Doping in sports will never stop

Monday 11 April 2016

Picture credit: twitter/@Daily_Express

I don't know about you but I’m pretty much past caring about whether sportsmen and women use performance-enhancing drugs.

For as long as I can remember I have assumed that most of them do. To say it’s a grey area is like saying that smoke gets in your eyes. What’s the difference, morally speaking, between drinking cow’s blood to boost iron levels and taking a prohibited iron supplement?

Or training at high altitude to increase anaerobic efficiency and having a weekly jab that does the same job? Maria Sharapova was imbibing a perfectly legal medication for God knows how many years until those in charge decided to ban it. What, if anything, had changed? Don’t get me wrong.

A cheat is a cheat. But if they’re all cheating – or most of them – the lines become blurred. But in any case, athletes have taken pretty much whatever was available to boost their potential since the days of the ancient Olympic Games.

I’ll bet that if scientists analysed the bones of some long-dead Roman gladiator they’d find a lot of dodgy stuff infused there.

Rome’s most vaunted, celebrated and heroic warriors strode out to do battle on the bloodstained sand of the Coliseum high on wacky baccy, alcohol and fermented bull’s blood.

Today we have to accept that at the highest levels of sports and athletics, everyone’s hunting for that competitive edge: the tiny incremental improvement in performance that can make the difference between winning bronze, silver or gold.

For example, what if you were an Olympic 100-metres sprinter and you knew that a particular (and entirely legal) new supplement would help you knock 100th of a second off your time? You’d buy a cupboardfull of the stuff.

Someone explain to me the difference between that and taking an almost identical supplement which happens to be banned. Apart from the consequences of getting caught I can’t see one.

If following a highly specific and controlled diet produces the same effect in an athlete’s body as a bottle of pills, where’s the moral difference between doing either? Or both? In the end it’s all about getting into the best possible condition to win.

Should boxers be banned from eating steak? Steak is a performance-enhancing dietary component, isn’t it? So maybe we should restrict it – allow boxers rump but outlaw fillet.

What I’m saying is that millennia ago, and probably in 1,000 years from now, athletes were and will be swallowing stuff, injecting stuff, inhaling stuff and rubbing stuff into their skin that they think will make them winners. We’re never going to stop them. Why do we keep pretending we can?

Read more in Richard and Judy's Daily Express column here.

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