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Willy Voet, the Belgian soigneur of the French Festina cycling team, had handcuffs slapped on him in 1998 on account of the truly tremendous amounts of EPO and growth hormones found in his vehicle. This incident brought the issue of doping to the attention of the media and has kept it embroiled in the debate ever since subsisted by the large number of doping cases coming to attention since 1998. The string of arrests , interrogations and lawsuits in the wake of the Festina scandal, the police raids in the Giro d’Italia, the positive testing of Nandrolone in football and the Russian athlete who tested positive for EPO, but wasn’t turned away from the world championship athletics in Edmonton. An increase in the number of doping cases has also been accompanied by a change in the manner of usage of drugs. Apart from the use of drugs done by individual athletes and more systematic and structuralized method of doping facilitated through professional medical programs appears to have taken root in professional sport.
The sporting environment was rather lenient towards doping in the 1980’s and early 90’s. In 1998, however, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established and it took up the mantle of leading the struggle against doping in sports. WADA’s ideology against doping can be likened to the political ideology that attempts to stop the trade and use of illicit drugs. In terms of ethics, it cannot be definitively stated that this approach is the best one. The policy against doping ought to be discussed openly from ethical and philosophical standpoints and the basis of their formation examined. According to some philosophers, it is not possible to eliminate doping from sports completely. The best thing in their opinion would be to permit doping under medical supervision. The validity of the anti-doping campaign ought to become an issue discussed in public..
“Doping” as a term of usage has been present in the language since early days of the 20th century. It had long been described as referring to all “unnatural” substances that could allow for a better performance through intake or use either before or during the event. However, the influx of steroids in the market in the late 1950’s, precipitated a change in the definition as their use days or weeks before performances could have just as much an impact as the use of stimulants. Steroids also helped in the recovering of bodily capabilities and allow for more intense training. Anabolic steroids had t long term impact on the performance and enhanced it significantly. These were used extensively during training and were put on the list of banned substances rather late (by the IAAF in 1970 and IOC in 1974). This was in spite of the fact that these substances affected performances in international competitions more than any other substances.
However, using anabolic steroids was never “permitted” by the ideology of sports rules, even though this was not set in stone or defined with any certainty even when the letter of the rules was silent. In its more limited scope doping was seen as contradicting the ethos of anti-doping propagated by sports federations, which athletes had agreed to abide. This term has subsequently been more specifically defined more for legal issues than anything else as the evidence of breach of rules by any given athlete must be explicitly provided.
This specifying of the term doping has led to the establishment of the present WADA and NADA codes that propose that only the use of substances which are enlisted constitutes doping. As the list does not include a number of drugs which could prompt a increase in performance, like caffeine and training modules, like high-altitude training and oxygen tents, the question of whether a substance of method ought to be on list becomes highly debatable. Consequentially, doping-prevention experts have developed their arguments on the idea of “doping mindset”. According to them, this term encompasses an explanation of why the need for doping arises in the first place and also why this term ought to be used in analyzing and discussing the increased medical influence in sports as well as society. The frame of mind spoken of here arises quite before the actual formal restriction is encountered. Using drugs or other substances with a medical point of view in mind indicates towards the prevalence of a “doping mindset.”
With regard to pharmaceutical abuse and doping, two contrasting points of view are prevalent. The main punch line given by advocates of doping is “it’s my body”, which gives importance to the power of the individual over his/her self and thus elevation of responsibility from the shoulders of others and sporting systems. On the other hand, those against doping base their arguments upon the idea that “health, equal opportunity and fair play must be preserved” stating the need for adhering to established systems and norms and also the long term impact of such use on the well being of the individuals. Hence, the two different camps give different degrees of importance to short-term perspectives (success) and long-term perspective (side-effects, physical and spiritual integrity, professional future).
The debate on this issue had been engaged in sports doctors for the most part and they attributed different degrees of importance to “naturalness,” “fairness,” “ethics,” “fraud,” and “deviant behaviour.” In more recent times, the debate has also integrated the issue of “the medicalization of sports as well as society” (EADIn, 2012); neurological enhancement that would result in better mental capacities, that can pose threats to competitive sports just as doping does; and supply of nutritional substances to users citing nutritional deficiencies whose existence is unverified at best.
As per the latest German explanation, doping refers only to a breach of the regulations regarding competitive sports or in other words the usage of substances of methods considered banned. From a broader point of view and in line with popular usage, doping is the intake of substances with the objective of improving performances. When substances are used by people without any therapeutic necessity or implication then this is considered pharmaceutical abuse.
According to WADA whether a substance would be prohibited or not is subject to their fulfilling at least two of the following three criteria:
- They could potentially improve performance in sports;
- And/or they can pose a possible threat to the well being of the athlete;
- And/or using them is in contradiction to the spirit of the sport (WADA, 2003, pp. 15-16).
But, as identified by some supporters of PEDs the provisions of WADA permit the use of non-performance enhancing substances or which aren’t considered to be in breach of the spirit of sport. Tobacco, for instance is not banned as it isn’t perceived to improve performance nor be in breach of the spirit of sport although it has been show to be the cause of several kinds of cancer.
Athletes can also take substances which enhance performance, don’t pose a health risk and are not in contradiction of the spirit of the sport. Substances like caffeine, that can improve alertness and enhance stamina, was taken down from the list of prohibited substances in 2004 (Savulescu & Foddy, 2007). The manner of presentation of the second regulation of WADA is rather peculiar in the sense that it remains open to interpretation since it argues that the substance must pose “an actual or potential risk to health” (WADA, 2003, p. 15). In a way, this includes any and every substances available to us. Excessive water intake is a potential health risk. One can argue that WADA is referring to substances which are dangerous in quantities necessary in performance boosting, which is not the case with water. Nevertheless, certain substances prohibited by WADA provide performance enhancement in safe doses. For instance, Erythropoietin, usually called EPO, increase the presence of haemoglobin in the blood and thus leads to greater endurance and stamina. If taken without moderation, EPO can cause blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes. But if taken in minor volumes, EPO results in higher endurance levels and no complications. It goes without saying that the higher the intake of EPO, the better one’s ability to perform is likely to be and hence athletes would always be tempted to go over the levels of safety. Nevertheless, they may be tested to be under certain levels. Thus, the first two pointers by which substances are banned can be rather ridiculous. It also tells us the importance of the third rule where WADA invokes the idea of the spirit of the sport in order to ban substances and on which the status of many substances may indeed rest.