Millions of fans are often shocked when it is announced that their hero, the athlete who they admired, is stripped of his or her gold medal and disqualified for the use of prohibited substances.
Doping is a plague that has infected sports. It has become so difficult to root out that it has been termed “the Cancer of sports.”
When did doping in sports begin?
It seems that it was mainly after the second world war that some athletes began using drugs in sports.
Now, though, according to experts, the use of drugs among athletes is so widespread that it necessitates “complicated and costly organizations, often founded by the sports federations themselves, with the clear aim of obtaining prestigious results, attracting sponsors, making money, gaining power
In fact, the use of drugs and other illegal therapies to gain, unfairly, the competitive edge plagues many sports in all countries.
Each country wants to surpass the others, so no one wants to stop giving drugs to athletes.
The ambitious expectations and frequent sporting events keep an athlete under such pressure as to increase the temptation to make use of more or less legal means of maintaining good physical and psychological form.
The temptation is also made greater by the fact that sports trainers have few scruples. Doping is even now practiced on young boys.
Some forms of doping
Various forms of doping exist. For example,
Steroids, these are substances that, by influencing the production of amino acids, contribute to the increase of muscle mass and strength as well as to an increase in aggressiveness.
Stimulants, such as caffeine and strychnine, used to increase alertness and delay fatigue.
Narcotic analgesics are used to kill pain and to induce calmness.
Beta blockers are substances that, by slowing the heartbeat and steadying the body, are used particularly by archers and marksmen.
Diuretics are used for rapid weight loss and for masking the presence of other prohibited substances at the time tests are made.
These are just some of the well-known substances used in doping, but the International Olympic Committee has drawn up a list of hundreds of prohibited drugs.
The problem is that as soon as one of them is banned or methods are developed to detect its presence, whole teams of doctors and chemists set to work to produce others.
However, there are still other ways in which athletes try to improve their performance dishonestly.
In order to better their position in the water, some swimmers have had their intestines filled with helium gas.
Many athletes have admitted receiving blood transfusions to improve their endurance.
According to some, by means of a transfusion of their own red blood cells, drawn from them some time previously, the flow of oxygen to all parts of the body, muscles included, is improved.
Some women athletes have even used pregnancies as a form of doping.
Pregnant women experience an increase in blood volume, and this in turn increases the conveyance of oxygen to the muscles.
Some women athletes, especially those taking part in sports where great physical strength is required, have taken advantage of the initial stages of pregnancy in order to improve their performance.
After the games, they have an abortion.
How serious is the problem?
Judging by the rare occurrences in which athletes are disqualified for the use of drugs, some fans might think that only a small percentage of athletes resort to doping, and certainly their idols would never do anything of the sort.
But those who are acquainted with the sports world see things differently. According to some sources, 50 percent of the more physically endowed athletes make use of some substances to enhance performance.
But the problem of doping does not lie simply in that better performance can be obtained by unfair means.
Today’s athlete, and especially the one who takes drugs, is part of a much larger, though hidden, team, which includes doctors able to prescribe forbidden substances if necessary.
However, it is the athlete who pays the consequences—the shame of being found out or disqualified and, more important, the serious health risks.
It is believed that anabolic steroids cause damage to the liver and to the cardiovascular system as well as produce various other secondary physical effects.
These drugs are also held responsible for damage to the urogenital system, and for the violent personality of some athletes.
The abuse of other drugs, such as stimulants, provokes a “state of confusion, toxic dependence, visual hallucinations.”
As for blood transfusions, the scientific periodical Doctor points out that the infusion of an athlete’s own red blood cells is not without risks.
One of these is the “overloading and the reduction of the blood flow in certain areas caused by the increase of the viscosity of the blood” and the accumulation of iron “with negative consequences for the parenchyma (liver, kidneys, heart, endocrine glands, etc.).”
Can it be expected that antidrug measures will succeed in combating this plague?
Well, according to the experts, very few centers are equipped to do the proper testing, and the tests themselves are very expensive. Also, test results have often been falsified.
Furthermore, in spite of what has been achieved in recent years, new doping methods are always one step ahead of the means of detecting them.
Why do athletes dope?
Athletes dope because of the narcissism that makes them champions “demigods.”
Then there is also nationalism and the resultant political implications.
Sport has become a great vehicle for social promotion. The more victories it wins, the more a nation is considered.”
Money is also one of the new values that has become part of the sporting world.
Considerable financial and commercial interests—television-transmission rights, publicity, lotteries, and sponsorships—ensure “unscrupulous competition,” even among the sportsmen themselves.
A former soccer player said that soccer “is no longer a game. It’s just a business.”
The prevailing principle is victory at all costs, and according to the new values of today, this means everything—even doping and its lethal effects to unfairness and unscrupulousness.
The sporting spirit, so-called fair play, seems to have become a thing of the past. Will it ever return?
Judging by what is said, people hope so, but the facts are anything but encouraging.
Only time will tell how the fight on doping will turn out, all we can do is hope is that an effect remedy is found.