By C. McGuire & R. Bennett
Since the beginning of sport, athletes have been using methods to gain an unfair advantage. The athlete diet is no longer limited to your standard food groups, as many plates are being served with blood transfusions, steroids, stimulants, masking agents, and the list goes on. In 1999, the World-Anti Doping Agency (WADA), was developed to instill strict policies, rules and regulations on anti-doping; however, almost twenty years later, this problem is still in full force. As the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are among us, Kei Saito, a Japanese short track speed skater tested positive for the banned masking agent acetalozamide on February 13th. This reiterates the never-ending cycle of drug companies developing substances, athletes using them and the IOC and WADA trying to keep up to detect them. While WADA’s core foundations and the Code look great on paper, it is evident that the implementation of these policies is not working. Yes athletes are getting caught; yet, how many are not?
WADA and the IOC have started to use stricter punishments as seen in the most recent Olympics. Russia, after being accused of running a pro-doping lab, has been banned from competition. 169 athletes can compete who have proven they are clean; however, the Russian anthem will not play at medal ceremonies and they will compete as “Olympic Athletes of Russia.” Even with these strict punishments, athletes are still doping. A couple of days after the Japanese athlete tested positive, Russian curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, losing his bronze medal.
Therefore, where do we go from here if athletes are continuing to risk their health for the sake of winning a medal? One point of view is that doping should be allowed, let all athletes compete using performance enhancing aids so no one is at a disadvantage. However, this is neglecting the health risks these aids are imposing on the athletes such as testicular atrophy, abnormal menstrual cycles, liver damage, and reduced memory and attention (WADA, 2009).
While trying to eliminate doping seems nearly impossible, educating athletes on the side effects of doping and the negative consequences at a young age could potentially prevent the future use of drugs. Preventative measures such as educating coaches, athletes and stakeholders in the sporting environment to be doping-aware is integral for the future of sport. Drug testing is also poorly implemented in the high school and university systems. Developing more technologically advanced systems to catch young dopers could prevent long-term health risks if the drug usage is discontinued at a young age. It is important to remember we all play a part in this issue. Promoting fair play, sportsmanship and clean sport is just the tip of the iceberg, and with more research devoted to doping in sport, we can hope to provide optimal sporting environments for our future athletes.