By Marina Souliman
Sports, whether team sport or individual sport, are haunted by doping, also known as the use of performance enhancing drugs. Throughout the years, headlines shedding light on doping scandals have plagued the news cycle, ultimately bringing awareness to the culture behind it.
Doping offers athletes an opportunity to better their performance by taking banned drugs. The most common classes of these drugs are stimulants and hormones which have been known to cause health risks.
Doping goes back all the way to Ancient Greece with athletes who used natural stimulants to improve their athletic performance in games. Some of these included wines or even eating animal organs such as hearts.
In the past century, regulations against doping in international sport has increased but significant change has come since Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic bronze medal after admitting to his use of performance enhancing drugs.
Androgenic agents are the most commonly used, giving athletes the chance to further the intensity of their training and help them recover quickly. Despite the added endurance, androgenic agents have been proven to lead to kidney damage and aggression. Stimulants such as these allow athletes to be more alert and help them overcome fatigue but they put them at risk of bodily damage such as addiction and heart failure.
Doping poses a threat to both the integrity of sports and the athletes themselves. The prevalence of doping has increased in sports as the availability and options have increased. Recently, doping became an institutionalized effort in Russia which led the World Anti-Doping Agency to indefinitely suspend the country from international track and field events.
Although it is understandable that sports have become more competitive tempting many athletes to participate in doping, the possibility of continuing doping poses several threats. Besides the obvious health risks athletes may face, peer pressure may force clean athletes to start doping just to keep up with their counterparts. Doping gives unfair advantages to those who choose to use performance enhancing drugs leaving other athletes in the dust.
Alysia Montaño, an American middle distance runner, lost to Mariya Savinova, one of the Russian athletes implicated in the Russian doping scandal, in the 800 meters final at the 2012 London Olympics.
“My whole race plan was based on doing what I could to get a head start to beat the dopers. That’s how I approached it. It’s so sad my race plan had to be like that. It had to be like, ‘Okay, I’m racing against robots. How can I try to get a leg up on them before they start coming after me?’” Montaño said to the Washington Post.
Athletes like Montaño face challenges out of their control in trying to beat athletes they have no chance against due to doping. This reality must be realized and further, more action must be taken in order to ensure that sports on every level maintain fair, ethical standards.