FACEOFF: Sports doping will always be a problem, ban should come to an end

With news about the apparent clamp down on “tech doping” thanks to the case of marathon runner Eluid Kipchoge it brings up the question, why should performance-enhancing products and drugs be illegal in sports? Until Kipchoge’s case, the issue of doping within multiple types of sports has been an endless problem. Performance-enhancing drug use within the sport of cycling is almost as old as the sport itself and the prevalence has stained the sport’s reputation for years. The same is true for sports within track and field, baseball, boxing, and the list goes on. 

The main reason performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) have been banned is the fact that they give athletes what’s viewed as an unfair advantage over other competitors that do not use them. However, at this point, the problems the sports world has faced with the use of these drugs has been so consistent that it seems as though there is no point in even trying to stop it. 

Lance Armstrong for example, got away with winning seven Tour De France titles all while using substances in such a minuscule amount that he wouldn’t be able to be caught when he was drug tested for before each race. The fact that he was not busted while he was actually competing in the races begs the question of how many other cyclists have gotten away with it. What’s even more concerning is the fact that when Armstrong was stripped of his titles, all seven of the inheritors of his titles who competed against him were implicated in doping scandals of their own. The fact that this problem has been so difficult to stop helps make the case for why it should be legal. Some might argue that by legalizing it more athletes would be in danger of hurting their bodies by pushing them to the limit. However, athletes already are putting themselves in danger by pushing themselves to be the best. Getting injured is a constant risk for athletes in all demographics. The reality is that if PED’s were permitted in professional sports, it would likely be much safer given that athletes would not be forced to do it under the table behind closed doors. It would allow for more cautious practices within the activity.

Some might also make the argument that by making doping completely legal it would force all athletes to do so. To this, I simply argue, why wouldn’t they? Given that athletes who have the integrity not to dope, are already losing to the cheaters why not level the playing field and allow everyone to have integrity. Or, consider this, make a new division within every sport where doping is completely permitted, but also have a division where it’s strictly forbidden. Who wouldn’t enjoy seeing the severe contrast in performances? 

The amount of cheating within sports with the use of PED’s has not gone away and it will continue to be a problem. There will always be top athletes that will attempt to get an edge, by allowing everyone the freedom to do so it would potentially make sports more interesting and make athletes safer.

 The only understandable exception that must be clarified is the sports of boxing and MMA. Given that so many boxers and fighters have already been brutally injured or killed due to the sheer impact of being hit in the head so many times, this is the only sport where doping would simply increase the severe danger of an already dangerous sport. 

With that exception in mind, doping restrictions should be opened up, the current strategy for stopping it in all sports demographics has clearly failed and it’s only going to get worse. 

As sports fans, we would no longer have to endure the disappointment of finding out our favorite sports athletes will be stripped of their titles in another aftermath scandal due to the unfair advantage they indulged in. No one wants to watch the second place athlete suddenly become the winner after the competition is over. Cheating ruins the integrity of the sport so why not open up the playing field?

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FACEOFF: Doping damages reputation of sport, attacks integrity of professions

Sport at the elite level is about maximizing performance and gaining every advantage possible within reason. To dope and use banned, performance-enhancing drugs is to knowingly gain an outlawed advantage over competitors, a condemnable action for a sportsperson to take in any circumstance.

There are so many reasons as to why doping — defined as “the use of a substance (such as an anabolic steroid or erythropoietin) or technique (such as blood doping) to illegally improve athletic performance” — is wrong. Fundamentally, it is cheating. It brings the sport into disrepute and, once they are caught, irreparably damages the reputation of athletes who choose to knowingly compromise their careers.

Doping also undermines years of training and defeats the purpose of naturally pushing and improving the human body. What is the point of training and rising to an international level if, once there, you take a shortcut and use illegal substances to beat others who are clean? It doesn’t register with me.

According to the BBC, “The most commonly used substances are androgenic agents such as anabolic steroids. These allow athletes to train harder, recover more quickly and build more muscle, but they can lead to kidney damage and increased aggression.”

This is not natural and such drugs are banned because if one athlete is taking it and another isn’t, it is both physically and humanly impossible for the clean athlete to compete with his doping opponent. Ethically, beyond the unfairness, there are short and long-term health effects, there is damage done to the reputation of sport if role-models are seen to be cheating. 

On an economic level, not all countries and athletes have the same access to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Legalizing drug use in sport would create a chasm and remove its beautiful unpredictability, preventing certain disadvantaged athletes and nations from being able to compete at all.

Historically, bodybuilding, athletics, and cycling have had the biggest problem with drug abuse. It is likely that athletes and mass organizations believe that they can or are getting away with it. Despite the obvious questionable conscious element to that line of thinking, the truth usually comes to light. Cheats never prosper. Just ask Russia, the nation that has become the face of sports doping in the modern era and was recently banned from the Olympics and global sports for four years.

Here in the United States, ranking as sport’s third-worst doping-affected country, there have been a number of high-profile historical cases, namely that of Lance Armstrong. The former cyclist admitted to doping throughout his career during a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013. Suitably, Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France and banned from the sport for life. Just like that, the validity of his achievements and career were destroyed, along with the credibility of his sport. Before Armstrong, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was the sporting world’s highest-profile drugs cheat, damaging the integrity of athletics having tested positive for anabolic steroids at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Within months, he was stripped of the gold and, similarly to Armstrong, his achievement stained forever.

Yet, there is another element to the doping debate which people often overlook. What about those athletes that get their medals upgraded years after competing, as a result of drug cheats being caught? Many have said that this takes away from the original achievement, or that they have a sense of trepidation accepting a medal which they should have originally been awarded on merit.

Sport must continue to fight one of the biggest threats to its credibility and continue handing out harsh sanctions until the message is unequivocal. Doping is wrong and always will be. 

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