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Posts Tagged ‘Anti-doping policy’


RE-BLOGGED FROM 2013

Abraham Lincoln once famously said that prohibition “makes a crime out of things that are not crimes.” WADA has done exactly that’

– Sally Jenkins, Columnist, Washington Post

‘Do we want to see the highest possible achievements by men and women who do not use performance-enhancing drugs? If so, what counts as performance-enhancing? If sports fans really want to see achievement that they can relate to, perhaps athletes should be restricted to diets of pizza and beer, and be required to have 40-hour-a-week desk jobs’ 

–  David Epstein, author, Sports Illustrated

At the London Olympics 2012, more samples were collected and analysed for ‘doping’ than any other previous games. With more than 150 scientists and 1000 lab technicians working around the clock, the (World Anti-Doping Agency) WADA-approved lab at Essex did everything to ‘uphold the fairness and integrity of the games’. Well, really?!

122121HOW RAMPANT IS THE USE OF PEDs?

Athletes, coaches, team doctors, physical therapists and sports federations. all know that everyone’s ‘doing it’. Research too supports the general notion that use of performance-enhancing substances and methods is quite rampant in competitive sports.

Back in 1992, a lady named Vicky Rabinowicz went around conducting interviews of Olympic athletes; most candidly agreed that almost all medal winning athletes were ‘on drugs’ 1.

  • In 2004, Bents et al. reported in their study that almost half of college hockey players were using/ or have previously used stimulants like ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and amphetamines 2
  • Sottas and his fellow researchers reported 48% prevalence rate for ‘blood doping’ in endurance athletes 3
  • Scarpino et al. reported that of the Italian athletes they studies, 10% reported having used anabolics or amphetamines at the national or international stage; other drugs commonly used were bronchodilators and doping methods like blood doping 4
  • Thevis and co-workers found that 10% of young athletes aspiring to reach elite levels used tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis) and other stimulants  5
  • Mottram, David and George, somewhat surprisingly, report a low level of positive samples for anabolics in athletes. However, the authors argue that athletes – more often than not – tend to use anabolics in training. Furthermore, to conducts surprise ‘out of competition’ tests is not only costly but isn’t always easy either, especially in some countries. Consequently, therefore, a study of the prevalence of anabolic usage will rarely, if ever, return a true picture 6

From these observations, it should become clear that despite the existent ban – imposed by WADA – on the use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), the tests conducted, and the much-publicized, ‘alleged’ detrimental health effects of PEDs, their widespread abuse by athletes still remains very much rampant!

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Also, here’s an interesting aspect of drug testing. According to the International Amateur Athletic Federation’s own admittance, in any major competition only 10-15% of athletes are tested for doping. In such a scenario, the actual samples that turn out positive could be higher if all athletes were to be tested.

UPHOLDING THE SPIRIT OF THE GAME

According to WADA’s anti-doping code, the ‘spirit of the game’ is defined as under:

‘Celebration of human spirit, body and mind’ characterized by the following values:

  • Ethics, fair play and honesty
  • Health
  • Excellence in performance
  • Character and education
  • Fun and joy
  • Teamwork
  • Dedication and commitment
  • Respect for rules and laws
  • Respect for self and other participants
  • Courage
  • Community and solidarity

The code further states that ‘doping is contrary to the spirit of the game’.

SO, WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE ANTI-DOPING CODE?

There are vast differences of opinion between everyone concerned with elite sports (let alone, sports medicine researchers) about the validity of the anti-doping measures in place. There are those who advocate ‘ban them all and hand out lifetime bans, even for first time offenders’. Others, however, (get braced for this) recommend ‘legalizing them all so that some sort of sanity could return to the use of PEDs’ and it is a more ‘level playing field’.

Legalising will ensure that research is conducted to study the drugs in detail with institution of proper dosage regimen. This will ensure that side effects are kept to the minimum and athletes can be effectively stopped from ‘abusing’ them. Legalising PEDs will, more importantly, ‘even out the playing field’.

DISCUSSION

An increasing number of people are beginning to think that banning PEDs does not solve the problem; it in fact, compounds the problem. As opposed to WADA’s aim of making the games ‘fair’, anti-doping measures make it unfair in the sense that the athletes that have used PEDs but aren’t caught (due to vested interests or otherwise!) get a massive unfair advantage.

Also, if you ever thought banning PEDs will make the contest even, think again. Genetics and some other factors like access to better training and support facilities may have, in my opinion, a bigger impact on the results of the contest.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER OVER

  • Natural levels of erythropoietin (EPO, increases red cell count, improves delivery of oxygen to muscles, helps endurance sports) and growth hormone (builds muscle, strength and power) vary widely in different individuals. There are those unlucky one in whom the levels are very low. On the other hand, natives of high altitude areas have much higher physiological levels of EPO. Isn’t that unfair?!
  • Athletes of Jamaican descent have more % of fast twitch muscle making them awesome sprinters. Isn’t that unfair on the ones that don’t have that genetic gift?!
  • Athletes born at higher altitudes are blessed with huge chest cavities, more EPO production, more packed cell volume (PCV) and thus better delivery of oxygen to exercising muscles. All these physiological adaptations are in place to deal with the rarefied atmosphere at higher altitudes. This gives athletes born at higher altitudes an edge in endurance sports over other athletes. Isn’t’ that unfair?
  • Athletes from cash rich federations and with more endorsements can afford to have access to better training facilities, coaches, physios and other support staff. Isn’t that unfair?
  • Athletes with access to more money can travel to higher altitudes to train and acquire an edge over the ones that can’t. Isn’t that unfair?

Add to the list personal attributes of athletes like 7 feet tall basketball players and the massive feet of Ian Thorpe and you will realise that with genetics favouring some, it will never a level playing field out there. So, the argument that use of PEDs makes the games unfair doesn’t hold much water. The games are already stacked in favour of the genetically gifted!

And, what happens when gene doping becomes a full-fledged reality? There will no stopping the unfair advantage that the genetically engineered ‘super-athletes’ will receive! There are some indications that these super-athletes are already roaming freely amongst us! Click here to read more.

It all very well to say that WADA is making an effort to make sports a fair contest for all participants. But to say that we have been successful in preventing use of PEDs by conducting tests and banning ‘cheats’ is far from the truth. The use of PEDs continues to be widespread amongst athletes. If you’ve ever handled an elite athlete, you will know that most times clocked on the sprints, distances achieved on the javelin throws, or the poundage lifted on snatches can never be a product of just genetics, brilliant training regimens and diet alone.

CONCLUSION

There is a school of thought which suggests that legalizing PEDs will ensure a level playing field. With some vested interest not testing athletes from cash rich federations, you can bet your bottom dollar that not everything that’s going on is in ‘the spirit of the game’.

An acquaintance of mine says the other day, ‘there shouldn’t be any drug tests and everyone should be allowed to do whatever it takes to enhance their performance… Maybe, the Olympics would then be really worth watching….I’d pay a million quid to go watch the 100 metres dash then’.

And I say, ‘well, you’ve already been watching drug-loaded 100 metres sprints for quite some time now…, just that they never told you’!

Guess my friend’s remark sums up the way everyone is sceptical of the alleged success of WADA’s ‘anti-doping policy’!

DISCLAIMER

REFERENCES

(1) Raboniwicz V. Athletes and Drugs: A separate pace? Pyschol Today 1992; 25:52-53. Link

(2) Bents RT, Tokish JM, Goldberg L. Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and amphetamine prevalence in college hockey players: most report performance-enhancing use. Phys Sportsmed 2004; 32(9):30-34.

(3) Sottas PE, Robinson N, Fischetto G, Dolle G, Alonso JM, Saugy M. Prevalence of blood doping in samples collected from elite track and field athletes. Clin Chem 2011; 57(5):762-769.

(4) Scarpino V, Arrigo A, Benzi G, Garattini S, La VC, Bernardi LR et al. Evaluation of prevalence of “doping” among Italian athletes. Lancet 1990; 336(8722):1048-1050.

(5) Thevis M, Sauer M, Geyer H, Sigmund G, Mareck U, Schanzer W. Determination of the prevalence of anabolic steroids, stimulants, and selected drugs subject to doping controls among elite sport students using analytical chemistry. J Sports Sci 2008; 26(10):1059-1065.

(6) Mottram DR, George AJ. Anabolic steroids. Bailliere’s Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2000; 14(1):55-69.

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