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On the topic of Doping
Topic: On the topic of Doping (Read 962 times)
On the topic of Doping
May 27, 2005, 02:29 PM »
Doping is the most uphill of battles. For every person working to better test athletes, there are 10 working to evade those test. The latter is simply more lucrative. The sports culture has also developed a stigma that "Everyone is using, so I have to just to keep up - keep a level playing field". I personally believe (from both empirical evidence and speaking with several people "in the know") that a high percentage of Olympic athletes and professional athletes (in events where doping is strongly beneficial) are doping. I think many others believe this also - which doesn't help telling a young athlete "you don't have to dope to become elite".
American weightlifting has done well in producing clean athletes since the inception of random out-of-competition testing. Why do other countries not follow suit? Because they don't want to. For many of these countries, their results in the Olympics and other major world events are a matter of national pride and a show of the ability of their people. Think state sponsored doping in the former USSR and East Germany. (Small note: when the KGB was raided following the collapse of the USSR - the most secretive documents, under the most lock-and-key, werenâ€™t the nuclear secrets, but the method for doping athletes to evade detection.) These countries are not only not sufficiently testing their own athletes, they are helping them evade detection. And as for the individual, it is in many cases their livelihood at stake - a ticket to a better life. They know if they fall behind - someone else is right there to take their place. Itâ€™s not just for glory, they need to feed themselves and/or their family. This may sound overly dramatic, and is not always the case - but just think about some of the countries that dominate the world of weightlifting. And what about major sports like Baseball. If a minor leaguer thinks doping will help get them a major league contract â€“ is it that hard to conceive why they would dope? And what if they too have families to support? Do you think they care (or even think about) about the ideas of â€œcheatingâ€ or health risks involved. Itâ€™s akin to a skyscraper worker or coal miner, they have occupations that involve high health risks â€“ but the payoff to them is worth the risk. I believe doping is simply an occupational hazard for some (if not many) professional athletes. If this is to be stopped, you must make it far more hazardous to be caught using. Develop a new culture that doping is so risky and hazardous that no one does it, so I donâ€™t have to either.
If the IOC, major sporting organizations, and popular opinion truly want to eliminate (or simply decrease) doping in sport â€“ drastic measures must be taken. They canâ€™t expect to be able to test for every performing enhancing drug, they will always be one step behind â€“ so you must make the risk-benefit of doping highly tilted to the risk side. A 2 year suspension isnâ€™t going to do it, thatâ€™s not going to drastically affect a career (one wonâ€™t even likely miss an Olympics). How about 5 years for a first time, and life for a 2nd pop? How about forfeiting any medals and prize money won in the subsequent year you are tested positive? Harsh, yes. Excessive, maybe. But you must make testing positive so detrimental that no one wants to take the risk. Will innocents get caught up â€“ possibly, but that often happens in any aggressive judicial process. Itâ€™s either something like this or abolish testing altogether â€“ allow funding for research into doping use (NSF, ACSM, etc.) so that athletes are educated on the most safe and effective use of dopants. While I think the latter is easier implemented and more reasonable, I assume most would prefer to continue banning doping. (Note: I donâ€™t have kids, and people I know that do have told me that a main concern is their children thinking they need to dope to win â€“ so please take my opinion about abolishing testing with a grain of salt :) Genetic manipulation, which I think Butch mentioned, flat out scares the crap out of me â€“ outside of the athletic spectrum, and mostly on the side of bioethics. I wonâ€™t go into it here, but I sure hope it doesnâ€™t come soon.
Itâ€™s the preconceived notion that doping is necessary to keep up â€“ because everyone else is doing it - that perpetuates the situation. And itâ€™s the lack of education about doping that leads to the negative health effect seen in many former athletes. Are all dopants bad for health? Is there a healthy level one can use? I believe we should either answer these questions, or aggressively eliminate their use. Neither route is easy, or a cure-all to the problem, but are necessary to make a
stand in the area of athlete doping. If you want to eliminate doping, you must change the entire culture of sport â€“ make the penalties for testing positive so severe that athletes absolve the thought of doping altogether. This half-assed approach (for lack of a better term) they have now - namely the variability of testing procedures, frequency, and penalties across different sports/events - isnâ€™t going to cut it.
And a personal note: I believe the Olympic are NOT tainted. The Olympics is, and always has been, a display of the finest athletics. It is an incredible spectacle and worthy of the worldwide attention it receives every four years. I say the same for Olympic Weightlifting as well. There has been scandal and controversy - but that shouldn't take any credit away from the hard work of these athletes. I have heard from people, most of them non-athletes, that the Olympics are simply a 'roided up freak show. The Olympics are a freak show, just like the Nobel Prize ceremony. You don't become a Olympic champion or Nobel Prize winner without a combination of great genetics, an incredible work ethic, determination, and mental toughness. These people are "freaks" - several standard deviations away from the norm. There is no level playing field - as the variability of human beings makes this impossible. All the doping in the world isn't going to make "Average Joe" an elite athlete. But that doesnâ€™t mean that these â€œfreaksâ€ donâ€™t deserve every bit of what they earned, and watching them not enjoyed. In many cases, doping has simply brought numbers up (or down), not altered places on the medal stand. I'm not trying to justify doping here, just simply trying to put it into perspective. To say the Olympics needs to be cleaned up is one thing, to call it and all its participants â€œtaintedâ€ is entirely another â€“ and wholly unjustified.
Many of the opinions and facts in this little post come from years of talking to everyone from sports fans to elite athletes. Iâ€™ve had many great discussions about this with friends that are directly involved in many different areas of athletics â€“ so my opinions are very much derived from these discussions. All of this of course in the end is my humble opinion (hence all the â€œI believeâ€ statements) about the situation â€“ I could be wrong :) But hopefully it can spark some good discourse.
On the topic of Doping
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