If you’re in the sporting world, you will deal with dopers. For the case of this article, I’m going to refer to dopers as an athlete that is willing to unnaturally alter their performance by use of illegal substances or mechanics. Its everywhere, yet the majority are naive to this. Regardless of your take on this, you have known steroid users in baseball, known EPO users in cycling, known Ritalin users in the NFL, and a motor user in the sport of cyclocross. For many, they believe that this is only limited to the top level, but recent studies support that athletes as young as 14 are looking to gain an unfair advantage.  How do we stop this? 

Education
    The best way to combat dopers is with education. This falls on all involved to be educated and to develop an informed cultural environment. Based on a study by Alaranta et al. (2006) athletes that see performance enhancing drugs as posing a serious risk to health are less likely to take them. Athletes that see performance enhancing drugs posing little risk to your health are more likely to use them for performance gains. This demonstrates why we need further education on doping and its impact on the human body. If we can put an educational piece in place for athletes, a mandatory class, then I believe we can start to make a dent on potential users.  This won’t completely rid the system of dopers, but it should help with the overall process. Beyond the suggested class though, what we need is a better informed public. If the public can become informed on doping and all that goes with it, we can start to create a culture of clean sport due to a better understanding. 

Penalties for Doping
    Depending on the sport you are in, there are different penalties for doping. For the NFL it may be 4 games, MLB can be 50 games and cycling can be 2 years or more.  While this can deter some use, it hasn’t proven to be enough.  Cheating is still rampant across the board and I feel we need to be harder with our penalties. In order to push for clean sport, our business Mind Right Endurance powered by Dalzell Coaching has taken a zero tolerance approach with doping. We have had our athletes sign a document saying they won’t dope and their contract will be terminated if they do so. While this policy won’t hit all athletes, we believe that we can help ensure our athletes are clean and we take pride in knowing we are taking a strong stance against performance enhancing drugs.  We urge other companies to follow our lead and make a case for clean sport again. 

Prevelance of Doping
    While the majority of individuals will think doping only happens at the elite level, this would be a false assumption. A study conducted by Laure et al. (2004) shows that 4% of high schoolers from a sample of 1459 student athletes have used performance enhancing substances. So if you have children at a high school and there are 100 athletes, the stats suggest that 4 of them will be using doping agents. Again, this study suggested that the 4% of athletes associated doping agents with minimal health risks and downplayed their harmful consequences. Beyond this study, there is a classic study conducted by Robert Goldman called the Goldman Dilemma. In the 1970’s, Goldman asked elite athletes if they would take a substance that guaranteed them success in the sport, but would kill them 5 years later. Over 50% of the athletes responded yes to this.  In recent times this number has been reported to be lower. 

Conclusion
    Its important to be aware of this dilemma we are facing in athletics. Doping is happening and is all around us. Substances are easier to receive and harder to test for. Sanctions are in place, but possibly aren’t strong enough. What all the studies lead back to is this idea of education and informing the athlete of the harms of doping. By reading this blog, you now are aware of the doping dilemma. If you can take the time to become familiar with the substances used in your sport, and the harm they can do, I’m hoping you can be a leader in the battle against doping. The more informed we are, the more impact we can make for clean sport. Educate yourself and help others understand that great athletic performances can happen without cheating. 

References

Alaranta et al. “Self-Reported Attitudes of Elite Athletes Towards Doping: Difference Between Type of Sport”. Journal of Sports Medicine. (2006)

Laure et al. “Drugs, Recreational Drug Use and Attitudes Towards Doping of High School Athletes”.  Journal of Sports Medicine. (2004)



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