Doping Crisis

Posted on 2013-05-05 22:00:39

We love to compete. It is part of our human nature. With all competitions there is a winner and a loser. The mentality of winning at all costs is rearing its ugly head as the world comes to reality with doping in sporting competitions. At the 1988 Olympics, Canadian born Ben Johnson ran a mind blowing 9.79secs in the 100 meters race. Bear in mind that this was 1988 and the world record set 21 years later was 9.69 by Usain Bolt. It is thus no surprise that Ben Johnson was found guilty of using steroids to enhance his performance and he was subsequently banned. Ben Johnsons’ story was the main story that opened the world’s eyes about drug cheats. From then on famous athletes have been caught cheating. Olympic champion Marion Jones fell from grace and striped off her Olympic medals after she confessed to using steroids. She was once the fastest woman on earth. Most recently Lance Armstrong, the heroic cancer survivor who won 7 back to back Tour De France cycling races, confessed he had used performance enhancing drugs. All along he had denied ever using performance enhancing drugs. Using his powerful networks he managed to quell all these allegations for very many years. However there was mounting pressure and evidence that he was indeed a drug cheat. He was stripped off his Tour De France medals. In 2013 a report after yearlong inquiry by the Australia Crime Commission was released. The report fundamentally stated that doping is part and parcel of the sports industry. This doping involved an intricate network of players, agents, organized crime, scientists and coaches. This was one of the most damning reports for a country that are former world cup rugby and cricket champions. Closer home the scale of doping is emerging. Suspicions of our athletes’ outstanding performances have always been there. Allegations surfaced before the Beijing Olympics which were denied. However, the negative spotlight on our runners shone after a German Journalist, Hans-Joachim “Hajo” Seppelt alleged in 2012 that there was a widespread culture of doping amongst Kenyan runners. Since the allegations were made the runners found to have doped include:
  • Mathew Kisorio, the African Junior 5000m and 10,000 m champion found to have doped in June 2012.
  • Ronald Kipchumba.
  • Jamina Sumgong, the runner’s up in the 2012 Boston Marathon.
  • Rael Kiyara, the 2012 Hamburg Women’s marathon champion.
  • Wilson Loyanae.
  • Nixon Kiplagat.
  • Moses Kurgat.
  • Salome Jerono, the 2012 Nairobi Standard Chartered marathon champion.
  • Jynocel Onyancha.
Why do athletes dope with the knowledge of the serious consequences if caught? Money. Sports is a multibillion dollar industry. The attraction for athletes is prize money and endorsement deals. It is approximated that Lance Armstrong won about 4 million dollars in prize money and about 7 million dollars in bonuses. This does not include the millions of dollars he got from endorsing products. It is common to see Kenyan athletes becoming overnight millionaires after winning a race. With such an allure of money the attraction to doping seems easier. The World Antidoping Agency (WADA) has over ten classes of banned substances. The most common doping techniques being used include use of EPO, use of steroids, blood doping and masking agents. EPO (Erythropoietin): EPO is a naturally occurring protein in blood. Its natural function is to regulate the amount of red blood cells. Synthetic EPO used as a medicine or for doping helps increase the number of red blood cells. When the numbers of red blood cells are increased, your blood can carry more oxygen and thus improve your performance in the person using it. Steroids: Our bodies naturally produce testosterone which is a steroid that helps in the physical development of men and sex drive in both sexes. Steroids enhance performance by building muscle bulk, increase muscle strength, and improve endurance and helps recovery from injury faster. Blood doping: Also popular is blood doping. This is the transfusion of blood (usually your own). The effect of this transfusion is that it increases your red blood cells which in turns helps your blood carry more oxygen and improves your performance. Masking agents: These are chemicals that are used to avoid detection of banned substances in urine. Common masking agents are a class of medicines called diuretics. These medicines help force the formation of urine which in turn can be used to hide banned substances in urine. All sports men and women need to be aware of all the medications they use during their training. They are solely responsible for the use of any substances that can lead to them being banned. They cannot put blame on a third party. Despite the rewards, the sports men and women need to understand the potential side effects of using these substances. When used in high performance set-ups, like in the case of Lance Armstrong, the side- effects may be minimal due to the presence of a team of highly qualified scientists. When used without proper follow up the effects of using these banned substances can be fatal. EPO and blood doping runs the risks of making your blood thicker. Thicker blood means increased chances of clotting leading to hearts attacks and strokes. The use of steroids runs the risk of liver cancer, behavior change, infertility and high cholesterol.