Doping: Unfair play

The world of sports is getting more competitive over time. Athletes, in general, are stronger and faster now than ever before. 

In an article by Business Insider on Aug. 14, 2016, Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician and Mayo Clinic researcher said, “What you know for a fact is people began to train progressively harder starting some time around 1900.” 

The athletes have reaped their rewards as well. Numerous records in athletic events have been broken in recent times as athletes continue to exceed expectations and standards by not only improving physically but mentally as well.

However, there is a dark side to the race for achieving sporting glory. In a bid to become faster, stronger and better, the use of performance-enhancing drugs is frequently seen. 

One of the recent instances of doping is the Russian athletes who have been banned from this year’s Winter Olympics. With the claims of former Russian anti-doping official Grigory Rodchenkov regarding the state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes, the International Olympic Committee had initially banned 43 athletes for life. 

President of IOC Thomas Bach has described Russian doping as “an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport.” 

The ban may seem like a severe ruling by the IOC. However, the effectiveness of the decision has come into question as 169 Russian athletes will still compete under a neutral flag. 42 of the 43 athletes that were banned have also appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The ban has been overruled for 28 athletes. In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live, Jim Walden, Rodchenkov’s lawyer, described his client’s life to be under serious threat. 

The reinstatement of Russian athletes to the Winter Olympics has been met by strong opposition. Bryan Fogel, director of the Netflix documentary “Icarus,” which highlights the state-sponsored doping in Russia, gives his view in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live.

“When faced with the biggest scandal in Olympic history, a 40-year-scandal that calls into question the entire history of the Olympic Games, how do they act?” said Fogel. “They act by giving Russia a slap on the wrist.”

The IOC and doping is not a new scandal. It has been going on for years. The IOC has stripped increasingly more medals from athletes in each of the Olympic Games since the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Doping is also not limited to Olympic Games and Russia. One of the biggest doping scandals surrounds cyclist Lance Armstrong. He was stripped of his Tour de France titles after being guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball has also had their fair share of problems with the accusations of players using performance-enhancing drugs.

In an article for The New York Times, professional cyclist Jonathan Vaughters writes why most of the athletes choose the route of doping. 

He writes, “Doping can be that last two percent. It would keep your dream alive, at least, in the eyes of those who couldn’t see your heart.” 

Vaughters highlights the competitive nature of modern sport and the extent to which athletes go to continue to live their dream. 

Doping does not only affect those who use the drugs but also those who chose the clean path, worked hard but were denied of their goal due to cheating. Although IOC might award them the medal in the later years after stripping the medal from the cheating athlete, the joy of getting the medal will never be the same as in the bigger stages of Olympics or a similar competition.

With the prevalent problem of doping, one can only hope for rigorous antidoping regulation and its implementation. But more importantly, one could hope for the athletes to make the right choice.