There has been a lot of media coverage about drugs in sport lately. Many sports are receiving as much attention for athletes’ behaviour outside of competition as they are for the competition itself as a result these stories have become part of the professional sports landscape.
Drug testing in sport is designed to detect and deter abuse of performance-enhancing drugs by competitors. This goes to the very heart of the Australian culture. We love our sport - the spectacle, the challenge, the winners and good losers. We love stories of triumph over tragedy and the battle of the underdog. Underlying all of this are our nation’s strong values of fairness and triumph through hard work. Drugs in sport contravene and challenge our very notion of the level playing field. This is why drug testing has evolved to play an important part in the process of modern sport.
Professional athletes are under pressure to win for their country, and some drugs may help them enhance their performance. There are many reasons that athletes are driven to be the best: besides the personal desire to succeed, most athletes are able to earn substantially more money if they can improve their performance. Since athletes have relatively short careers, most finish in their mid 20’s, they have to achieve their peak performance quickly in order to maximise their ‘value’ on and off the field of play.
The temptation to ‘do whatever it takes“ must be strong. The pressure to stay at the top of your game when, your body is aging and suffering under the rigorous workload must be enormous and is probably what motivated Canadian Ben Johnson, one of the fastest 100 metre sprinters during the 1980’s. His battles against the American Carl Lewis were legendary. The 100-metre sprint between Johnson and Lewis at the 1988 Seoul Olympic games became infamous and looking back now is a classic illustration of the clash in attitudes to performance enhancing drugs and the battle for the ‘ideal’ of the level playing field.
At the Seoul Olympics, Ben Johnson won the gold medal and broke the world record to become the fastest man on earth. Lewis came second, also in record time, and later accused Johnson of taking performance-enhancing drugs. Johnson ended up testing positive for anabolic steroids. He was subsequently stripped of his gold medal and world record and banned from competition for two years. Lewis was awarded the gold and the World Record in his place.
It appears many athletes don't believe that they can be successful without using banned substances. Some cheats are so arrogant they present themselves as super human legends and truly believe they are at war with the anti doping agencies as much as their sporting rivals. The ‘art’ of drug taking and the length some athletes will go too disguise their cheating was dramatically revealed, to the worst level, by the recent admission of cycling greatest man. Lance Armstrong. He never failed a drug test but the once revered cyclist, who fought cancer, was finally forced to admit he was a career cheater who used performance-enhancing drugs to win all of his 7 Tour de France Titles.
He admitted using testosterone and human growth hormone, as well as EPO, which is a hormone naturally produced by human kidneys, to stimulate red blood cell production. It increases the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to muscles, improving recovery and endurance.
The complicated and sophisticated science behind such cheating suggests there must be a hidden world in sport where lots of money is spent in order to win. But what are the costs in terms of health for the athletes.
Doping is dangerous as it can drastically change the way your body functions. For example, if you've been working out for some time and you've taken drugs, then your body forgets how to regulate itself. This can lead to overheating of the body and dehydration. It impacts on your vital organs and can