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Performance Enhancing Drugs Legalization in Sports

Performance Improvement and Drugs

Performance enhancing drugs are defined as those substances that are used by athletes in order to improve their performance in sports in which they have engaged. The trend of increased usage of these drugs had resulted in their ban by a number of international organizations and sports bodies who had penalized all such athletes who used these drugs in order to improve their performance in various events.

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The question that was going to be answered through various arguments in this paper was whether these drugs should be legalized. As, this paper went on to prove the answer was not in favor of such an event’s occurrence- that of such drugs usage becoming legal.

Before, analyzing the reasons behind why such drugs should not get legalized it was equally imperative to understand why such drugs were even used in the first place. Why people were driven to look for alternative measures to improve their performance besides the traditional ones? The reason behind that was due to the competitive drive amongst all the competitive athletes to be the best amongst the rest and to win.

In certain cases, much was at stake including a scholarship, an international award, or even a place on a national team. Therefore, the athletes had to end up looking for alternative measures when the win was highly crucial- especially when it played an important role in deciding the entire future of the athlete. The win could come at extremely high costs and this paper went on to examine those high costs.

The benefits as it was in fact proved in the case of these drugs were more than offset by the use of these drugs. As could be inferred, in order to compete in profession sports, certain aspects were declared vital for the athlete’s success in whichever sport he/she engaged in; great strength, speed and especially endurance.(Gold)

Those who had these capabilities and used them effectively proved to be great athletes. The amount of strength that these athletes had was determined by two features; the amount of muscle and ability of nerves they possessed in order to stimulate muscle contraction.

As a result special exercises along with weight training were carried out on a daily basis in order to maintain themselves. The amount of muscle and ability to contract muscle had a big function to play in determining the speed as by having a larger muscle mass it had resulted in greater generation of the amount of power. (Enos)

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If one had examined the performance enhancing drugs in broad terms; they would be used to symbolize the anabolic steroids. However, in real there were a number of drugs that could be classified as performance enhancing drugs. These classifications included; lean mass builders, stimulants, painkillers, sedatives, diuretics and masking drugs.

Anabolic steroids; a form of steroids, which are used due to their capacity to increase strength and muscle mass amongst athletes. Testosterone; a hormone produced by these steroids have two effects on the body; promote muscle building and also are responsible for such male aspects as facial hair and a deeper voice (Freudenrich, 2003).

The rationale behind their popularity amongst the athletes was the fact that they allowed the athletes to recover much faster from a workout than otherwise as the muscle damage that occurred during these workouts.

However, while the benefits might have been there the costs of taking these steroids were much greater for both the genders. The men suffered from baldness, infertility, a higher voice, amongst some of the adverse effects while women suffered from increased body hair, increased appetite, and baldness amongst some (Freudenrich, 2003).

Some symptoms were experienced by both genders and those included severe acne, increased low-density lipoprotein, liver abnormalities and tumors, drug dependence, aggressive behaviors, rage or violence, psychiatric disorders such as depression to name a few. Self-injection could have an even worse effect as diseases such as HIV occurrence can take place.

These steroids are still banned worldwide and looking over the above costs, it could be seen why. These steroids’ had been banned by international sporting agencies such as WTA, ITF, FIFIA, and International Olympic Committee amongst many. Despite the ban by these organizations, it was found that drug testing was insufficient since it was held to be inconsistent in most of the cases.

Another form of supplement used by these athletes in order to elevate their level of testosterone was androstenedione. Apparently, this supplement increased the level of testosterone in men.

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However, recent scientific research ash proved to the contrary as it was found that this supplement didn’t lead to any increase in testosterone levels and in fact had adverse effects as baldness, acne, shrinking of testacles to name a few.

Clearly, highlighting the fact that this performance enhancement drug had no positive impact as such and in fact, resulted in a number of adverse effects for the user. Another supplement used extensively by athletes; creatine helped make muscle and unlike androstenedione; it did in fact have some benefit in terms of short term burst of power (Healey, 2008).

It was reportedly used to decrease fatigue ands enhance performance. However, even this drug had adverse effects in terms of muscle and stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. One known side effect was that of weight gain and if taken in large doses could even cause failure of kidneys, liver and even heart. Thus, the usage of such a drug was highly controversial.

Stimulants were used to decrease fatigue, suppress appetite, and increase alertness and aggressiveness amongst the athletes. Though stimulants could increase physical performance the negative effects of such drugs were seemingly obvious enough for such drugs usage not be allowed (Healey, 2008).

In the present times, those drugs which had been traced as having adverse effects are: Tetrahydrogestrinone and Modafinil. These drugs had come under prominent notice of the world when a number of high-profile cases had been reported and that too in the United States which is heavily regulated. These drugs were declared to be illegal before the Olympics held in 2004.

The following diagram shows an opinion poll conducted by Gallup in order to determine the feedback of sports fans relating to the use of performance improving drugs in sports:

Galluo pull
Figure 1. Galluo pull

However, legalization is in itself was a pretty significant procedure and therefore, the term “drugs” should be defined sufficiently in order to leave no room for confusion relating to the usage of drugs. The usage of drugs for performance enhancement had to be made quite clearly otherwise drugs used for medical related problems had to be distinguished from those categorized as illegal drugs. (Ferguson 2006)

The World Anti-Doping Agency had set out clear rules and regulations which had to be enforced by all regional sport authorities in order for their athletes to participle in international competitions.

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Each regional sport body had its own rules and regulations framework designed on international lines in order to monitor their won athletes in order o remove the changes of their athletes being banned from international competitions.(Enos)

As per the World Sports and Anti-Doping Agency’s framework of rules, it wanted to work towards such a sporting world in which the athletes themselves valued a free and fair sporting arena for themselves. Though values had been dictated by a number of lectures given out by highly noteworthy sporting professionals, the present scenario of athletes being tested positive for drugs usage was pretty alarming.

This tradition of “cheating” had a precedent in history itself; it began from the 8th century when the Greeks used various substances in order to improve their performances. Hence, these actions had been shown as having roosts since the time that sports were introduced (Brera, 1995).

The code of the international committee harmonized anti-doping rules and regulations across the globe. It promoted values of commitment, consistency and coordination by all those stakeholders involved with the anti-doping procedure.

Some of the notable cases or rather scandals involving incidences involving illegal drugs use would be traced in the following few paragraphs.

In the World Weightlifting Championships in 1954, the first attempt at doping was discovered. The injection of Testosterone by a number of the Soviet athletes had resulted in their supremacy in the competition.

One of the famous cases of 1990s involved a Canadian; Ben Johnson, who was tested for stanozolol and later even admitted to more steroid usage such as Dianabol, Furazabol etc. Ben Jonson was stripped of his medal and it was awarded to another athlete; Carl Lewis who himself had earlier been tested positive for a banned substance.

The usage of drugs in order to enhance performance was clearly allowing certain athletes an unfair advantage against the non-drugs users. Every performance enhancement method had to be studied and evaluated in order to make a clear distinction between medical usage drugs and merely performance enhancement drugs (Ferguson, 2006).

Though declaring anything was a pretty harsh step in itself; such a harsh step was required in today’s world where numerous athletes were stripped of their medals etc after having violated certain drug usage rights. Athletes were judged on the basis of their ability to deliver and if the ability itself was being boosted by a certain substance then, that athlete had to be questioned and evaluated.

Such drugs therefore, had allowed an unfair advantage to certain athletes who might have used the excuse of “medical usage”, but the fact remained that if the drug had been in some way aiding the performance then it should not have been allowed under any circumstance.(Healey, 2008)

It was not only done for the sake of having a fair and equitable competition but also because the fact remained that these drugs had long-term negative effects and therefore, by banning certain drugs the hosts of the competitions would have been able to maintain the health and safety standards.

In today’s world, there were numerous cases of athletes who had suffered the negative effects of such drugs as short term measures had been used in order to stimulate the performance of the athletes.

In order to monitor the usage of such drugs, testing should have been carried out frequently in order to make sure that all athletes were not engaging in illegal practices. As research has shown, the more likely surprise testing was carried out, the less was the usage of banned substances. (Enos)

The best time for such tests was three months prior to any competition when certain athletes tried to use anabolic steroids and testosterone.

The random selection procedures which had been used for the in-competition testing had to involve a number of processes; from the athletes getting selected for the testing through the final placement process or through a process or drawing out random athletes names. One of the sporting bodies; ASADA, allowed this random testing to be carried out through random drawing, weighted draw, and by direct targeting. (Gold)

A poll conducted below by Gallup showed the feedback of the individuals about the appropriate technique of punishing those workers who had used steroids previously:

Combined responses: based on professional basseball funs
Figure 2. Combined responses: based on professional basseball funs

In addition to definition the differences between legal and illegal drugs, another important distinction that had to be carried out was the difference between intentional users and accidental users. Accidental users were those who unknowingly ended up using drugs due to the coaches and physical trainers’ orders.

Athletes become mere scapegoats to the wishes of these people who pursued their own selfish desires rather than being concerned with the safety of the athlete. (Gold)

In certain instances, athletes adopted self-medication for illnesses and in these cases also used drugs unknowingly. Certain cold and cough medication have an amount of alcohol and other drugs and thus, illegal actions were committed unknowingly.

However, there were found to be large classes of athletes who committed such actions knowingly in order to achieve their goal. These drugs even if used in small doses were enough to have effects on an athletes’ performance.

Therefore, the distinction between the drugs and the users had to be made. By doing so, the authorities would have made sure that no accidental users and medical drugs came under the category of illegal usage. However, what is equally important was the fact that such drugs should not be made legal and in fact banned due to not only the unfair advantage that they had allowed certain athletes but also due to the fact that they proved to be harmful to the user.

Works Cited

  1. Ferguson, B. “Sport Speak: Legalization of steroids in sport: is it time?” 2006. The Peak Publication Society.
  2. Rapid Drug Detection.” Usage of Drugs in Sports”. Web.
  3. Freudenrich, C.” Performance enhancement Drugs”. 2003.
  4. Healey,J ”Performance enhancing drugs “ 2008.Issues in Society Volume 269
  5. Brera, G. Le Géant et la Lime (French title), 1995.De Monde nard
  6. Gold, S. M “Performance enhancing medication and drugs of abuse” Haworth Press
  7. Enos, Daryl “Performance Improvement-Making it Happen”Auerbach publications


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