“He’s at the 40, the 30, the 20, the 10, the 5, TOUCHDOWN!!” Can you imagine the joy of having 100,000 people chanting your name and cheering as loud as they could just for you? Now try imagine having all of that, then having it taken away because you tested positive for illegal drugs. This is the harsh reality for several professional athletes. They get a small taste of greatness but instead of working harder they take a drug and immediately notice improvement. So they take some more until they become completely dependent on the drug for success.
Unfortunately hiding drug use is big business for most professional athletes. As illustrated in the movie, The Program ,this is even a problem at the college level. As athletes they have a constant drive to be the best and to win and when that is not possible physically that’s when athletes turn to drugs. It gives them that extra edge they feel they couldn’t get from working harder. This is partly societies fault in that no one cheers a loser, it’s just our nature to try and cheer for the best. People have enough trouble remembering who won the race let alone who lost. The majority of people feel it’s just too much to be bothered by and just too much to remember. (Long)
The use of drugs in an attempt to enhance sporting performance is often referred to as doping. It is thought that the word ‘dope’ originated from the South African language. Dope referred to a primitive alcoholic drink that was used as a stimulant in ceremonial dances. Gradually the term adopted a wider usage and in reference to sport, it became known as ‘doping’. In today’s sporting context, doping refers to the use by athletes of banned substances or methods that may enhance performance. (Kremitzki)
While the term doping first appeared in an English dictionary in 1879,the use of drugs is evident throughout the history of sport. By 800B.C. the Greeks had incorporated sport into their lifestyles to a similar extent as the cultural and religious observations of the time. Athletic festivals were common in the Greek calendar. Emphasis was placed on the artistic nature of athletics as well as the preparatory role athletics played for warriors. Participants were required to write poetry, or perhaps display another artistic ability, as well as perform physical feats.
Athletic celebrations of this time were also an important means of establishing the geographic, economic and political importance of an area or region. From about 400BC, sport achieved a status in the social life of Greece similar to, if not greater than, its place in society today. Mass spectator sport was the order of the day and rich prizes for winners led to the emergence of a class of highly paid sports people, resulting in the demise of the amateur competitor. (4)
“Show Me The Money”
Writings from the time of Plato reveal that the value of a victory in the ancient Olympics was the equivalent of nearly half a million dollars. This was complemented by other rewards including food, homes, tax exemptions and even deferment from the armed service.
Professionalism and commercialism ultimately led to corruption. Bribing and cheating became commonplace, and competitors of this period were reputedly willing to ingest any drug, which might enhance their performance, including extracts of mushrooms and plant seeds. In addition to political interference, one of the significant reasons for the dissolution of the ancient Olympic games was the use of drugs. (4)
Spectatorship thrived at gladiatorial competitions and chariot races, and these sporting events reigned as a source of public entertainment. To accommodate the huge following, the Coliseum was restructured in 100AD to hold 60,000 spectators.
The use of drugs during this period has also been recorded. Chariot racers fed their horses a potent mixture to make them run faster, while many gladiators were ‘doped-up’ to make their fights sufficiently vigorous and bloody for the paying public. (4)
In 1983 is when drug-testing strategies took an important step forward. This is when analytical procedures were significantly refined such as blood tests and urine samples. The introduction of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry allowed accurate results to be consistently obtained. Also in 1983, this new technology resulted in the now famous scandal at the Pan American Games in Caracas where numerous athletes tested positive to prohibited drugs, and many others left the Games without competing rather than being caught. The IOC established a comprehensive set of operating procedures and standards for laboratories to ensure that drug testing is conducted in a uniform and effective manner. The Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory in Sydney is one of only twenty-four worldwide, with the appropriate accreditation from the IOC to carry out sports drug testing. (Camp)
The following are years when major events in drug abuse took place in sports, most are at the professional level. (4)
1960: At the Olympics, Danish cyclist, Kurt Jensen, collapsed and died from an amphetamine overdose.
1988: Drug use had continued. Due to the significance of the problem, the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts began an inquiry into the use by Australian sportsmen and sportswomen of performance enhancing drugs and the role to be played by Commonwealth agencies.
1989: An interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts was published.
1990: A second report of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts was published.
1990: The Australian Sports Drug Agency was established by the Australian Sports Drug Agency Act 1990 (ASDA Act).
1991: The Agency became a statutory authority.
The basic desire to be successful and satisfy ego requirements is a major source of internal pressure that almost all athletes’ posses. Problems such as self-doubt, lack of confidence, nervousness, stress and depression are common to all athletes. The characteristics of self-pressure are not exclusive to people in the sporting field. (Barber)
A successful athlete is often associated with a successful coach. As a result, the coach may place direct pressure on an athlete to perform and may be the source of further internal pressure to succeed. This being that if the athlete is great then he or she must have a great coach.
Competitors set the standards to which an athlete must perform. If an athlete believes that a competitor has obtained some kind of advantage, then the pressure to also have or use this advantage is significant, for example, a better designed golf club, a lighter running shoe or the use of steroids. Similar peer group pressure may come from teammates.
Spectators create a great source of pressure both at the elite and lower levels of competition. At the elite level, athletes are often adopted as role models and will often take the hopes and aspirations of thousands of fans into competition. Spectators are also the source of money and applause, hence the athlete may feel pressure to perform to standards expected by the public. The fickle nature of public support also creates pressure. Generally, we all love a winner and often adopt a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. At the lower level of competition the presence of spectators may increase the anxiety levels of athletes. This may affect an athlete’s performance and in due course influence an athlete’s behavior. (Bower)
The media plays an important role in shaping the opinions and attitudes of the general public. How the media portrays an athlete, and how they report on an athlete’s performance, can not only influence the public but the athlete as well. (6)
Pressure for sporting success may also be the result of social incentives to achieve. The glory and recognition for sporting achievements is a strong motivator towards success. Sporting success may provide an athlete with greater access and mobility to other social groups, that is, successful athletes are usually given the opportunity to meet and mix with people outside their usual social group, such as politicians and media personalities.
Financial and material rewards
Financial and material rewards are major influences on athletes and sporting performance. Sport, which was once an activity to fill in leisure time, has now become a way to earn a living for some of our elite athletes. In recent times people have commented that money-making principles have begun to replace athletes’ moral principles. Enormous salaries, product endorsements and potential careers outside of the sporting field are some of the rewards available to the successful athlete. Rewards are also available to athletes at lower levels of competition and to those in amateur sport. Even at junior levels, inducements such as scholarships are a significant incentive, and can increase the pressure to achieve. (Rosentraub)
Successful athletes at the highest level are sometimes elevated to the position of hero and carry the pressures of national honor and pride with them. Countries also use their athletes as political weapons. In international competition, one country’s sporting successes over another country are often viewed as proof of ideological or national superiority. Such is the case in the Olympic games, where enormous emphasis is placed on the number of gold medals won by a country, with even greater pressure being placed on the host country. (4)
In conclusion I would like to mention that with all of this information it really has given me a different view of athletics. Particularly at the lower levels, I think writing this paper has caused me to judge each and every athlete. It is almost impossible to tell visually if an athlete is taking drugs. Currently there are no tests for high school athletes and very few tests for college athletes, especially the Div. III and Div. II schools. I cannot see this problem dissolving anytime in the near future but there is always hope. I feel that the only truly clean athletes are those children who are yet to enter organized sports. By this I mean those that are not funded by the school or by the community but by the parents and or children themselves. Examples of these would be “Biddy Ball” and “Pee Wee Football”. I feel this way because at this level adults are more inclined to yell as opposed to supplying their athletes with drugs. As a final question I ask, “Has society really gotten to the point that young men and women are willing to risk social exile along with their lives just for a few moments of glory”?