Doping in Track and Field
The apparent extent of the doping problem in athletics was revealed by a survey of more than 2000 track and field athletes conducted independently of the official testing at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea and the 2011 Pan-Arab Games in Doha, Qatar. The athletes who were selected to participate in the study were questioned anonymously using a randomized-response technique that has previously been used to estimate the prevalence of other sensitive health problems and behaviors. The results, recently released by the researchers, showed that a high proportion of the athletes questioned admitted to doping in the previous year, although they only represent a portion of the competitors. Approximately 29% of the athletes who were questioned by the researchers at the World Championship admitted to doping, or using a banned substance, at some point in the previous year, with an even greater 45% of the sample of athletes who were questioned at the Pan-Arab Games admitting the same. If these figures, which depended on estimates derived from athletes reporting their own drug use anonymously, rather than on laboratory testing, are to be believed, doping has become a pervasive problem in athletics, far beyond the low levels revealed by most official drugs testing.
The official testing conducted during these types of events typically occurs at random, or tests the top three competitors only, and cannot necessarily detect drug use that occurred many months before the competition. It might therefore miss some of the drug abuse that was detected in the academic study, which asked about any banned substances taken in the last year, and did not focus solely on the top competitors. Even so, the difference in the levels of doping detected by the two different approaches was surprisingly large. In comparison to the extremely high levels of such abuse estimated by the independent researchers from the results of their questionnaire, less than 2% of the official drugs tests conducted at events by the World Anti-Doping Agency produce a positive result for a prohibited substance. Although neither approach can test every athlete or guarantee perfect accuracy, it seems likely that the official testing is underestimating the problem.
The WADA is responsible for creating the most widely used anti-doping protocols in athletics, the WADA World Anti-Doping Code, which was adopted by all of the major international athletics organizations in 2003. Under this code, any athlete who is found to have a prohibited substance in their body during a drug test must take full responsibility, regardless of whether they knowingly intended to break the rules. The penalties that can be imposed range from two to eight year bans, or even a permanent ban from the sport if they are guilty of a second offence.
What Athletes Should Know
Given the dangers of doping and the strict penalties that are in place for anyone who is caught with an illegal drug in their system, it is essential that athletes educate themselves about the substances that they need to avoid. Under the WADA code, athletes can even be penalized when there is a legitimate medical reason to take a drug. Cyclist Jonathan Vaughters had to withdraw from the 2001 Tour de France after being stung by a wasp because the cortisone he needed to reduce the swelling was a banned substance. Taking it would allow him to continue cycling, but it would constitute a doping violation. The USDA have produced a pocket-sized guide to the substances that should be avoided while competing, even for medicinal purposes, which is a useful reference tool for athletes, but knowing the names of these substances is not enough. Learning more about the risks of doping can help to protect athletes from falling prey to the temptation to use these substances to try to enhance their performance, and it can also enable them to provide support for other athletes and to help change the sport from within. Athletes should learn to recognize signs of ambien abuse, and other drugs used to cope with the stress and hardships of training, as well as the drugs that are used to enhance performance, particularly if the prevalence of doping in track and field is as high as the survey results suggest. All athletes need to educate themselves about the damage done by doping.
Doping Makes Losers of Us All
Doping is a problem that harms everyone involved in athletics. Athletes who take the wrong path and abuse these substances are damaging their health, and risk losing their reputations and careers if their cheating is uncovered. At the same time, they are creating an unfair situation for the other competitors, and ruining the sport for spectators, who want to see what the human body can accomplish by itself, not in combination with drugs. Whether an individual's doping is revealed or not, they are harming themselves and their sport.
Written by a Friend