Doping in Sport

The use of banned substances and practices in sport that help athletes to achieve better results is known as doping. The glory and material benefits accompanying high achievements have always pushed athletes to search for ways to artificially stimulate human capabilities. However, the use of doping contradicts ethical norms and affects health. Therefore, state and international law regulations were taken to guarantee fair play. However, the problem is not likely to be solved easily because of the human’s inherent vanity and covetousness, be it an athlete or sports official.

Doping in sports is pharmacological drugs, methods and procedures used to stimulate physical and mental performance in order to achieve high athletic result (O’Leary, 2013). The human’s aspiration to compete and win produces his love for sports. However, the dark side of his nature pushes him to violate the fair rules in different ways. In the ancient times, when chemical industry did not exist, offenses in sports mostly occurred in the form of bribery (Yesalis & Bahrke, 2002). Only relatively recently the scientific advance has allowed the use of special substances to enhance sports performance. However, since then the practice of drug abuse has rapidly developed. It is also worsened by a snowball effect, when some participants of competition knowing that others use doping, start to take it themselves so as to have equal chances for success.

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The doping issue emerged in the 19th century, along with the development of professional sport. The first athletes removed from the competitions for the use of stimulants were Dutch swimmers in the 1860s (Mottram & Chester, 2015). By the time of the first modern Olympic Games, which took place in 1896, athletes had a wide arsenal of pharmacological support, from codeine to strychnine (Rohatgi & Reddy, 2012). In most cases, athletes actually blindly made experiments on themselves. For instance, at the Olympic Games in 1904, the American athlete Thomas Hicks, who won the marathon race, was pumped by four doctors after taking brandy with the addition of cocaine and strychnine as a stimulant (Rohatgi & Reddy, 2012). However, he was awarded the gold medal.

The beginning of the modern history of the fight against doping can be considered the 1920s (Mottram & Chester, 2015). In 1928, the first sports federation, i.e. the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), banned the use of stimulants (Rohatgi & Reddy, 2012). Later, other international federations followed suit but due to the lack of a system for detecting prohibited substances, the measures taken were not effective enough. The problem was aggravated by the invention in 1930 of synthetic steroids and their extensive use in the 1950s (Rohatgi & Reddy, 2012).

Later on, the death of cyclist Knud Jensen during the cycling race at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960, the cause of which was the use of amphetamines, accelerated the introduction of athletes’ tests (Mottram & Chester, 2015). As a result, the International Union of Cyclists and the International Football Federation introduced mandatory testing procedures during the competition. In 1967, the International Olympic Committee established a Medical Commission and published the first list of prohibited substances (Mottram & Chester, 2015). The first doping tests were conducted at the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble and the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968, and most international sports federations started testing by the 1970s (Mottram & Chester, 2015).

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In 1998, during the Tour de France race, the police found a large number of prohibited preparations during a special raid (Mottram & Chester, 2015). This event, which received a great public response, led to a reassessment of the role of governments in countering doping and the creation of an independent international agency that could unify the standards and coordinate the efforts of sports organizations and governments.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was established in the 1990s to implement effective methods of detection doping in sportsmen (O’Leary, 2013). In this regard, WADA has introduced documents, which have three levels. Its core document, the WADA Code, contains anti-doping rules and principles that athletes and anti-doping organizations must follow in all countries and sports. The Code allows unifying the principles of anti-doping and contains the list of prohibited substances and methods. Moreover, this list is updated at least once a year. The International Sports Arbitration Court, located in Lausanne, is the highest court instance that reviews international disputes in the field of sports (O’Leary, 2013). In addition, doping control activities, along with educational programs, are the main component of any anti-doping program. In general, each of the sections of the doping control is based on the Code, the international standards of WADA, the national anti-doping rules and national legislation.

One of the most recent and loud doping cases happened in the last Olympic games. A series of doping scandals in Russian sport led to the fact that under the threat of exclusion from participation was the entire Russian Olympic team (Johnson, 2016). Scandals associated with the suspicion of doping have been accompanying Russian sports for several years. In this regard, Russian athletes missed a number of international tournaments.

Although having drawn much international attention, this case makes a thoughtful person doubt and question himself. Firstly, why similar issues with Russia didn’t arise in the previous years? Why are now appearing so many messages exposing Russia, as though this country has suddenly decided to violate all possible rules? Is it possible that only Russian and no other delegation was using doping? Finally, if the Russians knew they were obliged to make doping tests, why did they so airily expose their reputation to danger? After consideration, this case looks childish and illogical, and these are not the features one would expect to be related with such a respectful organization as WADA.

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Another issue with doping control is that tests are made behind the closed doors, so one can’t absolutely trust their results. Anti-doping legislation is another subject of consideration. There might be different subtle currents that influence it. Moreover, new drugs are invented permanently, and law that is sluggish in its nature, cannot react immediately. To conclude, there is no guarantee that political or other similar interests are not involved in the matter. Inspection bodies can themselves be corrupted. The solution to it might be establishing other inspection organizations that would examine the former. This at least would decrease violations.

In the fighting with unfairness in sport, not only legislation measures are needed. Unfortunately, nowadays there are occurring processes that tend to be out of reach of law because of their socio-cultural nature. Firstly, today many people engage themselves with Internet and games, thus not seeking self-actualization in sports. It decreases the sport community and makes it more close and more exposed to unfairness. Secondly, it is the cult of slender and muscular body spread by media images. Among the men it is done through popularization of bodybuilding or crossfit. The use of nutritional supplements is associated with these sports and is even becoming fashionable. Although food additives might be harmless, they suggest an idea that a human has to consume special substances in order to be stronger and acquire a muscular body. Among the women, the similar idea is communicated through propaganda of diets.

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The use of doping by athletes does not only damage their own health but also undermines the ideological foundations of sport. Although the fight against steroids has become global nowadays, the organizations that lead it cannot be insured against corruption themselves. Nevertheless, legislation is a powerful instrument in maintaining the high sport ideals. However, not only banning practices must be implemented, but also those that educate the society. Governments should use all possible measures: promote anti-doping organizations and laboratories, finance doping controls, introduce educational and scientific programs, and regulate the turnover of biologically active additives.

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