Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics was one of the first to point out the necessity of protecting sports from the perils threatening it as an institution. And one of those dangers we face today are the use of performance enhancing drugs in virtually every sport. For decades now, drugs are being used by various sportspersons. Not only is this against the very spirit of sport, but this widespread phenomenon has raised concern over the moral values attached to sport. Be it swimming, cycling, baseball, tracking, skiing, football, the presence of doping can be seen in every sport.
Various notable names have gone down in history that has used these performance enhancing drugs. Take for example Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong, Shoaib Akhtar etc. Even our very own Indian athlete Sunita Rani was put under the scan for allegedly using dope and thereby caught. But the important thing to understand is their reasoning behind using such banned substances. In this era of competition and ambition, most sportspersons are under great pressure to win either for glory or money. This is the reasoning behind doping being rampant in tournaments like the Olympics, Tour de France etc. But though the positive effects of these deleterious drugs can be felt immediately their negative impacts on health are extremely high. These drugs include stimulants such as amphetamines (reduces tiredness), anabolic agents such as nandrolene (increases muscle size and strength), blood doping such as EPO (better endurance, particularly beneficial to long distance runners, cyclists and swimmers) etc. On the flip side, however, these have life-threatening health consequences which can result in diseases such as cancers, heart attacks, kidney damage, abnormal growth of organs, increased blood pressure, genitalia-related diseases, comas and death.
Nowadays, there are strict anti-doping tests which are conducted before every tournament. But even though technology has evolved, there are slim chances of detecting various banned substances like blood doping and gene doping. Take for example Marion Jones, who was stripped of the five medals she won in 2000 Olympics, following a confession that she had taken steroids at that time but was never tested positive. There are new anti-doping measures being developed every year – the most recent one being “Biological Passports” which records deviations in biological attributes of athletes over the years.
Drugs are also utilized for various other purposes as well. Several successful athletes and professional bodybuilders have admitted long-term methandrostenolone use before the drug was banned, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva. Various sportspersons have also been in news for using recreational drugs. For example, Michael Phelps was recently caught for smoking marijuana, football legend Diego Maradona for his use of cocaine, heroin etc.
But there are some people who argue that serious sport has nothing to do with fair play and believe that performance enhancing drugs should be legalized. These opponents argue that it will give everyone a level playing field ignoring its health risks. But I, for one, disagree. Sport is one of the first manifestations of normalcy to appear after natural disasters and wars, as recovery begins. Every society in the world marvels at the human potential displayed in sport. But most importantly, perhaps in this age of corporate cheating that has contributed to the recession, sport reflects society’s values. If we can’t play fair, there is no way we will do business fairly, or govern fairly. So let us all come together to curb this menace. And one last message to all the budding athletes “Don’t use dope, always have hope”.