Doping- A Shadow Over Fair Sports – Dr Divya Jain

Winning in sports at all costs should not permit the philosophy of fair sports to degenerate merely into a competition amongst laboratories, scientists and athletes. Drugs spectre in sports though has become widespread but it threatens the safety, health and longevity of many athletes while perverting the original intent of sports.

In today’s world of utmost competition in sports, athletes very wrongly feel that as sportsmen can’t be caught easily for doping, why not have a go on drugs to enhance sports performance? The athletes want to reach the podium in the shortest possible time by using legal–illegal, moral–immoral, and illicit means so that they can become stars overnight.
One most important factors which is the main driving force for athletes to get into doping is money and fame. Athletes winning medals at the Olympics, and Asian Games become multi-millionaires overnight.
Now doping has reached such an advanced stage that two groups of scientists are at loggerheads. One group is devising newer and newer methods to detect the drugs in the urine and blood samples of athletes whereas another group of scientists is developing newer drugs which can escape detection.
High commercial stakes have led to the increasing use of drugs by sports persons for enhancing their performance to achieve desired goals.
In 1988, second Olympics, Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter was caught using anabolic steroids. In fact, he became more popular and known for using drugs than for winning the gold medal in 100 meters sprint.
Similarly, Diego Maradona, the King of the football field who single-handedly won the trophies for Argentina was caught a number of times for doping and was subsequently banned.
Some of the coaches who also profit from the exploits of athletes urge them to use drugs which are detrimental to their health. Drugs that are seemingly capable of boosting their short–term performance may invariably take a heavy toll on their health in the long run.
Drug abuse is thought to affect competitive sports at all levels, be it school level, college level, university level, nationals and internationals.
To use drugs to improve performance destroys the very principle of equal and fair competition on which genuine sport rests.
It is for this reason that international sporting bodies, earlier IOC and now WADA have shown extreme eagerness to support measures to bring the problem of the drug menace under control.
There are about 350 drugs which are banned for use by sports persons.
Various categories of banned drugs include- Anabolic steroids, Stimulants, Narcotic analgesics, Beta-blockers, Corticosteroids, Diuretics and masking agents, Erythropoietin and blood doping, cannabinoids, Peptide Hormones, and growth factors.
For example, Erythropoietin is mainly used by cyclists, long-distance swimmers and Marathoners.
Beta-blockers are used by archers Gymnasts and shooters to steady their trigger fingers and reduce pulse rate.
Diuretics are mainly used by players in weight-category games like Boxing, Wrestling and Weight lifting.
Anabolic steroids are used by sprinters, 110 m, 200 m, 400 m, 1500 m, and 3000 m.(athletes participate in these events).
Stimulants and Beta -2 agonists are used by cyclists and swimmers.
Narcotic Analgesics are used by players to increase their pain threshold but it increases the likelihood of injury.
Beta-2 agonists are drugs which are frequently used by asthmatics and are prohibited at all times (in and out of competition). Common examples are salbutamol, salmeterol, formoterol, etc.
The harmful effect of various categories of banned drugs include 
• Anabolic steroids
In Males – Acne, decreased sperm production, breast enlargement, and enlargement of the prostate gland.
• In Females –Masculinisation, increased aggressiveness, mood swings, depression etc
Beta – 2 Agonists
Trembling in hands, Nervous Tension, headache, palpitation and muscle cramps.
• Stimulants
Aggressiveness, anxiety, increased heart rate and tremors, Dehydration
• Diuretics
May cause dehydration, muscle weakening and cramping and drop in Blood pressure
• Cannabinoids
Impair skills requiring eye-hand coordination, Reduce motor coordination
• Glucocorticosteroids 
Osteoporosis, Peptic ulceration, fluid and electrolyte imbalance
• Beta – Blockers
Can cause heart failure, depression, asthma, sleep disorder, and sexual dysfunction.
Most doctors, including coaches and athletes, are not fully aware of the list of banned drugs and the athletes at times are caught unknowingly.
But WADA rules are clear- for anything banned found in your urine/blood sample, you and you only are solely responsible.
The athletes should refrain from using banned drugs and in fact, exercise strict caution while using any drugs during or before competitive sports as once caught in doping is bound to finish their career. If caught they are liable to be banned for 2 years to a lifetime.
They are advised to consult their doctor, or coach before consuming any drug even for a trivial illness like a cough or cold.
They should not use over-the-counter drugs according to the advice given by pharmacists as they are not aware of the banned component in drugs.
And last but not least -Play the game in the true spirit of sports and not resort to cheating. Because doping is cheating.

The article was written by Lt. Dr Divya Jain.

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