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Sport free of doping or glory at all costs: That is not the question anymore

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“Sport is a very important subject at school, that's why I gave Quidditch such an important place at Hogwarts. I was very bad in sports, so I gave Harry a talent I would really loved to have. Who wouldn't want to fly?”  - J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels
Even Greek mythology embraces the human desire to fly, as many of us might recall in the escape story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus, from Crete. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of a bird's wings. Daedalus advised his son to fly at a medium altitude and follow his path of flight. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax, and if he flew too low, the sea could dampen the feathers. Unfortunately, Icarus became euphoric, and against the wisdom of his father, he glided higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy dropped into the sea and drowned. 
This myth has its own interpretation in sport psychology; moreover, it serves perfectly as a foreword for this reflection on the prevalence of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) in contemporary sports in which athletes are tempted to fly above human body limits or cruise too low under the radar of clean sport. At both altitudes, they gamble with their well-being. 
In 1997, Bamberger and Yaeger surveyed 198 mostly US Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. They asked if the athletes would take PEDs under the hypothetical premise of not being caught and knowing they would be guaranteed a victory; 195 of 198 responded “yes”. Additionally, if the caveat was added that they would die from the side effects within 5 years, 61% of the athletes still said they would use PEDs.

From its inception, at the beginning of the 20th century, the modern Olympic movement has been struggling with PEDs. In the modern era, the first reported doping case was in the 1904 Olympics. Up until the 1920s, high-level athletes frequently used the mixtures of strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine. The assumption that doping is a recent occurrence that surfaced exclusively due to endorsements offered to quintessential super-athletes is a highly distorted one.  Moreover, in the third century BC, ancient Greek Olympians used alcoholic concoctions, consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms, and sesame seeds to boost their performance. Various plants were used to enhance speed and endurance, while others were taken to numb pain, allowing injured athletes to continue competing. However, in ancient Greece, doping was considered unethical. Cheaters who were caught were banned for life and some were even sold into slavery. Roman gladiators as well used stimulants to overcome fatigue and injury. 
Doping exists in almost all sport disciplines at every imaginable level, from young athletes, all the way to legendary champions. Moreover, given the lack of ethical discourse concerning the issue, even some leading scholars are misguidedly pondering the legitimate allowance of doping in sport. These problems are also found at the national levels of sport, notably in the emerging, developing, and least developed countries. The amount of money thrown at young athletes by multi-million dollar lucrative endorsements and professional contracts makes the sporting environment further prone to delinquency, and adversely impacts the life choices of families from the earliest stages of childhood development.
Former Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Richard W. Pound firmly formulated the intertwined complexity of doping prevalence in global contemporary sport: "Drug use, within entire teams continues unabated. It is planned and deliberate cheating, with complex methods, sophisticated substances and techniques, and the active complicity of doctors, scientists, team officials and riders. There is nothing accidental about it."
As JK Rowling noted: “Sport is a very important subject at school …”. Most people would agree that physical education and sport should be included in every society as a tool of character formation in children and youth. In developing countries, sport plays a crucial and natural role in gender inclusiveness. Successful athletes, often called ‘super-athletes,’ have always been looked up to as role models for younger aspiring athletes. The history of ancient sport and the recent history of the Olympic movement offer multiple examples where sport has been a vital instrument used by national leaders to unite a country and enhance a nation's image within the international arena. As a powerful global, social, political, educational, and economic phenomenon, sport must remain protected from benign neglect and dishonesty within.
The President of WADA, Sir Craig Reedie concluded: “We need to rally all sport’s stakeholders – including broadcasters and sponsors – to the clean sport cause. The public loves sport. In fact, gate revenues are estimated to cover one third of the sport industry’s total value; clear evidence of the public’s desire to watch sport en masse. Public opinion is also firmly in favour of a level playing field, and so we all have a duty to protect the clean athletes and ensure the fairest, most efficient system possible is in place for athletes across the world. Sport, government, athletes, broadcasters and sponsors alike share this important duty.”
The pressure surrounding the doping problem has reached a boiling point. Doping is a cancerous cell within global sport and physical education. It needs to be extracted by an immediate worldwide systematic and collective overhaul simultaneously for and by those who desperately yearn for sport that is ethical and clean. It would also be an especially gratifying service for the young generations now on the rise. 
The USADA’s chief executive, Travis Tygart, made it clear: “This is not a sport issue. This is an issue for our country, for our youth.” All the stakeholders are exhausted and ready for a meaningful change from within the community of global sport. Interestingly, the young Olympians and Olympic hopefuls are starting to get fed up with cheating, and they openly express concern about the future of engaging in a sport contest that is free of doping. We cannot lose the war on doping. We must preserve the joy of the weightless state of mind, soul and body, while competing clean! 

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Submitted by aldo matteucci on

I'm puzzled about the stigma attached to doping when high-tech countries can use "high-tech doping" - i.e. computers, experts of all kinds - to achieve comparable or better results. Let's face it: no athlete today wins without massive help - from a horde of experts, or drugs.

Of course, the best should win - but raw, not trafficked in any way.

Submitted by Leszek Sibilski on

Very thoughtful point Aldo! I completely share your view. I crave for a "raw" sport as well. The affluent countries/sport federations definitely have the techno/pharma/med/physio edge over the emerging and developing nations; however, some of them go for copy-cat solutions by hiring "experts". During the Olympics in Beijing, I noticed that not every type of Gatorade is being served to athletes, I asked the organizers why: I was told that some of them contain forbidden substances! Have you ever wondered who is checking on gym and country club athletes? In 2015, the gym athlete industry revenues worldwide totaled $81 billion in revenue as more than 187,000 clubs served some 151 million members - 55.3 in US only. According to my observations, doping starts within a family where the parents are very short-sighted and greedy for quick wins. Just to substantiate, both of my kids didn't receive antibiotics until age 18 b/c of my beliefs in a culture free of pills. Yes, this is not about the athletes only anymore, this is about their entourage, which quite often plays the role of enablers. ... but there is a hope for sport, and it comes from the X Games and its subculture. Thanks for voicing your concerns.

Submitted by Yann N'Douffou on

The answer should be having a glory to have fight against the temptation and win the victory over being doping to win.

Submitted by Zoha Tariq on

As America's sports communities grows larger & gain a larger audience around the globe, this issue is going to be even more controversial which means it needs to be sorted out. A verdict must be reached about what practices are appropriate and what are not when it comes to athletes' performances.

Submitted by Georgia De buerba on

this article arises a very good point in today's time. The sad truth of it is no athlete wins on skill alone. It's also a yeast to see how far coaches will push their players. No mercy in some cases. As much as everyone blames the athletes becUse they should know better. The coaches should no even more and should no be tyrants about wins and losses.

Submitted by Jacob Munson on

Sport is and has always been a distraction from the real issues of the world. It is easier to pay athletes and teams millions to make us forget about curing diseases or feeding the hungry. The entire sport industry is far too overpaid and recieve too much undeserving attention.

Submitted by Fatima Khan on

The issue of doping is a very serious one. One huge factor is that it would make it unfair for other competitors if their opponent was performing better due to the use of drugs. On top of that, the health problems that occur as a result of doping are-as mentioned above- extremely seriously. The problem here may partially be the excessive need for success. Though it is understandable that athletes would obviously want to win, when that win compromises the health of the athlete, there is a serious problem. With all that said, I think the use of doping is understandable given the amount of pressure athletes are put under. However, in my opinion, it is not an excuse.

Submitted by Nick Castiblanco on

I believe that doping should be absolutely banned from all events because it provides an unfair advantage to those using any type of performance enhancing drug. Just take a look at how Lance Armstrong was stripped clean of his seven tour de France titles and one olympic bronze medals. it will bring shame on your name and give you a bad reputation. For this reason it is best that these drugs be prohibited in all competitions in all forms.

Submitted by Melissa Aguilar on

It's quite upsetting that athletes do not have the same opportunities these days, It seems the odds are in the favor of those who have more resources and money. There should be equal opportunities for athletes to be able to reach their full potential.

Submitted by Kristian Bonilla on

We should all love sport. However, sports should be ethical and clean! Say "NO" to drugs while doing sports... Sports are ways to keep us healthy but not unhealthy!

Submitted by Andrea Aramayo on

It amazes me how powerful sports are! There are many advantages to them especially how they are introduced to young children in school as a way to keep them healthy and socializing with others.

Submitted by Herwina Allyssa on

The use of performing enhancing drugs have constantly been an issue in the sport world. I believe that it mainly has to do with the lengths that people are willing to go through to get that win. The fact that 61% of people are still willing to take PED's even though they are told that they would die in 5 years of the side effects shows that there is a problem. It's great that the younger and upcoming olympians are standing up against doping in sports and promoting a dope free sport environment.

Submitted by Jin Oh on

It is sad to see how athletes from developed countries use supplements to play sports in order their expectations on the field or on the court. There are athletes around the world who inspired young people while having those kids no idea how these athletes take supplements. If anyone wants to perform should show real natural talent.

Submitted by Andrea Aramayo on

It amazes me how powerful sports are! There are many advantages to them especially how they are introduced to young children in school as a way to keep them healthy and socializing with others.

Submitted by Yosef on

From my experiences with running I have come to appreciate the true power that sports can have on our state of mind and overall well being. But when the joy of activity is overlooked or sacrificed for the desire to be called "the best" at any cost, I think it is a corruption of the greatness and power of sports.

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