Many of us, especially kids, aspire to professional athletes and look up them as positive role models. The physical achievement of making it to the top of your sport as an athlete is always attributed to sheer hard work. What we all don’t know is that many athletes are pure liars and have achieved the greatness they have obtained through drug use.
The naivety of people does shock me a little. I remember back when I was running for a local running club some 10 years ago now, I recall discussing Lance Armstrong and the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). The guys I discussed this with were shocked when I stated that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was taking PED’s. One even got offended and got quite irate, defending his Tour de France hero proclaiming “he’d never do steroids, it would be too risky to his career and health”. Well ten years on and it’s all out in the open….hate to say I told you so.
If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
History of drugs in sport
The use of PED’s in sport is not something new. Notably in the 60’s the East Germans were keen to prove their superiority over others in many aspects (including the Olympics). The East German government initiated a sophisticated doping regime which essentially put all their athletes on steroids without the athletes knowing. They dominated the Olympics at the cost of many of the athletes’ careers and health.
Fast forward to the Seoul 1988 Olympic games. Ben Johnson wins the 100 metre sprint by a huge margin and smashes Carl Lewis. The next day it is announced he fails a doping test. Reports from the time also suggest that most of the entire field who ran the final were on some kind of PED (including Carl Lewis).
The Tour De France. Need I say any more? It’s now common knowledge that most of the field until very recently were all on a cocktail of PED’s including EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions
American football. Look at the Lyle Alzado story, the whole sport is full of roid heads as he put it.
Baseball. Remember the whole Barry Bonds scandal?
Athletics. I have recollections of Marion Jones swearing in court she had never used PED’s then a short while later she is caught and comes clean and admits everything. Recently Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell received bans too.
You get the idea, drugs in sport is not something new. It’s just a dirty secret that has come to light more recently and been heavily exposed time and time again. Yet we’re all shocked each time it happens and we all look down on the athletes.
So why are athletes taking performance enhancing drugs
If you dangle a 1 million dollar prize on winning, fame and stardom then people will do whatever it takes to win. If that means taking PED’s and sticking a needle in your ass once a week, then so be it. Most of these athletes have everything monitored by a health professional anyway which makes it a lot safer and more importantly effective.
Do you the public want to see average guys doing average things to be entertained? No, we all want to see superhuman people doing superhuman things. Nobody wants to see average things, we all want the boundaries pushed and records broken which puts more pressure on athletes to take PED’s and do whatever it takes to break the records.
Are we the public judging too much?
Yes taking PED’s is cheating, yes it’s wrong and yes it doesn’t set a great example to our kids about achieving things honestly with hard work.
But the way we the public and the media talk about it is a joke. Athletes caught doping are demonised by the media and we all tell each other what terrible people the drug users are.
Rules are rules for sure but this is just sport. Aside from the rules of their sport who are we to judge these people too harshly while we are taking our drugs of choice? We sit there drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, smoking weed, eating fast food, filling our fat ass faces with sugar and burdening the tax payer to pick up the pieces via the NHS. What sort of message does this send to our kids? Taking PED’s is bad because……it’s a health risk? Because the athlete lied? or broke the ‘rules’?
Telling lies is not good of course but we all break rules, we speed in our cars, we steal pens from the stationery cupboard at work, we block toilets up and blame it on others, we lie by telling our kids about santa clause, we lie about our shitty dietary habits, we go against Dr’s orders, people cheat on their spouses, stab their work colleagues in the back for promotion the list goes on. Are we any better or should we get back in our box and take a look in the mirror before judging what others are doing?
But what about drug testing?
Dodging a drug test or passing a drug test is very simple. In fact athletes who fail drugs tests are pretty stupid in my opinion. Many PED’s clear the system in hours, all the athlete needs to do is take a steroid that clears the system quickly, so taking a short ester drug is key. Also many drugs cannot even be tested for, Growth hormone is one, blood transfusions are also nearly impossible to detect. Testosterone is also a controversial drug of choice. An athlete can increase his testosterone level to the top end of the normal range but this is still ‘normal’ and not elevated enough to cause a failed doping test yet the athlete may have doubled his natural levels artificially. There is of course the carbon isotope test now which can detect artificial testosterone but this is a recent thing. There are also a number of masking agents like diuretics that hide the drugs an athlete has taken which all make it more difficult to actually catch drug cheats red handed.
The dopers are often way ahead of the doping testers.
Is it cheating?
Not to defend Lance Armstrong but he had a point when he gave the definition of cheating. It goes like this “Cheating – to gain an unfair advantage on your opposition”. He also pointed out it’s not an unfair advantage if everybody is using drugs, such as the case in the Tour De France in his day. I still think he’s a turd for destroying people’s lives that dared to question his drug use, but this is another issue altogether.
If we consider performance enhancing drugs cheating what else can we consider cheating?
- A player of a racket ball sport having their eye sight surgically corrected
- A body builder having surgical implants
- An athlete having access to state of the art training facilities
- Creating red blood cells by training at altitude (mimicking the effects of EPO)
- Training in an oxygen chamber to create the above effect
All of the above are deemed as ‘fair game’ yet they all give the athlete an advantage not given to them at birth, something they wouldn’t be able to naturally obtain without some kind of intervention.
You see it is not black and white by any means. Why not just open up the gates and say anything goes? Take whatever you want, do whatever you want. Then the best man wins anyway.
I’m playing devil’s advocate here to make a point but joe public needs to wake up to the fact that sport is filthy and at one stage or another in an athlete’s career they probably have taken drugs and I don’t really think it’s a big deal. I’m not talking about mediocre athletes I’m talking about those at the very top of their game- The Usain Bolts, the Lance Armstrongs, the Michael Phelps, the guys at the very top end of their sport.
Do I think more athletes will be exposed? Yes absolutely, I’m sure many of the currently ‘clean’ athletes will test positive at some point or another. I won’t be dumb enough to be shocked by it though.