With the long list of famous and influential sports personalities admitting the usage of drugs to enhance their performance ( performance enhancing drugs or PEDs) from cyclist Lance Armstrong to Indian sprinter Aswini Akkunji, it brings us to the fundamental question as to why and how do we ban drugs effectively. The World Anti Doping Agency ( WADA) with its stringent rules and intrusive methods of testing has not helped in reducing doping by even a tiny fraction.
PEDs are so widespread that health risks have shrunk to nothing but small side effects. Many feel that it is better to legalise a certain set of drugs to level the playing field. That way all the athletes will have access to the same set of enhancement drugs. But the question is when there already is a line that has been drawn on what can be used and what can’t, by shifting the line a few more inches, will it make any difference? How will you regulate the usage then? Even supposing that everyone is on a level playing field, the athletes will want to be a step ahead and take drugs that are probably not allowed again, it will be a vicious cycle that goes. Far from creating a level playing field, legalisation would tilt it in favour of those athletes from wealthy countries with advanced medical provision and pharmaceutical industries. Athletes from poorer nations would no longer be able to compete on talent alone.
Once some people choose to use drugs to enhance their performance, other athletes have their freedom of choice infringed upon. If drugs were legalised, it’s more like if they can’t take drugs and deal with its side effects, they can not compete. People say that sports has moved on from amateurism to professionalism, it is not about levelling the playing field, it is about high grade performance. To an extent that is very true. But we need to understand that the only reason it is a career is because people watch it on a large scale. Spectators enjoy the competition between athletes not pharmaceutical companies. They enjoy displays of skill. The LiveStrong Foundation ( the yellow gel silicone bands? ) founded by Lance Armstrong succumbed to great loses after Lance admitted that he had doped to win and that he couldn’t have made it without drugs.
Keeping in mind the spirit of sport, health risks and the vicious cycle of going beyond what is permitted, PEDs must not be legalised in sports. Though I’m not a biochemist, many drugs are equivalents of naturally occurring substances, which probably should be allowed. WADA has been so ineffectively stringent suspending voracious eaters who use medications to reduce the feeling of hunger from the Olympic Games. With all due thought to the fact that there is no way to stop its usage, you can’t legalise everything you can’t enforce.