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Doping in Track and Field Sports

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sports
Wordcount: 2462 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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 The date was September 27, 1988, in Seoul. In the men’s 100 final there was a Canadian man named Ben Johnson and an American named Carl Lewis. They were the biggest rivals in track and field at the time. Johnson was in lane six. According to Andrea Mann, Johnson said the race would be over when the gunshot. Although Johnson had a slightly better start, the main reason he won was that he pulled ahead by almost five meters during the race. In 9.79 seconds he broke the world record and won gold. After his race, he was quoted with saying ¨I’d like to say my name is Benjamin Sinclair Johnson Jr, and this world record will last 50 years, maybe 100… A gold medal that’s something no one can take away from you.” Just a few days later, he failed his drug test. He was found to have traces of stanozolol in his urine. Consequently, he had to turn in his gold medal to the International Olympic Committee. The Canadians were horrified when they found out that the man who represented them was shown to the world as a cheater. A year after the Olympics, Johnson had admitted that he lied. Johnson’s own coach stated that Johnson had been using steroids since 1981. This made the situation even worse because he set the world record for the sixty meter run in indoor track in 1987, a year before he was caught in the Olympics. It was later discovered that Johnson was not the only one doping, but six of the eight athletes in that race used steroids as well. These top athletes were supposed to be running to represent their countries, but in the end, they ran the dirtiest race in Olympic history. According to Umair Ifram and Julia, Belluz Johnson feels he was unfairly picked out because most of the athletes who ran that race used similar drugs. What makes a famous athlete who has wealth and a community behind them sacrifice it all so they can improve by using performance-enhancing drugs?

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 Track and Field is a combination of sports that include sprinting, long distance running and throwing. This makes it easy to take out skill and cover it with pure strength. Track and Field has been around for thousands of years, and every four years, it is featured in the Olympic games. Doping has also been reported since the beginning of the modern Olympics. In the third Olympiad Thomas Hicks won the marathon after receiving an injection of strychnine in the middle of his race. The first actual ban for using stimulating substances was in 1928 (Salvules, Foddy, Clayton). This was just one of many disqualifications in track and field and in the upcoming years, there will be many more.     

According to Roomy Kahn of Forbes Magazine,  3,000 athletes are caught using illegal steroids each year. As a result of using drugs, athletes are usually disqualified from participating in their sport for various amounts of time, ranging from three months to life. There may be benefits of using performance-enhancing drugs in sports, but there are also many risks. For example, drugs have the potential to cause life-threatening damage to one’s body Furthermore, if caught, the athlete could be ineligible to play or they could lose sponsors. There is also an expensive fine for doping. Athletes have all these reasons to not use steroids or performance-enhancing drugs, why do athletes in track and field use doping substances with detrimental capabilities?

One big problem for doping in track and field is that there is no consistent punishment throughout countries or sports.(Martin Huber) There are many different athletes who participate in the Olympics and big tournaments across the world. According to Team USA, the United States sent 244 athletes to the 2018 Olympics. These 244 athletes are just from one team, and there are 92 countries that participate in these events Because there are so many different countries, each has its own set of regulations when it comes to doping. America, France, and most countries in Europe have a doping agency that will control athletes, but in countries without such agencies, there is not the same stability. Athletes also see doping as making it even between athletes from different countries. Savulescu, Foddy, and Clayton wrote, “There is no difference between elevating your blood count by altitude training, by using a hypoxic air machine, or by taking EPO. But the last is illegal. Some competitors have high PCVs and an advantage by luck. Some can afford hypoxic air machines. Is this fair? Nature is not fair.” (7). This shows how if an athlete wants to have a seemingly fair race they will use doping methods. As it is cheaper than a hypoxic air machine.  

Another reason an athlete would dope in these games is that running and throwing takes more physical endurance than skill. However, there is the argument that one needs some knowledge of how to throw the javelin or run, but the majority of the time, to get to the next level in a sport one needs the fitness abilities to back it up. This is easier to achieve when using steroids (Huber). The boost that steroids give runners has more significant effects on their performance than that of a soccer player who needs a balance of skill, knowledge of the field and fitness. On the other hand, a runner needs to know how to swing their arms right but other than that they rely on fitness and how much force they can put out in a certain amount of time.  This really makes a track and field competitors want to dope as they increase muscle with much more ease.

According to Michele Kummer, testosterone is a male principle sex hormone most commonly used for doping because it is an anabolic steroid. Anabolic steroids by themselves can increase one’s strength to over forty percent of what it originally was. According to How Athletes Dope at the Olympics… And Get Away With It,  anabolic steroids account for two-thirds of doping violations. Most athletes do not use the basic form of testosterone, as it shows in blood and urine tests. In the end, athletes have the advantage against anti-doping agencies. As they can only look for the chemical structure that they have seen before. If an athlete uses a designer drug that serves the same purpose of testosterone, doctors cannot detect it.

The advantages of using performance-enhancing drugs are worth the risk for most athletes. They increase metabolism and muscle growth, allowing one to be able to train more frequently at an increased intensity and decreased susceptibility to injuries. One’s muscles will continue to grow and maintain more water if they continue to use testosterone injections (Kummer).

Athletes can use a great assortment of other drugs such as EPO (Erythropoietin) which has many benefits. For example, it is great for long distance runners. It increases maximum blood oxygen levels by seven percent which can change a race for a runner. Michael Kummer states: “your body can transport more oxygen from your heart to your muscles. Compared to anabolic steroids, such as testosterone or HGH, EPO has a higher risk factor if not used correctly”. (1) When an athlete has more oxygen moving to each muscle, it helps their endurance greatly. It increases oxygen levels by producing more red blood cells which allows blood to take in and transport oxygen more efficiently. It is not difficult to get away with using dope, but according to How Athletes Dope at the Olympics…And Get Away With It, the athlete has to be good at micro doping. Which is when the athlete has to take the smallest amount of an EPO and then drink a bottle and go to the bathroom, the next day even if the athlete has to take a drug test if they did it right they will have already diluted the substance so much that it will not be able to be traced in their urine. This allows athletes to be able to do steroids with a lower risk of being caught by anti-doping agencies while they still are able to use performance-enhancing drugs. J Savulescu, Foddy, and Clayton from British Journal of sports medicine said, “Drugs such as erythropoietin (EPO) and growth hormone are natural chemicals in the body. As technology advances, drugs have become harder to detect because they mimic natural processes”(2). For athletes, there will be no reason not to dope in the near future because of how the drugs have been advancing. Over time the drugs will be unrecognizable to testers. Even now not many athletes who dope are caught so there is no definitive way to find out if an athlete is using a steroid if they are using natural progress.      

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Most athletes take steroids with the minds set that if they don’t overuse the drugs they will not be affected. This is a half-truth but is a decent mindset for an athlete to have when using such drugs. Each athlete has the mindset best said by “It depends only upon the dose whether a poison is a poison or not. A lot kill; little cures” (Aurelius Theostratus). It is exactly saying that if someone takes too much of a good thing that good thing will become a bad thing. In this case, steroids as every steroid will work with an athlete when they need to build muscle and need to perform better in sports. But it can also work against an athlete like EPOs can lead to extremely bad high blood pressure which leads to many things like organ failure, or they can cause blood clots. Because when an athlete takes an EPO they produce more red blood cells making their blood thicker and that can lead to blockages. But most athletes microdose so it isn’t a problem. Some athletes are helped when using steroids by doctors. This is good and bad at the same time, the athlete if he or she listens to the doctor they, in theory, will dope safer so there will be no injury to the athlete. Which worked according to Hoberman, the athletes think it is better to dope under a physician. This method makes it safer for the athlete and makes sure the athlete will not take too much and makes sure that the athlete will not over dope. Doctors helping athletes dope has also been debated if this should be legal or not. Because in theory, it is safer than an athlete or a coach choosing how to dope. The disadvantage of this method is that some doctors become fanboys this means that the doctors will do anything to please the athlete. This makes the doctor care about how the athlete performs more than their overall health. The athlete might also use more or worse drugs that are sold on the black market which can endanger an athlete more than anything else.

Athletes will always do something to be ahead of the game even if it means they take the risk and use performance-enhancing drugs that endanger not only their career but their life. The majority of athletes in all sports have doped or used steroids in their career as it makes the long hard days more frequent and the athlete will be less prone to injury. Athletes who what to get to the next level but know their body is in peak performance and can’t do better usually fall into using steroids. Most of the steroids have become more and more user-friendly. Meaning that they will do the exact thing as the basic chemical combination of testosterone for example but it will not look like the chemical combination making it very hard to detect when used. Making even better for athletes to use as they have a low chance of getting caught by anti-doping agencies. Athletes also have many other good ways of doping without the risks of getting caught. Doping increases an athletes potential especially in track and field as it relies on more training than skill or knowledge. Most athletes use many performance-enhancing drugs to increase athletes’ oxygen levels by producing more red blood cells. Most athletes make the decisions to dope based on how they will make the field of genetics even. So a person who naturally has more testosterone will have more of an advantage than an athlete who does not have the same genetic build. Everyone wants to be the best they can be. If they are very passionate or competitive about what the enjoy doing most will take the easy way out to get to the next level even if it may damage their reputation or themselves.      

Works Cited

  • Kummer, Micheal:The Truth behind Doping in Sports and Why Athletes Dope, 23 Apr. 2019, michaelkummer.com/health/truth-behind-doping-sports-athletes-dope/.
  • “Ben Johnson: Where Is He Now?” Everything Zoomer, www.everythingzoomer.com/featured/sports/2016/08/12/ben-johnson-where-is-he-now/.
  • Brazier, Yvette. “Doping in Sports: Is It Worth It?” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 21 Jan. 2016, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/305421.php.
  • Hoberman, John. “Physicians and the Sports Doping Epidemic.” Journal of Ethics | American Medical Association, American Medical Association, 1 July 2014, journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/physicians-and-sports-doping-epidemic/2014-07.
  • “How Athletes Dope at the Olympics… And Get Away With It.” YouTube, 4 Aug. 2016, youtu.be/dmpdqMBRryI.
  • Huber, Martin Fritz. “When Athletes Dope, Not All Sports Are Created Equal.” Outside Online, Outside Magazine, 21 Apr. 2017, www.outsideonline.com/2176471/doping-not-all-sports-are-created-equal.
  • Irfan, Umair, and Julia Belluz. “Olympic Swimmer Ryan Lochte Broke Doping Rules. It Happens Far More than You Think.” Vox, Vox, 27 July 2018, www.vox.com/2018/7/24/17603358/ryan-lochte-doping-ban-olympics-instagram.
  • Mann, Andrea. “September 27, 1988: Ben Johnson Is Stripped of His Olympic Gold Medal after Failing Drugs Test.” BT.com, home.bt.com/news/on-this-day/september-27-1988-ben-johnson-is-stripped-of-his-olympic-gold-medal-after-failing-drugs-test-11364007354384.
  • “Meet Team USA.” Team USA, www.teamusa.org/pyeongchang-2018-olympic-winter-games/team-usa/athletes.
  • Reynolds, Gretchen. “Human Growth Hormone, Popular but Illegal.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Aug. 2006, www.nytimes.com/2006/08/20/sports/playmagazine/20hgh.html.
  • Savulescu, J, and Clayton. “Why We Should Allow Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, British Association of Sport and Excercise Medicine, 1 Dec. 2004, bjsm.bmj.com/content/38/6/666.


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