To compete in the modern Olympic Games, to win gold, to stand on the rostrum as the flag is raised and the national anthem played is the dream of many. But it will come true for only a few. Only the gifted, only the dedicated; only the best will win. And maybe a few drug cheats? Modern sport is plagued by suspicions that many top athletes resort to drug-taking – doping – to enhance their performance. They use anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants or diuretics. While drugs such as these get a lot of publicity, they are perhaps not well understood. What do they do? What are the health risks in the short or long term? Can the drugs be detected? And maybe most important of all, what should be done with the perpetrators?
Most people in Britain have heard the sad story of Alain Baxter a British skier. In Salt Lake City he won a bronze medal for his third place in the slalom event. Unfortunately he tested positive for a drug called methamphetamine. Just before his actual event he had a cold due to the freezing conditions in Utah. He decided to use a VIX inhaler to get rid of a bunged up nose. Unluckily for him this VIX inhale contained this banned substance. He tried to convince the IOC that he was not a cheat, but the IOC were having none of it. If he had told the IOC before he skied he would not have had his bronze medal stripped.
This makes an interesting argument; many athletes who have been found with illegal drugs in their bodies have used the argument that they must have taken something that contained the banned drug. The IOC, however, have banned these drugs because they increase the athletes performance. So if the athletes have these drugs in there bodies then, despite where thy came from, they should be punished. Even if it got there by accident and it was not the athletes “fault”, they should still be punished because it is still giving them and edge over the competitors.
The issue of detection is critical to minimising the use of drugs in sport. If the regulations imposed by sporting bodies are impossible to check then some athletes will ignore them. Alternatively, if drug-testing is quick, easy and reliable, we stand a much better chance of catching drug cheats. Unfortunately, as the science of detection advances, so too does the science of hiding the evidence of drug abuse. Complicating factor in drug detection is that many performance-enhancing drugs occur naturally in the body. For this reason, sporting bodies usually set benchmarks – if the amount of the substance detected is above the benchmark, the athlete is said to be guilty of doping.
I personally feel that the athletes that have banned substances in there bodies get away lightly. At the moment the national body of the sport in each country controls when and how the drug tests are taken place. In Britain they have a good way of doing this; they do random checks on athlete’s day or night. This is the only way you will catch the offenders, if it is done during the actual event the drugs may not be present in the body. The drugs are used to increase there fitness during training. Other countries do not do drug testing randomly, this makes it harder for them to catch cheats.
Also the national bodies control the punishment of there athletes. Of course the national bodies aren’t going to want there nation look like cheats so they give them small bans and make up an excuse that the drug was for example in a VIX inhaler. Seeing as this kind is a regular occurrence an athlete is not scared of taking the drugs because they will not be punished badly. If the cheats got banned for life or put in jail then other athletes thinking about cheating will stop doing it. Therefore we will have a much fairer Olympics.
Some people argue that drugs should be legalised, to make it fair on all of the athletes. This argument is based on the fact that countries and the athletes can afford the drugs. This is not always the case, drugs are very expensive, and so it is hard for the poorer countries to put money into researching and making the drugs. In fact only Europe, America and Australia could afford the drugs. This would mean that the Olympic Games and other sporting events would just be made up from these three areas. However, if the IOC decided to ration the drugs then it would be fairer to poorer countries. There is still a problem with this; the richer countries could produce more powerful drugs, again having an unfair advantage.
Historians point out that drugs have probably been used to enhance sporting performance for more than 3000 years, so it’s unlikely the problem will ever go away. Some people even think that the legalisation of the drugs should occur. Others say the only way to ensure the health of our athletes is to stamp out drugs altogether. For now, performance-enhancing drugs are illegal, so athletes who use them are cheats; even if the drug is found in a VIX inhaler.