During the summer of 2017, Pat and Taylor Mendes generously
invited me into their Kensington home each Sunday. They had
moved to Philadelphia that April. Pat took a local position with
Vivint and Taylor began training at Philadelphia Barbell Club.
Like many weightlifters, I knew Pat’s story from the outside
looking in and remembered seeing his massive lifts on YouTube
before hearing of his doping offences in 2012 and 2015. I
considered myself a fan of his lifting. No one with an open eye
to this sport imagines any senior World record holder setting
their marks without performance-enhancing drugs.
While the coach in me condemned Pat’s methods, the journalist
in me wanted to hear Pat’s story. And then publish the truth. To
that end, I recorded over 30 hours of interviews, most with Pat
and Taylor together, some separately. I also interviewed dozens
of coaches, athletes and officials and read hundreds of articles
and books about the history of doping in Olympic and
The following pages offer Pat’s story as a lens through which to
view the use and abuse of drugs, not just in weightlifting, but in
all sport. Pat was not alone in his quest; most organized teams,
sports, federations and countries, and even anti-doping
organizations all sought the same goal: to set world records and
win. Throughout this book, I present my own thoughts within the
context of Pat’s narrative. Most of these reflections begin or end
each chapter. These sections state my arguments about how
doping has affected weightlifting as a sport and how sports-
governing bodies have used weightlifting in particular to deal
with the problem of drug use.
I regard Pat as a highly competent individual. It’s about the best
compliment I know how to give. No matter what activity Pat
tries, he succeeds beyond expectation. Pat learned to snatch with
an empty barbell and within 20 months hit a weight never
achieved or equaled by an American. He never sold alarms door
to door yet earned sales Rookie of the Year for an industry
I possess nothing but respect for him as an individual and
successful adult member of society.
That said, I understand if readers don’t feel great sympathy for
Pat or his ban from the sport to which he devoted much of his
early life. However, I do believe the Court of Arbitration for
Sport should void his positive test for HGH, and any positive
HGH that resulted from the same test they declared invalid for
Andrus Veerpalu. As this book’s research shows, Pat has real
justification to sue WADA for faulty tests and to sue the IWF for
banishing him from the sport. What that would mean for Pat’s
ability to return to the weightlifting in any capacity remains to be
As for the title? I choose something intentionally hyperbolic and
which overly condemns weightlifting. The title should proclaim
“All Sport Is Steroids.” Every athlete seeks an advantage. Pat’s
story shows that some athletes take that quest too far.
Salt Lake City: May 2016
I made my last backstage appearance at USA Weightlifting’s 2016 National Championships. My wife Taylor and I entered the warm-up area set up behind the three competition stages. The officials hadn’t yet brought the athlete attempt cards to the Marshall’s table, but they let us into the back, and we picked out a platform.
Some of the other athletes for the 63kg A session started to filter in—not any of the medal contenders—but Taylor liked to get a platform early. Nationals was Taylor’s first big meet since taking bronze in the snatch at the 2015 University Championships. As I watched her foam rolling on the floor, I knew she was nervous, even if she wasn’t showing it.
I felt some of the other coaches watching me, the ones that knew anyway. The sport of weightlifting had grown significantly since 2011, thanks mostly to Crossfit, and many new coaches knew only two weightlifters, if any: Dmitri Klokov and Jon North. That, and being novices most likely coaching for the first time at a national meet, they were over-focused on their lifters, worried and worrying the shit out of their own athletes.
But I had newfound notoriety. That past fall, I flew to Houston for my hearing with the disciplinary board of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), regarding my alleged positive test at the 2015 Pan American Games. The hearing had not gone well.
Some of the old guard coaches stared openly. Rumors spread fast in this sport and people love to gossip. I should’ve worn a baseball cap, and definitely not an Average Broz t-shirt.
My suspension from the IWF amounted to a death sentence. I could start weightlifting again at age 33, eight long years from 2016, and almost more time than I had spent in this sport. After their decision, I thought, I’m done, it doesn’t even matter to me. A few years later, I wound up going head to head with Ilya Ilyin at a local seminar and beat him because I could still snatch 183kg, eight fucking kilos more than Wes Kitts' 175kg American record at the time, and less than my first attempt at several international meets. I can only guess what I could hit at 33.
I draped a sweatshirt across Taylor’s back as she sat in a chair. The rest of her competitors had filtered in. About 20 feet away, the technical controller yelled out names of the athletes in the session, calling them to lineup for introductions. I flashed a smile as Taylor headed to the platform and then laid out weights so we could load her bar quickly during warm-up attempts.
After the introductions, Taylor started moving. First with the bar, then muscle snatches at 35 and 40kg. She looked fast and snappy. Her eyes and face bloomed with confidence. I grabbed a pair of yellow plates to put 45kg on her bar. And then someone tapped my shoulder.
It was Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting. “Pat, you can’t be back here,” he told me forcefully.
“What are you talking about?” I replied, moving my body in between him and Taylor’s line of sight. Inside I felt my stomach drop. This is going to fucking suck.
“You’re sanctioned. You can’t be in the back. You have to leave.” His words shot out machine-gun fire.
“Pat, what’s going on?” Taylor’s voice, now worried.
“Let’s go Pat.” Phil insisted.
“I have to leave,” I mumbled.
Taylor’s face crumpled into angry tears. “I’ll get someone,” I called back as Phil escorted me from the warm-up room. But she was already on it. Taylor might get upset, but never rattled enough to delay action. I looked back as I passed through the doorways and she was typing furiously on her phone to find a coach to count the rest of her attempts.
A few hours later, in the privacy of our hotel room, Taylor broke down, screaming at me. Billy Bybee, who owned Crossfit Las Vegas, had run down to help count her attempts. Despite me getting kicked out, she smoked all three snatches, taking Bronze with an 86kg lift that beat Cecily Basques’ same attempt (Taylor weighed less). Her clean and jerks fizzled out; she only hit her opener at 99kg, and finished 8th in the total, nowhere near the performance we expected.
Could she have done better with me in the back? Maybe. I wanted to help Taylor. To give her the kind of support I never got navigating this sport. To let her understand the bullshit politics that baffled me, and provide her with better coaching than I received, so that she could avoid the pitfalls of a novice coach offering guidance while taking advantage of internet fame.
And now I couldn’t help her at all. I believe in taking responsibility for what I’ve done and will never shy away from it. By the time you finish this book, you’ll hear all the drugs I took and the dosages I used. These pages detail my training and all the scandals in my competition history. For years, I struggled to outwit a testing system that required institutional support to defeat. I planned to take on the athletes in the state-sponsored doping nations, win world championships and set world records, and I did whatever it took to achieve those goals.
So pay attention: I plan to drop names and call people out for their shit. But there’s one thing I want you to know right from the start:
In seven years of weightlifting I accomplished more than 99% of all lifters that ever touched a barbell. Two World Championships. Two Pan Am Games. Representing two different nations. I’m still the only American to snatch 200kg and all you motherfuckers know I snatched more than that.
But because of how I achieved my goals, I can’t even help my wife when she needs me. And that’s my biggest regret in this sport. Not getting popped twice. Not the bomb outs at big meets. That because of a pair of bullshit tests, I can’t take care of my own when it matters.
Eventually, what I tried to achieve cost me everything.