Updated: September 6, 2013 at 8:48 am
Don Ramos, an 80-year-old weightlifter busted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for steroid use, declines to take the denial route traveled by Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds and Floyd Landis.
He admits his guilt, and he is the oldest person sanctioned by the USADA.
"It was against the rules," Ramos said from his home on the west side of Colorado Springs.
When USADA officials asked him about steroid use, Ramos immediately came clean. He said he had taken testosterone for 24 years, the past 20 by giving himself shots.
He started taking testosterone 24 years ago because he was, using his word, "lethargic" after suffering through divorce and bankruptcy.
"I was really in the tank," he said.
His doctor in San Diego wrote a prescription for testosterone patches. After moving to Colorado Springs 20 years ago, Ramos gave himself testosterone shots, he said.
Did his testosterone shots give him an unfair advantage?
"Old guys in the gyms are very, very active with testosterone," he said. "But has it given me an advantage over guys who are not taking anything at my age? Maybe."
Travis Tygart, the CEO of Colorado Springs-based USADA, is known as the man who delivered justice to Armstrong, one of the most famed athletes in American history. Now, Tygart is also known as the man who delivered justice to a senior citizen. Ramos had been banned from athletic competition, including weightlifting, for two years.
"Mr. Ramos has acknowledged that he broke the rules and has accepted his sanction, but this case is a disturbing example that the win-at-all-costs culture in society today can reach all levels of competition," Tygart said in a statement issued to The Gazette.
Ramos traveled to Chicago on June 14 to compete in the Pan American Master Weightlifting contest. After setting the world record in his age group in the clean and jerk, USADA tested him. He said the test took 2? hours.
A week later, a letter from USADA arrived at his home. He had tested positive.
"I was stunned," he said.
Ramos said he's always kept his testosterone levels within acceptable competition limits. He's not sure, he said, why his level spiked so high in Chicago.
The full extent of the ban took time to sink in. Ramos' home is filled with mementos from his life as weightlifter and athlete. There's a trophy from 1952 that recognizes him as the strongest man at North Phoenix High, his alma mater. And there's a lifting trophy he won in 2009 in Sydney, recognizing him as the grand master, the top overall lifter, at the World Masters Games.
He no longer can compete in weightlifting competition or body-building competition. When he first heard of the ban, he devised a new goal:
He wanted to break the world high jump record for his age group, which is about 4? feet, he said. He also planned to pursue records in cycling. USADA officials informed him that he is banished from virtually all competition.
"I'm crushed," he said. "At 80 years old, I'm crushed because it's basically my life."
He's become a celebrity, a reluctant one. The Huffington Post and ESPN, among dozens of others, ran stories about him. His son, Barron, called from California after seeing a TV report.
This week, Ramos went to his gym, the 24-Hour Fitness at Southgate Mall, to work out. A man approached him.
"You're the juicer," the man said.
Ramos was startled.
"I'm the juicer?"