Doping in Sports


Practicing sports is ideally seen as a positive behavior with several health and social benefits. Since ancient times, sport has been celebrated in special occasions where athletes competed for top ranks. Nowadays, there are numerous recurrent competitions dedicated to one or a set of sports. Although performance-enhancing substances are strictly banned and participating athletes undergo meticulous testing in these events, things have not always been the same.

I recently finished reading a novel entitled It Happened in Berlin by Egyptian novelist Hisham Alkhashin, which I really enjoyed and admired. Like most literary works, it sheds light on some real human tragedies. I was personally moved by one of an Olympic athlete from East Germany who first experiences a career-ending injury, then suffers the devastating health effects of performance-enhancing steroids she was told were vitamins.

East German athletes did in reality achieve impressive results in competitions; however, that was part of a state-inspired doping program that aimed to enhance the image of the notoriously totalitarian country. This secret program that started as early as the 1960s was not unveiled until the fall of East Germany in 1989. Actually, several countries were also notorious for doping before drug testing was officially enforced.

Doping has had devastating health effects on over 10,000 East German athletes, among others. These effects include tumors, diabetes, heart attacks, thyroid problems, loss of vision, severe headaches, to name some. Other health problems are gender specific due to the use of hormonal drugs; for examples, East German female athletes exhibited symptoms like deep voice and overdeveloped bodies.

Efforts to ban doping started as early as the unfortunate accident of the Danish cyclist Knud Jensenm who collapsed during a race in 1960 because of performance enhancing drugs*. The very early efforts were taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Medical Commission, followed by the International Association of Athletics Federations. In 1999, an international agency known as The World Anti-Doping Code (WADA) was established to lead a collaborative worldwide movement for doping-free sport. Its primary role is to develop, harmonize, and coordinate anti-doping rules and policies across all sports and countries.

Thankfully, doping is currently officially considered a crime; one that contradicts the core values of sports and damages the integrity of athletes. Doping incidents are described my media as scandals; moreover, athletes who prove to break anti-doping rules lose their titles.

In my opinion, it is almost insane that a person sacrifices their own health for a record or a title, or for a country to sacrifice its athletes to achieve international recognition or economic and political gains. On the contrary, sports, particularly international competitions, should be a means to bring peoples and nations together, and promote world peace.


*Find out more in the article “Citius, Altius, Fortius: Let’s Talk Science!

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