It is becoming more and more common in the news to see sportsmen and women getting caught out for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). There is such a “win at all cost” mentality put onto sportspeople that they often feel an absurd amount of pressure, so much so that they will turn PEDs to give them the edge over their competition.
These people may go ahead to win competitions, break records and become heroes in the public eye. Look at the likes of Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson and Marion Jones, who took drugs to become the best in the world, but at what cost?
With new-fangled methods of drugs testing being brought out at a much faster rate, we are seeing technology that can pick up on new drugs, or able to retest old samples that have been preserved from athletes. These new testing methods are constantly finding PEDs that would have previously been undetected in urine and blood samples. Not only are new testing methods being put into action, but the amount of testing is on the rise.
In 2015 alone, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) collected a total of 180,720 samples from a range of sports in the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, including aquatics (12,973), cycling (22,652) and football (32,362). Although most of these athletes tested clean for banned substances, a grand total of 1,575 athletes were found with banned substances in their bodies.
In this case, these athletes were found and punished for their actions, but what about the people that get away with it?
There are a lot of questions surrounding the use of PEDs. People are beginning to argue that they should be legalised across many sports; their points being, ‘It will make sports more exciting’, ‘We will see new barriers being broken’ and perhaps the most ‘sensible’ argument of them all, ‘It will make all sports fair.’
With the use of PEDs no longer being restricted, everyone could go out there and know that they have the same opportunity and preparedness as the person next to them – a ‘level playing field’, if you will.
Although I see that this could solve a lot of sporting issues, save a lot of sport governing bodies money, and perhaps make sports more exciting for viewers, I stand by the argument that PEDs should remain banned from all sports.
Sport is a global activity that connects all different nations and people.
So much hope and happiness is derived from sports in today’s society, and as it’s something that has so much influence on people from all walks of life, it deserves to be kept pure and honest.
Sport is a great example of what hard work, dedication, and humility can achieve. If taking a drug can allow you to achieve all the glory that a hard-working sports person can train all their lives to achieve, is that really living up to and honouring the name of sports?
The Olympic Games
Perhaps the pinnacle of every athlete’s career and the goal every athlete wishes to achieve is reaching the Olympic Games.
It’s something only the best of the best can achieve, and sportspeople from all over the globe admire the whole Olympic atmosphere. Those who achieve Olympian status, also look up to the Olympic Values, and the idea of “Olympism”, whether they are competing in the Games or not.
The Olympics is based around three core values: Excellence, Friendship, and Respect.
Excellence is all about the commitment of giving one’s best efforts out on the field. A big part of this is striving to be and do the best you can. Is this something you can wholeheartedly say you are doing if you know you are not being true to yourself and your talents if you are relying on the benefits of PEDs?
The value of Friendship focuses on using sports to connect and gather understanding with people from all around the world. How can a drugs cheat say they are connecting ties with people from around the world if they are deceiving them and being dishonest?
The final Olympic value is Respect, which incorporates respect for one’s self, body & mind, and the rules and regulations of the sport, including fair play and the fight against doping.
As you can see, Respect is the Olympic Value that is threatened most by the act of doping. With regards to one’s self – doping can be a huge risk to a person’s health. Every type of drug holds its own risk, but some of the most common risks with any PEDs are trauma to internal organs, hypertension, increased risks of heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, and many other physiological risks.
The effect of PEDs on mental health is also detrimental, leading to nervousness, increased aggression, anxiety, and possible addiction. These are some of the health effects that PEDs can have, and we can already see how unhealthy and unnatural this is.
The value of Respect also holds the standards of fair play and fighting against doping. The use of PEDs totally goes against this, no questions asked.
PEDs instantly go against the idea of fair play, as that performer is trying to gain an unfair advantage over their opponent, and an unethical advantage at that.
I want to touch on one argument that people are known to make when talking about the possible benefits of legalising PEDs – this being that if everyone used PEDs, all sports would be a level playing field. Chris Smith, a Forbes sports writer, said;
“Not only would the playing field suddenly be even for all players, but it would be at a higher level. Performance enhancing drugs would help athletes climb even higher. Steroids and doping will help pitchers to throw harder, home runs to go further, cyclists to charge for longer and sprinters to test the very limits of human speed.”
There are no doubts that legalising PEDs would take sport to a whole new level of performances. We would likely see records broken every year, and of course, that would bring more excitement to the field.
But look at what we are sacrificing. Knowing that athletes aren’t performing with their whole heart because their success is all down to a PED in their body.
Would we be able to look at athletes as role models anymore? Would we want the generations to come, growing up to admire sporting champions who were untrue to themselves and the values of their profession and lifestyle?
Yes, legalising PEDs for the sake of a level playing field seems appealing, but is that ever really going to be the case? For example, USA Track and Field has a huge sum of money in the bank that could be put towards fashioning the most effective, health benefiting PEDs.
Their athletes would only be getting the best of the best, with every sample being tested for anything that could possibly be wrong, to ensure that the athlete is not only going to get the most benefit out of the drug but also going to not deteriorate in health as a side effect.
Then, let’s look at a country like Samoa, a tiny island with a population of just under 200,000. This country isn’t one that is essentially thriving financially – how could they afford to fund their athletes in ensuring that they are able to have the same level of PEDs as a country like America or Great Britain or China?
Smaller countries don’t necessarily have money to spare to spend on fashioning the best PEDs for their athletes. Therefore, certain countries are still going to have the edge over their competitors, because of better funding and government support. This takes us right back to the initial problem of “people don’t have a level playing field.” PEDs might not even solve this issue.
Is sport something we really want to change? Our society is ever changing. Politics, economics and the general nature of working life are full of stresses.
The people of today need a release of some sort, and I believe that comes from sport.
The whole nation – and the whole world can sit down and watch something pure, stimulating and inspiring. Sport promotes good ethics and fitness – something that really needs to be emphasized in the current society, from the young to the old.
Sport provides a lot of hope and happiness worldwide, bringing nations together, building friendships and helping to make memories that last a lifetime.
Is it really something we’re willing to start to taint with twisted morals and falseness, all for the sake of a bit of a better show? I don’t think it’s worth it.
Keep the passion, keep the drive, and keep the hunger of athletes alive, and sport will continue to blow our minds and fill our hearts.
- “Why It’s Time To Legalize Steroids In Professional Sports” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 3 July 2013.
- WADA. “2015 Anti-Doping Testing Figures” World Anti-Doping Agency, World Anti-Doping Agency, 2015.