DRUGS IN SPORT — PART 2

In the first part of this series I covered, the types of drugs, whether they’re party drugs, or performance enhancing, as well as the testing methods were discussed. Examples from multiple Olympic Games, the International Tennis Federation, as well as the NHL were used to introduce the sanctioned repercussions these athletes could be subject to facing through the sport’s governing bodies, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and a hearing from the United States Congress. This discussion will develop into a more personal story of how drugs influenced the life a current AHL (occasional NHL) player, and how the use of drugs is impacting young athletes, and society as a whole – especially in cases where it is being sanctioned by governmental states.

The function of the World Anti-Doping Agency is to “bring consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport organizations and governments right across the world” (WADA, 2015). The WADA created the World Anti-Doping Code in 2004 to be able to help oversee activities in code-compliance monitoring, science and medicine, anti-doping coordination, global anti-doping developments, education, athlete outreach, and cooperation with law enforcement.  The World Anti-Doping Agency has longstanding relationships with the world’s biggest sporting organizations, and their competitive initiatives to ensure that all athletes are being held to the same standard, and are being punished in the same manner when violating anti-doping policy. Events such as the Olympics, FIFA World Cup, and others utilize the resources provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency and rely on their policies, the Code, to be the main legislative body to work with when sanctioning athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Code outlines the ways in which an athlete could be breaking policy when using prohibited substances, including tampering with their urine sample, refusing to provide a urine sample, possession of a banned substance, trafficking and aiding and abetting. It also provides a new definition of what the principle of strict liability entails, and how vital it is to the sanctioning process. Strict liability, in this sense, means that the prosecutor, the governing body of the competition, needs to prove there is actus reus or mens rea in relation to the doping offense, not both.

In a 2008 hearing before the United States Congress, in an attempt to understand the risks associated with the use of PEDS, and how the drugs can impact the integrity of sport, it was noted that there are significant health risks that could follow use by any human being, regardless of whether they’re athlete or not. A human’s internal organs could be affected, as well as other aspects of their lives. “Steroid use has been linked to impotence, clotting disorders, liver damage, heart attacks, strokes, and violent mood swings known as ‘roid rage”(United States Congress, 2008). Typically, it is only professional, or serious amateur athletes that consider the cost of their health to be insignificant to using these types of drugs to win. A person who works out for some daily physical activity generally doesn’t consider PEDs to be an option in terms of getting stronger and achieving their goals but, to an athlete training for competition, especially the Olympics, it is the most effective option.

They’ll consider all options of which types of PEDS are available to them, and which drugs they can use in small enough dosages leading up to the event that they wouldn’t be traceable in a urine sample. Other athletes will look at alternative means to gaining the advantage over their competition. As described above, they’ll consider designer drugs that can’t be traced to being one specific drug, like the American sprinting team in the BALCO case. Or, as the United States Congress presented, they’ll turn to resources like a Human Growth Hormone. While, it’s likely that many athletes are using options such as the Human Growth Hormone, most amateur sports associations can’t test for the hormone. This hormone causes just as significant of health risks as PEDS but, many athletes will use them in their training because their governing body can’t test for it. In the eyes of their governing body, they’re just a natural born elite athlete and the athlete will simply stop using the hormone before the event so that, it too, won’t appear in their urine sample.

Many athletes originally begin using social drugs as a result of the celebrity lifestyle they lived as Olympic or professional athletes, as Bill Daly mentioned above. Some sprint athletes even used cocaine as a way of helping their performance, not just as a social drug. “In sprint athletes, cocaine is likely to increase heart and lactic acid formation, which, coupled with vasoconstriction, could contribute to fatal cardiac damage”(Verroken, 2000). Even when cocaine or other social drugs aren’t used as a way of enhancing one’s athletic performance, they can still be detrimental to one’s career. In addition to the detriment of former NHL player Mike Richards’ career hitting a roadblock due to legal trouble involving drugs and drug use, the use of social drugs can affect a person’s personal life, and mental health.

The past of current AHL-er Rich Clune is one that exemplifies that which many athletes face but are too ashamed, ignorant, or not alive to admit. Clune admits that if he didn’t get the help he needed when he needed it most, he probably wouldn’t be alive to share his story, or would’ve ended someone else’s as a result of his actions. Clune admits that he was in such a terrible mental place that he’d begin drinking from the minute he woke up on a day off, to the time he fell asleep, and this was a recurrence beginning when he played in juniors until he recognized he needed help. By the time he was nineteen years old, he had abused cocaine on a weekly basis, if not more often. Clunes story isn’t one that many would’ve seen coming. He had a bright future ahead, if only he had remained happy with where he was in life.

“I was in the kid taking private art classes in high school and watching Tarantino movies. I was the kid who was supposed to play hockey at Harvard before begging his parents to let him play in the OHL instead. I was the kid who made a blood-pact promise to his mom that he would never fight in juniors (which pissed of the coaches to no end). I won the Bobby Smith Award for the OHL’s scholastic player of the year, for Christ’s sake. And I did all of that while binge-drinking every single day, often alone in my room.” (Clune, 2015)

There are far too many athletes, in every sport, who didn’t recognize when they needed help, or have the courage to admit when they were in need. So many athletes live with an addiction that they’re suffering with, and no one would ever know because they are such profound athletes. “I am certainly not unique. There are players in the NHL right now who are suffering, and you would never know it from looking at their stat sheet or how hard they compete in practice”. In recent years, too many NHL players alone have succumbed to their addictions that forced them into severe depressions that they couldn’t find a way out. Depression, as Clune mentioned, is just a side effect of a person’s coping mechanism to their environment. For Clune, he’d forget that his role on a hockey team was to be the guy that goes out looking for a fight to raise his team’s energy level and play on ice. He didn’t dream of playing that role on his team but, that was where he fit into the game. His love for the game prevailed his happiness with his role, and it was that unhappiness that lead him towards addiction.

It was the 1984 United States Olympic Cycling team that completely changed the way in which the world viewed doping in international sport. Although, at this point in time, there weren’t International Olympic Committee regulations against the blood transfusions that the Cycling team underwent, it forced the International Olympic Committee and other governing bodies to change the way they regulate the use of drugs, in any capacity, in their events (Gleaves, 2015). Even before the 1984 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee refused to prohibit any substance if it couldn’t be detected through testing, including anabolic steroids. It was through this scandal that the International Olympic Committee changed their rulings regarding blood transfusions and the use of anabolic steroids. They changed their rulings for three reasons. The first was the willingness of the athletes and the coaches to win. The second reason was to ban all forms of doping, even if it wasn’t known how they could be tested. The International Olympic Committee viewed this as being a deterrent as opposed to being a preventative measure. If athletes knew they could be caught, they were less likely to do it. The third way of banning doping in sport was through expanding their definition of what doping constitutes. Originally, it was just the ban against substances that could be tested. Now, it includes hormone injections, anabolic steroids, and blood transfusions that can be tested through urine or blood samples.

If the American Cycling team had never been caught having undergone blood transfusions to enhance their performance at the 1984 Olympics, the IOC would have never been forced to revise what they constitute to be doping. If these revisions hadn’t been made, the integrity of the Olympic Games, and sport, in general, would’ve declined significantly and wouldn’t have the same meaning today. Society wouldn’t be obsessing over the natural ability that so many amazing athletes possess; society would instead be injecting themselves with PEDs to make ourselves stronger athletes that could one day participate in the Olympics.

Most recently, there is the case of state-endorsed doping at the Olympic Games. It came as no surprise that Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wanted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, to be among the very best, especially for Russian athletes. That was until a story broke at the beginning of November 2015 that the Russian government sponsored the use of illegal substances and endorsed their athletes in partaking in illegal activities to ensure that they wouldn’t be caught of using performance enhancing substances. These activities, apparently, have been occurring for years, not just before the 2014 Winter Olympics. “Members of Russia’s secret service intimidated workers at a drug-testing lab to cover up top athlete’s positive results … a lab once destroyed more than fourteen hundred samples … athletes adopted false identities to avoid unexpected testing … some paid to make doping violations disappear, others bribed the anti-doping authorities to ensure favourable results and top sports officials routinely submitted bogus urine samples for athletes who were doping” (Ruiz 2015). News of this occurring led to an IOC investigation as to exactly what happened, which athletes were involved, and whether they should be stripped of their medals. What makes the report even worse is that Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, knew the fraud was occurring. It’s been suggested that many of the athletes and coaches involved will be receiving lifetime bans from International competition but, as Richard McLaren points out, this amount of corruption completely destroys the integrity of sport (Ruiz, 2015). These types of acts are what the IOC was working towards ending when they revised their definition and punishments following the 1984 Olympics. It’s unfortunate that these types of acts are still being committed at this day in age. With the testing technology available, why would these governing bodies even be attempting to allow their athletes and coaches cheat just to win a medal that they don’t even deserve?

Doping among adolescents isn’t a major issue, however it can be extremely dangerous to their health. Anabolic steroids can come very inexpensively to teenagers but, these are the worst types of substances to be put into their bodies, especially a growing one. 3-12% of American teenage boys will admit to having used steroids to grow prematurely while 1-2% of American adolescent girls will (Yesalies & Bahrke, 2000). However, many of these teenagers have admitted that they felt pressure to get stronger and to grow because of how great of athletes the competitors they watch on television are. Yesalis and Bahrke both offered the potential for drug testing among adolescents to help them maintain healthy lifestyles but, that option is very expensive, especially if they aren’t being administered by governing sporting bodies for athletes training for careers in sports. The main preventive measure should be just to educate adolescents on how their lives could end through the use of PEDs. However, sometimes, it isn’t the young athletes self-administering the use of PEDS. As recently reported 80% of the Russian u18 hockey program tested positively to the use of Meldonium (Reevell & Clarey, 2016). Meldonium is a pharmaceutical developed primarily in Latvia that was designed to treat angina and myocardial infarction. It was recently added to the WADA’s list of banned substances when it was learned that athletes were using the drug as a way to improve blood flow which can create more space for oxygen in the body while exercising – improving performance. Meldonium stays in the human body’s system for several months so, there’s a chance that the medical team administering the use of the drug stopped before the substance was banned but it is still in their system (Reevell & Clarey, 2016).

Through the research conducted, it doesn’t appear as though there alternate ways of attempting to alleviate the sporting world in the use of drugs other than to educate athletes about the associated risks. It was proposed that there should be a more rigorous method of testing however, as was seen in the case of the Russian officials sponsoring the use of PEDS, extra testing wouldn’t matter. Laboratories and agencies could very well be paid off to dismiss positive tests and use false samples to create negative results. Unless athletes take the initiative to understand the risks of the drugs they’re using, there’s no hope to prevent them from continuing to use.

The understanding of the place that drugs, both social and performance enhancing, in sports, should be of concern, especially to governing bodies who have been working to eliminate it. It was once believed that the integrity of sport rested on the shoulders of the athletes whose innate ability to perform athletically at high levels. However, it appears as though it’s placed in the hands of the group of athletes who don’t resort to substances to help them. The stories of the athletes examined above shows just how prevalent substance abuse is in today’s society, even with all of the resources available. There’s so much information on the harm these substances can do to a person’s physical and mental health, there really isn’t any excuse to continue to harm a body with these substances. It’s disappointing that there, so far, aren’t any alternative methods to trying to eliminate the use of drugs in sport, other than education. Hopefully, all athletes that are abusing social and/or performance enhancing substances can one day find a way to admit to their wrong doings and get the help they deserve, before it is too late.

**DISCLAIMER — this article was originally a term paper for LAWS 4303 at Carleton University, it has been modified from its original submittal

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