The Doping Crisis
Harare – Doping is the word used in sport when athletes use prohibited substances or methods to unfairly improve their performance.
It also refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs that are not approved by the law or drugs that violate the World Anti-Doping Code.
The use of doping substances or doping methods to enhance performance is fundamentally wrong and is detrimental to the growth of sport the world over.
Doping or drug misuse can be harmful to an athlete’s health and in some instances it can lead to death.
Drugs can create both physical and psychological dependence and this can affect the career and performance of athletes. When the drug is discontinued, withdrawal symptoms may occur as a result.
Furthermore, prolonged use of large dosages of performance enhancing substances may cause permanent and irreversible side-effects.
Doping puts the name of sports into disrepute by severely damaging the integrity, image and value of sport, whether or not the motivation to use drugs is to improve performance.
To achieve integrity and fairness, commitment from athletes is critical.
For instance, the troubling story of American cyclist Lance Armstrong admitting in January this year that he had doped before each of his record seven Tour de France victories stained the integrity of sports.
His confession after years of denial followed the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to strip him of his titles for being at the centre of the “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. Doping, in essence, is no different from match fixing.
A report from Australia’s top criminal intelligence unit linked doping in sport with money-laundering and match-fixing after a year-long investigation.
“This is essentially money-laundering, bribery and corruption in relation to match-fixing and spot-fixing,” highlighted the report.
World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) director-general David Howman adds: “The same people who are trafficking in steroids and encouraging athletes to cheat by doping are the ones who are engaged in illegal betting.”
At a WADA media symposium in the UK in February, Howman said at least 25 percent of international sport was controlled by the underworld.
Dealing with the scourge requires imposition of strong sentences against drug cheats. All athletes and administrators must be made aware of the dangers and consequences of cheating.
Stakeholders in the sporting sector must support UNESCO efforts to educate athletes about the harmful effects of doping. UNESCO is recommending its members to implement anti-doping training.
Significantly, athletes should stick to the principles of fair play and abstain from doping. Athletes are role models. Consequently, a no tolerance front must be put up and a strong force must be created to uphold it.