FIFA annually spends an average of $30 million on 35,000 doping tests each year. In the 1990s Argentine football star, Diego Maradona, was worshipped by fans from across the world. When he was suspended in 1991 after testing positive for cocaine in Italy fans were deeply disappointed. Later, Maradona was sent home from USA during the 1994 World Cup after failing the drug test for ephedrine, breaking the hearts of millions who wanted to see the star in action. Doping in sports has by no means been a new feature. According to Wikipedia, “The use of banned performance-enhancing drugs in human "sport" is commonly referred to as Doping, particularly by those organizations that regulate competitions. The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical by most international sports organizations and especially the International Olympic Committee”.
Fall of an Idol
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) threw up a shocker in July 2012 when they commenced formal procedures against seven times Tour de France winner and professional road racing cyclist, Lance Armstrong, for having used illicit performance enhancing drugs. Later, in August, the USADA striped Armstrong of all his wins since August 1998 including his Tour de France wins and handed him a lifetime ban from competitive cycling. The agency’s disclosure of Armstrong and his team’s prolonged usage and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs left the cyclist’s huge fan following disappointed and feeling cheated. As the fallout continued, Armstrong’s three major sponsors - sports gear maker Nike, cycle maker Trek, and beer manufacturer Anheuser-Busch - severed ties with him.
Armstrong started his career as a triathlete and started professional cyclist with the Motorola team in 1992. Having bagged a number of successes including the World Championship in 1993, and the Clásica de San Sebastián in 1995, Armstrong was looking at a successful career when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. Following surgeries and chemotherapy, he returned to the world of sports as a triumphant survivor. He set up his cancer foundation – the Lance Armstrong Foundation – in 1997. Armstrong’s return from cancer to dominate the tough world of professional cycling and his serial victory in what is acknowledged to be the toughest cycling tournament accorded him a superhero image.
When the USADA released a report including sworn statements from 26 witnesses and former team-mates, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of his cancer charity Livestrong. The USADA report called him a “serial cheat who led the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) endorsed USADA's verdict bringing Armstrong’s career to an end.
Top Olympics Doping Scandals
Denmark - Knud Enemark Jensen was among the earliest athletes to be involved in a doping scandal at the Olympics. In the 1960 Summer Olympics held in Rome, the Danish cyclist had been given Roniacol (nicotinyl alcohol). Jensen collapsed during the race, fractured his skull, and died.
Sweden - Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall became the first athlete to be disqualified at the Olympic Games for drug use. In the 1968 Summer Olympics held in Mexico City, the pentathlon athlete drank two beers before pistol shooting to calm his nerves. The team had to return their bronze medals due to the disqualification.
USA - Mary Slaney, the former track athlete was a sensation by the age of 16. She won gold medals in the 1500 m and 3000 m events at the World Championships in 1983. Despite having held about 36 US national records Slaney tested positive for testosterone at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Slaney contested the decision but faced a ban from competetion.
Ireland - Michelle Smith de Bruin became the Irish star of the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, after having won golds in the 400 m individual medley, 400 m freestyle, and 200 m individual medley events. Though accusations of doping at the Olympics were never proved, Smith du Bruin was banned by the International Swimming Federation in 1998 for tampering with her urine sample using alcohol.
Canada - Sprinter Ben Johnson was a well-regarded athlete of the mid-1980s and set many sprint records. Johnson, however, tested positive for steroids at the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul. His gold and bronze medals were rescinded and he lost his world records as well.
USA – Marion Jones was the favorite athlete at the 2000 Summer Olympics held in Sydney. Having bagged five medals Jones became a darling with her fans but later as she admitted to be on steroids, her medals were taken away and Jones was sentenced for six months for having lied to federal agents
Russia - In 2002 Winter Olympics held at Salt Lake City, Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina won gold and silver medals in the Nordic skiing events. Both the Russians, however, failed the drug tests and were disqualified. The gold was subsequently awarded to Canadian skier Beckie Scott who finished third. Russia threatened to pull out of subsequent Olympic Games but the IOC was firm in the decision.
Greece - Host team sprinters Konstantinos Kenteris and Ekaterini Thanou skipped the drug test preceding the 2004 Olympic Games and explained their absence with a fake motor accident. The 2000 gold and silver medal winners withdrew from the games and were later suspended for doping.
USA - Justin Gatlin the star sprinter was served a four-year ban from track and field events in 2006 after testing positive for a banned substance. Gatlin rejoined competing in August 2010 having served his ban. At the London 2012 Olympics, Gatlin ran the 100-meter final in 9.79 seconds earning him a bronze medal in the event.
Bahrain - In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Rashid Ramzi was awarded the gold medal in the 1500 m track and field event. The medal was, however, taken away after Ramzi tested positive for the banned drug, EPO. EPO boosts red blood cell formation supplying muscles with more oxygen.
World Anti-Doping Agency
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), was founded on November 10, 1999, in Lausanne, Switzerland, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to form a cohesive and coordinated agency which would initiate and monitor the fight against use of drugs in sports. WADA soon created the World Anti-Doping Code which has now become the standard of over 600 international sports organizations. The agency currently has its headquarters at Montreal, Quebec, Canada and is headed by John Fahey, the President of the WADA. The WADA has increasingly associated with sports organizations and various governmental enterprises across the world and has initiated scientific research, awareness and education campaigns, and development of the World Anti-Doping Code. Each year the agency publishes a list of prohibited substances and methods and this list is now followed by sports tournaments and competitions the world over.
The UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport is the first global international treaty against doping in sport. The convention was unanimously adopted in 2005 by 191 nations at the UNESCO General Conference. Over 150 of these 191 nations have ratified the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport since it came into force in 2007. According to the convention, it is now legally binding on all these nations to align internal sports and drug usage policies with the World Anti-Doping Code.
The UNESCO Convention’s legal binding were put in place following the East German Olympic team controversy. In the 1970s and '80s the national teams became the center of a systematic state-sponsored performance-enhancing drug program. Most athletes as young as 13 were put on steroids and later suffered a host of medical conditions including liver and heart failure, kidney damage, infertility, and cancer. Athletes such as Kornelia Ender came forward to reveal the costs of winning their Olympics medals.
The BALCO Scandal
The BALCO scandal was one of the biggest drug scandals in the history of US sports and implicated a number of eminent sportspersons including Dwain Chambers, Kelli White, Kevin Toth, Regina Jacobs, Melissa Price, John McEwen, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, and Tim Montgomery.
BALCO was a San Francisco-based company which diversified from manufacturing dietary vitamins to sports supplements. BALCO was accused of supplying performance enhancing drugs to a number of athletes and Major-league baseball players. In 2002, BALCO and its owner, Victor Conte faced federal investigation. As BALCO investigations gathered momentum the USADA was tipped off by Trevor Graham, the coach to Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. Graham sent the USADA a syringe with traces of a banned substance. In the course of the investigation over 550 athletes were tested for doping and over 20 were found to be taking Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) – a type of steroid. The company is believed to have sold the banned substance between 1988 and 2002.
The media had a heyday covering the BALCO scandal. The coverage of the BALCO scandal was very extensive and shocked the sports world. The San Francisco Chronicle commissioned its journalists Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams to corroborate the evidences and interview those who were connected with the investigation. The two journalists played an important role in bringing the story to light. The two later chronicled the scandal in a book called Game of Shadows. As a result of the scandal Major League Baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, formed a written, league-wide policy banning the use of steroids in the game.
Downside of Doping
Doping is identified by testing urine samples of the athletes. Athletes tend to cheat the tests by urine replacement, use of diuretics, and by going in for blood transfusions after the tests.
Ethical arguments apart, doping exposes the athletes and sportsmen to a variety of health ailments, experts believe. The usual performance enhancement drugs including EPO, steroids and other growth hormones, while good for instant action may lead to a range of long term afflictions and diseases. EPO or erythropoitein is the commonest drug used by athletes and sportspersons. It increases the production of blood cells and hence allows more oxygen to be absorbed by the body, enhancing performance. The EPO taken in as part of doping, is a synthetic protein which causes a host of side-effects including kidney failure, heart attack, blood clot in the lungs, and stroke. Other effects include insomnia, depression and weight loss. Synthetic EPO is also a known carcinogenic leading to cancer with regular use.
Anabolic steroids may build muscle mass and strengthen bones for the athletes but it also causes baldness, liver damage, heart disease, depression, aggression, mood disorders, and sexual dysfunction. Women on anabolic steroids experience irregular menstrual cycles, male pattern baldness, and development of masculine facial traits. Human growth hormone (HGH) provides the muscles and bones with a spurt of growth making them bigger and stronger. The hormone when taken without a medical need may cause facial and other bones to grow abnormally and also causes diseases of the liver and heart. The HGH is directly linked with heart failure, hypertension and arthritis.
Steroids, perhaps, are the worst of the lot when it comes to causing disease and damage to an athlete’s long term health. They cause heart disease and psychological problems. The diuretics taken by athletes to mask the drugs and to avoid getting caught during a doping test can by itself can cause a host of physiological and psychological concerns, experts believe.
Why is Doping Widespread?
A number of studies have found doping to be is widespread in the world of sports. According to the British Medical Association, both athletes and body-builders across UK routinely take performance-enhancing substances. UNESCO in The War Against Doping details out how widespread the problem is.
Availability – The Internet has created a huge market for prohibited drugs making their availability easier than ever before. Class C prescription drugs such as steroids which would have not been available over the counter are now obtainable online.
Peer Pressure – With the use of growth hormones and other prohibited drugs becoming commonplace for people who desire to build their bodies, athletes and sportspersons are buckling under peer pressure, researchers suggest. The drug-induced state is often seen as the new ‘normal’.
Lack of Awareness – With more and more children and young athletes entering the world of sports, lack of awareness of the long term negative effects of doping is a real concern.
Temptation – Temptation is perhaps the biggest cause for doping in sports. Sports is now big business with sponsorship bringing in money in addition to the appreciation and accolades. The temptation of faking drug tests, opened up by the use of diuretics is also enticing making doping a widespread problem.