The Shenandoah Open American Drug Free Powerlifting Association meet today in Woodstock, Va., will be the Barron family's playground. The state meet is a qualifier for November's national championships.
Drug free powerlifting is a movement to return purity to the sport. In recent years, drugs have been used to quickly enhance strength and muscle mass. But those shortcuts also produce injuries.
"It takes 10 years to work the body up to championship level without taking drugs," Barron said.
The Barrons have earned honor and health through their drug-free participation.
n Lee's mother, Loretta Barron, 62, began lifting weights in 1989 and has won two world titles in her age group.
"She has been using it to help her against osteoporosis," Lee said. "Mom decided to start lifting because she didn't want to give up her health."
n Lee's father, Lenny Barron, 66, began lifting three years ago as part of his recovery from a life-threatening case of jaundice.
"He lifts for fun, not to heal, but it has given him confidence to move on," Lee Barron said. "He was about 24 hours from death. He still doesn't have all the feeling below his knees, but he does squats."
n Lee's sister, Linda Hampe, 42, also began lifting in 1989 to help cope with scoliosis and an underactive thyroid gland. She now owns a national Masters title.
n Barron has won the West Virginia state title and also finished fourth nationally in the Masters division.
Barron's belief in family values led to his belief in powerlifting.
"We joined the gym because I feel it's important for a family to do things together," Barron said. "The owner in the gym got me interested in powerlifting. I needed to lift for something other than exercise. It gave me the other end of the spectrum of sports. I was a runner and it takes two hours to show power. In this, it takes two seconds."
This weekend's meet will test the Barron family's physical progress, but it can't measure their strength as a family.
In July 1995, powerlifting became a rallying point for the family. Barron's son, Josiah, committed suicide. Three weeks later, his wife filed for divorce.
"The suicide bonded us. It made us realize that relationships are so special," Barron said. "People think powerlifting is an individual sport, but it's not. You need a support network of people who understand what you do. Lifting is mainly mental."
The concentration level and closeness of powerlifting helped the Barrons ease emotional pains.
"It was just a road to get things back to the way they should be," Barron said. "The biggest part is overcoming fear - the fear of relationships ... of failure ... of being hurt. There are other ways to overcome fear, but powerlifting gives you the feeling that you can do much more than you think you can."
The Barrons are taking their experiences and applying them to creating Family Drug Free Powerlifting, a non-profit organization. The group would join the effort to make powerlifting an Olympic sport and help hopefuls chase the Olympic dream.
"I would like to make some champions," Barron said. "I'm not looking for public acclaim, but I've seen what powerlifting has done for my family, my children and others. I've seen what it's done to make them better. I want to see people achieve goals."