Maria Sharapova, the Miss physique of modern tennis faced a barrage of innuendos from different quarters after coming out of doping related ban. From Ben Johnson in 1988 Seoul Olympics to Diego Maradona in the 1994 US world cup, performance enhancing substances keep creating ripples across sporting fraternity. Trust me despite the tech driven scanner called WADA cheats will keep finding ways in romping to glory.
The lure of bucks, far overweighs a thing called ethics. Doping substances varies from sport to sport. Anabolic steroids, growth hormones, amphetamines are rampant among athletes where the muscle has to contract with speed and produce explosive strength. Purely skill driven sport like soccer will look for substances that enhances endurance so that fatigue is delayed. Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist used erythropoietin known as EPO which is favoured in soccer since it enhances production of red blood cells in body which in turn would produce more oxygen. EPO is a modern version of blood doping that was popular in 1980’s.
An archer who needs sustained concentration takes beta-blockers that lower heart rate so that the player remains calm. Remember the chemical composition of the drugs mentioned above is meant to be used for medical reasons. Peppering them without medical cause is extremely dangerous. But then the risk for some is worth taking. Lance Armstrong built an empire running into billions. Florence Joyner, the female US Olympic champion sprinter on the other side paid a heavy price. She passed away at 37.
With the literal revolution in medical science, there is a conviction among the substance abusers that the health hazard can be managed by the money they will earn by cheating. Even god must be stunned by Lance Armstrong’s intrepidity in EPO abuse after conquering cancer. Armstrong, after being nailed by World Anti Doping Agency sits on the ruins of his wealth.
One person researching into doping in a lighter vein said, “Just take the money out of sport. Doping will stunningly decline.” The person is bang on target. A top honcho of the Olympic medical commission from Belgium revealed in 2000 how the elite athletes of the world have their own research laboratory with top notch chemists. The chemists are working overtime in masking the banned drugs. Athlete Ben Johnson was candid after getting caught the second time that most of the top athletes are on steroid and without that the Seiko timer will not display such “Oh my gosh timing!”
In 1936 Berlin Olympics Luz Long, the so called Nazi came in rescue of legendary American Jessie Owens at the height of German-American political battle. In spite of being Owen’s prime challenger for gold, Long advised Owens to start his run from a step back to evade foot fault. Jesse Owens was on the verge of being disqualified after repeated foot faults. As he went on to win the gold, Owens hailed the sportsmanship spirit of Luz Long. That was the 1930’s when goodwill and pride to bring glory for the nation was what sport was played for. Money hadn’t penetrated into the ethics and conscience of sportspersons.
It is simply unreal to take money out of sport. But like money spent of anti-doping, some money should be spent on educating the sportspersons and their coaches on the ethics of the sports- that’s what Mohammad Ali, arguably the greatest sportsperson ever said. None in earth can vouch for ethics than Ali who could throw his Olympic medal in the Ohio river, protesting over racism in America.
(Chinmoy Roy is a veteran fitness expert & trainer and has been associated in different capacities with Indian and Bengal cricket for decades.)