Allowing doping in sport would put lives at risk
This week’s article by George Galanis in The Punch was an interesting read. But, I’m afraid to say, it mistakenly perpetuated the myth that somehow it is medically safe to use performance enhancing substances in sport.
Doping has been around as long as competitive sport itself. However, in modern history one of the major catalysts for the prevention of doping in sport was the deaths of athletes resulting directly from doping.
The reality is that athletes have indeed died during and straight after competition because they have doped. The death of Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen during competition at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome (the autopsy revealed traces of amphetamine) increased the pressure for sports authorities to introduce drug testing.
In 1967, the urgency of anti-doping work had been highlighted by another tragic death, that of cyclist Tom Simpson during the 13th stage of the Tour de France. The post mortem found that he had taken amphetamines and alcohol, a diuretic combination which proved fatal when combined with the heat.
So one thing is for sure – before doping control, the lives of athletes were not only at risk, but on occasion, were sacrificed for a win.
In George’s article, he suggests that it is possible to use steroids in a safe way and that athletes should be able to do this.
In part, George is correct.
It is possible for athletes to use prohibited substances (such as steroids) for legitimate medical reasons. In fact, the World Anti-Doping Code actually allows for this.
However, athletes can only use prohibited substances following approval from a group of medical experts who grant the athlete what’s called a Therapeutic Use Exemption, or TUE.
What’s important to note from this process is that a group of doctors must approve the TUE. These doctors must be absolutely sure that the use of the substance will not be detrimental to an athlete’s health.
In this way, the World Anti-Doping Code recognises that sometimes athletes do need to use prohibited substances. But, it only allows athletes to use these substances for medical reasons.
There have been recent examples of athletes who have reportedly had major health scares and even died as a result of cheating through doping. These athletes have faced these health problems because they’ve tried to step outside of the World Anti-Doping Code rules, which exposes them to the dangerous risks of doping.
We can’t possibly stand by and let this occur.
That’s why I’m proud to lead an organisation that aims to develop a sporting culture free from doping in which performance is based on an athlete’s talent, determination, courage and honesty.
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