Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Rashid Ramzi, Kelli White, and Regina Jacobs. These are the names behind some of the most scandalous doping incidents in world sports. Now world famous tennis player Maria Sharapova, five time grand slam winner, and the richest female athlete in the world, has been suspended for doping – using performance enhancing drugs – after failing a drug test on January 26th.
Sharapova was charged with an anti-doping violation on March 2nd and will be banned from tennis conditionally from March 12th, as she awaits the determination of her violation. Sharapova claims that she has been taking the prohibited drug, mildronate, since 2006, as prescribed by her family doctor to treat heart issues. However, what she didn’t know was that the drug had recently been added to the list of prohibited drugs in 2016, as it increases the heart’s endurance.
Doping has long since been a problem in the world of sports. The pressure to do well is almost suffocating. For up and coming athletes who are young, doping is an easy way to rapidly improve performance. As aging athlete’s face challenges, doping is a way to keep up with the younger generation, especially since professional sports is mostly young person’s profession. Coupled with the easy accessibility of sport-enhancing drugs, doping seems to be a convenient way to improve one’s performance.
There are five doping classes of prohibited drugs. Stimulants mask fatigue and make the athletes more alert. Anabolic agent’s steroids help the athletes train harder, and gain more muscle. Diuretics, which hide other drugs, help remove fluids from the body. Narcotic analgesics mask the pain caused by injury or fatigue. Peptides and hormones, give the red blood cells more energy, and help build muscle.
There is also a practice called “blood doping”, which is the process of removing one’s blood and storing it, and then injecting it back into the system to improve oxygen flow to the lungs and muscles. Each of these doping methods comes with serious side effects, some of which include heart failure, kidney damage, and strokes. However, a number of athletes are willing to take their chances with the side effects in order to do well in their chosen profession. Why would they sacrifice their health, and resort to illegal practices?
In our world, sports play an instrumental role in the world of entertainment. They provide a way to release stress, and emotions in a healthy way. The benefits of playing a sport, not only on a professional level, but also for amateurs, are lifelong. Sports lower blood pressure, increase fitness, heart strength, and overall strength. Doctors often encourage people to play a sport.
However the professional world of sports is a different game altogether, and is very stressful. Most athletes go into professional sports knowing that at a certain age, usually before 40 their careers will be over. The competition is stiff, and the strain on the athlete’s body is more than exhausting. One injury could ruin a career. And with the Olympics looming, the pressure could be insufferable.
Will the tragedies of Sharpova, Armstrong and Jones finally change the behaviours and mindsets of professional athletes, and cause them to eschew performance-enhancing drugs for good? Likely not. It seems that the pressure of today’s media-driven society on athletes is just too strong – and they are too weak to fight anymore.