Sports Essay, Research Paper
Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports: A Silent Epidemic
They stand behind the starting blocks, rigid and serious; the tension is palpable. Without a sound, the athletes step onto the starting block; the only barrier remaining between them and Olympic gold is some fifty meters of cool, clear water. They know that in less than twenty-two seconds, the race will be over; the difference between the winner and the loser measured by a margin of a few thousandths of a second.
At their inspirational best, the Olympic Games affirm the beauty and glory of sport. As we watch extraordinary athletes compete and achieve feats of incredible strength, speed, and agility, we are moved to awe. But to see these performances athletic besieged by assertions of the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs among athletes puts the essence of athletic competition at risk. Many athletes who compete and win based solely on talent and determination are viewed with skepticism.
As sports are becoming increasingly more competitive and profitable, athletes of all levels are questioning how they can continue to improve. These athletes are exploring new options in training, technique, and nutrition as a means to gain a competitive edge. Increasingly, athletes are incorporating performance-enhancing supplements and ergogenic aides into their fitness regime when their natural ability has been fully developed. As more and more athletes turn to drugs to enhance their performance, the question becomes what role should performance-enhancing drugs play in sports? Like 86% of Americans, I disapprove of drug use and doping in sports. I believe the deliberate use of performance-enhancing drugs should be banned and that stricter sanctions regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs should be implemented on an international level.
While the use of dietary aids to enhance athletic prowess is centuries old, research indicates that today s highly competitive athletic world is causing youth performance-enhancing drug use to grow significantly. Studies by Our National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCS) show that steroid use among twelfth grade females jumped 100 percent between 1991 and 1996; during this same five-year period, steroid use among tenth grade females jumped 83 percent and jumped 75 percent among eighth grade girls. This trend is alarming as sport is often promoted as a means to achieve physical well-being. While we currently lack concrete information on the possible long-term effects of performance-enhancing drugs on the human body, preliminary studies suggest performance-enhancing drugs put the health and safety of those who use these substances at serious risk. The Stasi, a secret German police organization that managed East Germany s national doping program during the 1970 s, has documented health problems related to performance-enhancing drugs ranging from androgen-induced amenorrhea and severe ovarian cysts to advanced liver damage, and fetal malformation in pregnant women. The risks are significantly higher for young people as the use of exogenous hormones during development can severely impair or alter the normal cycle of development. While perceived to help achieve maximum athletic benefit, performance-enhancing drugs have athletes literally dying to win .
Within the U.S., there is little regulation over performance-enhancing drugs. Domestic sports, particularly professional sports, permit the use of some performance-enhancing drugs. What message does this send to our youth, who often admire professional athletes and look to them as role models? A professional athlete endorsing the use of performance-enhancing drugs says that we cannot complete honestly and expect to win, implying that it is acceptable to deprive clean athletes of a lifetime of hard work, and clean athletes stand no chance against competitors who will accept any cost, whether it is debilitating injury, illness or death, to win.
Athletic prowess, like musical or artist ability, is a god-given talent. However, unlike musical or artistic talent, the development of athletic talent can be largely influenced by outside factors including nutrition, technique, and dedication to a fitness program. Athletic talent is also influenced by the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The ability of the international community to prevent, detect, and punish drug use in sport has been hindered by a persistent pattern of discrepancies. Existing anti-doping systems fail to provide athletes with the assurance and confidence that the playing field is level. These systems fail for two simple reasons: 1) drug-testing programs most often serve as a public relations tool and are not designed as effective counter-drug programs and 2) most athletes who choose to use drugs to enhance athletic performance are careful to use masking agents or enhancers to make drugs difficult to detect and stop intake of the supplement well in advance of expected drug tests. Athletes who are willing to cheat will continue to push the limits of science to find new ways to steal the slightest advantage, creating a breed of superhuman athletes.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, under the guidance of director General Barry McCaffrey, recognized the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports was becoming an international crisis of both public health and public confidence. In October of 1999, McCaffrey addressed the Senate Committee on Commerce to announce U.S. strategy to address drug use and doping in sports. Recognizing that government leadership is critical in eliminating the threat of drugs in sport, ONDCP will work with stakeholders to implement an effective program that will allow athletes to compete on a level playing field. McCaffrey stated Absent of real reform, we risk not only irreparable damages to the beauty and glory of sports but also to the long-term health of our athletes and young people.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport not only jeopardizes the integrity of athletics, but also puts the health and safety of athletes at risk. In sport complexes across the nation, young athletes strive for excellence in sport, day in and day out. Without implementing new standards in fighting the use of drugs in sport, each of these children is placed at risk of turning to untested chemicals to gain a competitive edge. In banning performance-enhancing drugs and implementing new policies on drug testing, we restore the tarnished beauty and glory of sport. As we watch sporting events, we will no longer have to wonder whether we are seeing a real athletic competition or a duel between pharmacists.