Will Doping Ever Have a Place in Sport?

Ever since I was seven years old I started competing in sports. My mother was my first coach. She went to coaching clinics, read “Basketball for Dummies” and watched coaching YouTube tutorials. I began to develop my skills, and this lead me to play competitive Rep basketball for 12 years. As an athlete, I started to look at my future and think…could sports take me anywhere?

Team sports are spectacular.  You learn cooperation, teamwork, communication, dedication, motivation, and more. The benefits, including an improved level of health, are numerous! However, I’ve learnt that some athletes excel because they would do anything to win, at any cost.

Doping in sports is a global concern, especially for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “Doping is a kind of human enhancement that can enable an athlete to perform beyond normal species functioning” (Corlett, 2013).

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Sochi, Russia 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Steroids aid to increase strength and muscle mass, and blood doping aids the body by increasing oxygen for greater endurance. To read more about steroids click here. To read more about blood doping click here.

The spirit of sport is to prohibit performance enhancing drugs in all types of sports. The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) was created in 1999 to monitor any discrepancies in competitions related to performance enhancing drugs so athletes can compete in a doping-free environment. (more information about WADA’s history, core values and resources can be found here)

Currently, there is a doping scandal regarding Russia’s Olympic track and field Athlete’s. WADA has proposed that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) has been “non-compliant” and Russia is accused of running a state sponsored doping program.

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Olympic 800m champion Maria Savinova of Russia (click).

Reports include information about athlete lab samples that were “intentionally and maliciously” destroyed and many athletes should not have competed in the London 2012 Olympics. Penalties are still being determined but there is talk about several athletes and coaches being banned for life – the Russian track and field team potentially being disqualified from the Brazil 2016 Olympics. Dick Pound, former WADA president, also detailed bribery, and cover-ups to conceal doping athletes. RUSADA has been suspended (click).

Performance-Enhancing drugs used by professional athletes still continue to persist over the years and raise the same argument: Should doping continue to be illegal in sports or should the ban be removed?

Arguments against doping raise two concerns:
1. Increased Health Care Costs
2. Unfair Advantage
Athletes are prohibited from receiving health insurance if their health problems are a result of doping. Therefore, the health care costs are covered by the general public (i.e. taxpayers), and these athletes can acquire cardiovascular diseases, memory loss, etc. which can cost the health care system lots. Secondly, people that can afford the cost of drugs have an unfair advantage over others, thus creating an unequal opportunity in sports (Corlett, 2013).

Doping has been used more readily over recent years and a lot more effectively. However, athletes earn millions of dollars from prizes, sponsorships, advertisements, etc. but the price to pay if caught doping… is substantially small. Doping penalties can range from  6-month suspension to maybe a couple years.

I came across this blog  “The Role of Athlete Support Personnel” which creates awareness that athletes are not the only ones responsible for doping scandals. Rule violations also apply to support staff and can have consequences.

Children begin to play sports from a young age. These children begin to compete in a corrupt sport where they are training like professional athletes to be the top competitor. Therefore, it should be allowed to use drugs to improve performance – if the drugs are no more harmful than their training regime (Savulescu, 2004) . Correct? No. However, these children will grow up and then use these drugs as athletes. I believe there is a change in thinking due to external pressure such as the media, coaches, parents, teammates, you name it. These athletes feel pressure to be better than everyone else and will go the extra mile to do so. I think it is unfair for these athletes to enjoy their win and earnings when they are competing against honest athletes. Their win is simply a scientific antidote to improve performance because if they didn’t have this external aid they wouldn’t win. If all sports started to include an external aid to improve performance/success, it would give them the unfair advantage. What if one team in basketball started using roller-blades to get up and down the court faster? This changes the rules of the game because it is an unfair advantage over the other team.

So, why must we still ban drugs from sports? “Drugs are against the rules. But we define the rules of sport” (Savulescu, 2004).

Some may say that we should make doping legal and change the rules. “By allowing everyone to take performance enhancing drugs, we level the play field” (Savulescu, 2004). I disagree. Yes, we would create an equal and fair opportunity for all participants. Drugs could be readily affordable for all players and everyone would have equal access. However, allowing performance-enhancing drugs in sport does not “just” change the rules, but it changes our definition of sport. I believe that sport is about determining your human ability and testing your limits. We play sports to define what our body and mind are capable of. Sports make humans push themselves to a higher level of performance. Athletes know the risks involved with playing sports (e.g. injuries, time commitment, strict diet and exercise) but they should strive to succeed through their own human capability naturally – not by using performance-enhancement drugs.

I’m certain that everyone knows at least one person who would be willing to cheat their way to the top. Money, politics, sex scandals – whether its sports or not – people will do anything to gain success. Unfortunately, the honest individuals who work hard and respect a fair system, get the short end of the stick.

Watch: Russia Doping Scandal in 60seconds

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Watch: Doping Debate in Sport

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Corlett, J., Brown, V., & Kirkland, K. (2013). Coping with Doping. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 40(1), 41-64. doi:10.1080/00948705.2012.725897

Savulescu, J., Foddy, B., & Clayton, M. (2004). Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 38, 666-670. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2003.005249

Additional Resources:

Athletics doping scandal: Russian runners say they are innocent. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2015, from http://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/34882985

Ebner, D. (2015, November 16). Russia’s doping scandal could prompt major changes to global drug testing. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/olympics/russias-doping-scandal-could-prompt-major-changes-to-global-drug-testing/article27291042/

Murphy, C. (2015, November 10). Russia could be banned from 2016 Olympics after doping report. Retrieved November 18, 2015, from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/09/sport/athletics-doping-wada-coe/

Murphy, C. (2015, November 19). Athletics doping scandal: Russia deemed ‘non-compliant’ by WADA. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/19/sport/athletics-wada-russia-compliant/index.html






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