, some are questioning how the Top Ten boxes in the major contests are dominated by a small cadre of competitors with an average age in the fifties. Maintaining the all important butt-in-chair for the duration of a 24-hour contest is difficult, let alone for the mega-contests that last for 48 hours and allow single operators to participate full time. The physical demands of sitting for such long periods can be medically dangerous even for young, fit competitors. That middle-aged radio warriors are managing to has raised suspicions.
In the hallways of the Dayton hamvention and at the contest suites, there are whispered references and rumors of "juicing" by top operators. Although no one would go on the record, anonymous sources have confirmed that some competitors are using injections. Injections of Novocain in the gluteus maximus are used to deaden the discomfort of the long hours of sitting in front of the radio necessary to produce a Top Ten score.
The "dead butt", as the effect is commonly referred, makes it easy to withstand the pressures and discomfort from long hours of sitting in front of the radio. Additionally, the numbing effects of the Novocain often extends to the user's legs. The result is that the operator is unable to stand, let alone walk, which obviously makes it easier to stay in front of the radio during the contest.
While Novocain is a legal drug, its use for this application is certainly off label. Novocain is a prescription drug, thus not available over the counter. Also, it must be injected.
There are rumors that one northeastern contest club specifically targeted and recruited a local dentist to their ranks. He now makes the rounds of the top operators on Friday evening, administering Novocain injections during the early hours of the contest, insuring that competitors will stay glued to the chair for the duration.
No rules for the ARRL or CQ-sponsored contests specifically mention, let alone prohibit, the use of performance enhancing drugs. Still, the users of Novocain maintain a veil of secrecy and no one publically admits its use.
When the topic is raised publically, it is met with universal derision. Many feel the use of Novocain is unfair and should be banned. Dead butt-ers defend their practices by arguing no rules prohibit it.
As word spreads of the practice, suspicions are aroused about top competitors. At the recent Dayton hamvention, some were closely eyeing Big Gun contesters as they walked among the exhibitors, looking for signs of limping, which may be indicative of repeated 'dead butting'.
If the practice of "dead butting" spreads, the ham radio contesting world could become the latest sport to be engulfed in a scandal involving performance enhancing drugs.