There used to be a time when the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs was a black and white issue. People that used them were taking chemicals into their body that they knew were banned by what ever sporting organisation they played under. These days though, things are a lot more clouded…
The explosion of sports supplemental and experimentation with natural substances has seen the line between supplementation and flat out cheating blurred significantly. Where once the idea of cheating was someone injecting themselves with a steroid, now you can buy over the counter products that themselves contain no banned substances, but that make your body produce higher levels of hormones that would see you fail a drug test.
So where do you draw the line? Can the line ever be drawn on issues such as these?
There are plenty of people out there in the sports world these days that see themselves as a living, breathing experiment. They experiment with over the counter drugs, body building supplements, plants and animal extracts…basically they will try anything that might give them some sort of physical edge either on the sporting field or during training.
There are doctors that have made careers out of taking this sort of experimentation to the next level. Finding ways to get around drug testings and seeing the success of athletes under their watch as a badge of honour.
I used to think that the black and white line was pretty clear. That the cheats would always get caught and that the clean athletes would eventually get the rewards they deserved. That all changed not that long ago…
I listened to a podcast in which former BALCO founder Victor Conte outlined the was he got incredible levels of success for athletes using drugs that simply were not being tested for, or that would not come up in anything short of a blood test, something very few sporting organisations do.
He explained that the modern day athlete can use performance enhancing drugs within a week of in competition testing and still not test positive to any banned substances. That once an athlete works out when to taper his drug use, it is almost impossible to get caught.
He talked about how random drug testing out of competition was easy to get around, and basically said you really had to stuff up terribly to be caught using performance enhancing drugs.
You can listen to the podcast HERE. I highly recommend it!
After listening to that podcast two things really stuck with me.
First of all, if something looks like an incredible, super human performance….I just can’t believe it was done naturally any more.
The other thing was that if you are a professional athlete and you are not looking for some sort of edge through supplementation….you are not maximizing your short career as a professional sportsman.
Outside of in and out of competition blood testing, there is simply no way sporting organisations can get anywhere near the performance enhancing drug cheats. Even then, it just comes down to lucking out and getting an athlete when they didn’t expect a test, or having a whistle blower tip off authorities to the use of banned substances.
I would never condone the use of performance enhancing drugs. The long term effects many of them carry are frightening. When I watch sports now though, I just accept that the chances are some of the athletes I am watching are using some sort of performance enhancing drugs.
Rugby League is one of the leading sports when it comes to drug testing. However until it steps things up to levels that are way beyond any testing any other sport does, moves up to blood testing and boosts the number of in and out of competition tests it does, it is just one of all the other sports I watch without rose coloured glasses on any more.
The ridiculous Lance Armstrong saga had one big lesson that everyone overlooked…
If enough people are making money, it becomes easier to look the other way than it does to confront the obvious truth. No one wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Even when the achievements of an athlete are preposterously over the top and the witnesses to performance enhancing drug use are lining up….the sports industry will protect them.
Sport these days is entertainment. Administrators don’t get paid by how healthy the athletes under their watch are in 40 years time. They get paid based on how many people are tuning in to watch athletes put on super human performances on the field of play.
How does that all effect Rugby League?
Just sit back and enjoy the show…