Science & Technology

Elite athletes continue to use doping

A study conducted in 2011 by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA, revealed that doping is more common in professional sports than expected, as 30 to 45 percent of athletes surveyed at two top events admitted to using prohibited doping techniques.

Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and Maria Sharapova are three great athletes who downgraded their amazing achievements by their use of substances to enhance their professional performances. They made millions of dollars and also won many championships in their respected sports, but their substance abuse forever marked them as cheaters.

Athletes are improving each day in skills and techniques.

The most expensive resources are used to train these world class athletes in order for them to get every single advantage over their competitors.

However, doping has haunted the sports world for decades as an illegal advantage and has led to the downfall of many elite athletes’ careers. It is a word associated with cheating, dishonesty, sickness and disgrace.

These professional athletes put their careers and reputations at risk because they have sponsorships, rising contracts and millions of dollars in winnings.

As technology and science are improving every day, many sports fans believe that the days of doping, or the use of performance-enhancing drugs-or PEDs- in the sports world may be over.

This belief was challenged by a WADA study conducted by Harrison G. Pope of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts and Professor Rolf Ulrich from the University of Tubingen in Germany.

The study found “that doping is far more common in professional sport than the rates suggested by [the] blood and urine tests of the athletes.”

One may ask what is wrong with doping, as athletes are already pushing their bodies to extreme heights.

Scientists state, however, that “doping in sports compromises fair play and endangers health.”

In the official article, “Doping in Two Elite Athletics Competitions Assessed by Randomized-Response Surveys,” 2,167 athletes were surveyed at two major sporting events: the 13th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Athletics, or WCA, in August 2011 and the 12th Quadrennial Pan-Arab Games, or PAG, in December 2011.

The article stated that “to estimate the prevalence of doping, we utilized a ‘randomized response technique,’ which guarantees anonymity for individuals when answering a sensitive question. We also administered a control question at PAG assessing past-year use of supplements.”

The use of PEDS, from stimulants to steroids, gives athletes an unfair advantage over others.

The International Olympic Committee defines it as “the use of any method or substance that might harm the athlete, in a quest to gain an unfair advantage over his or her fellow competitors.”

As seen from the prevalence of doping in the sports world, official tests fail to pick up a majority of doping cases.

In a face-to-face interview with participants of the randomized response survey, individuals would be strongly motivated to provide socially desirable responses, even if these responses were not true.

These false responses made getting a truthful survey difficult.

“Anonymity gives protection, allowing the respondents to answer honestly,” explained Ulrich, head of the Cognition and Perception Research Group at the Department of Psychology in the University of Tubingen.

“Overall, this study suggests that biological tests of blood and urine greatly underestimate the true prevalence of doping,” emphasizes Pope, who is also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “As we note in the paper, this is probably due to the fact that athletes have found various ways to beat the tests.”

Based on the results at the two competitions, “the estimated prevalence of past-year doping was 43.6 percent (95 percent confidence interval 39.4–47.9) at WCA and 57.1 percent (52.4–61.8) at PAG. The estimated prevalence of past-year supplement use at PAG was 70.1 percent (65.6–74.7 percent).”

These numbers reveal more information about doping. Doping appears to be highly in use among elite athletes and is still a common occurrence throughout the world because of unregulated biological testing.

With the recent banning of the Russian track and field team by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the future is looking clean.

The British Parliament’s Committee on Culture, Media and Sport additionally led a discussion on this issue.

The authors anticipate that this study will prompt further investigation into elite athletes using  PEDS.

September 11, 2017

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Matthew Sanchez

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