Is drug use bad for sport?

The lifetime achievement for many top class athletes around the world is the ultimate sporting triumph, Olympic gold, however, is this intense desire amongst sportspeople to be the best, irreversibly damaging sport as we know it? Many of today’s sports have been plagued by controversy surrounding the use of illegal substances in recent years. I believe that drug abuse is extensively damaging to the practice of sport as a whole, affecting everyone who participates or views sporting activities, from the novice to the top-class professional.

This is a situation in which many of today’s athletes face: Imagine you’re a world-class athlete at the top of your field; you are about to race in the 1500m, competing in the Olympic final and you hope that the months of intensive training and dieting will pay off. You have spent the time conditioning your body and mind in preparation for this competition, and you know that due to hard work and dedication your body is in the best possible shape. You are standing in anticipation at the start line as you take a side wards glance around you at the competition. The athletes in your race are all familiar faces; you have been beating them since your early career, and know that you should win. The race is started by the loud bang of the starting gun, to your surprise a relatively unknown athlete sprints off hard, they keep up this pace and win the race in a record-breaking time.

I think it is easy to recognise that drug use is a part of modern sport, however, I believe the subject that must be addressed and researched are the reasons behind an athletes choice to cheat. If these can be successfully identified by organisations in association with Sport England, only then can the trends begin to be reversed. I have researched the topic of drugs in sport and in order to see a pattern I looked at the numbers of athletes testing positive for drug use in the Olympic games over the years. A clear trend is that drug use has become more and more common, starting in 1904 with one case, compared to the 1992 Olympics when in weightlifting alone there were 24 cases. So why is this?

One explanation as to why athletes take drug could be the extreme competitive character of the individual, the burning desire to be the best and the desperate need to achieve could drive people to performance enhancing drugs. If other factors are added to the athlete’s drive, such as coaching practices that emphasise winning as the only goal, the ever-increasing media pressure to win and huge financial rewards, then an athlete can be pushed to drugs, consequently, other problems arise. Other athletes look around them and see people cheating, getting away with it and winning; they believe that cheating is now the only way to succeed. These explanations are not, however, any justification for athletes to cheat, the moral choice still lies within the individual and cannot be excused.

Drug use can be horrifically damaging to an athletes body. In the 60s a number of cyclists died after ingesting amphetamines during competition, the most serious adverse affects associated with this drug is heart failure. All of the drugs used by athletes are never without some serious implications to health and some can even be fatal. This proves that drug use is bad for sport in the way that our national athletes are in danger of severely damaging their bodies or even losing their lives due to the actual substances. I believe that drug use has a much more widespread and potentially destructive negative effect on sport.

I believe that drug use in sport is corrupting the ideals of sport that we have long considered to be part of our national culture and traditions. Nothing brings our country closer together like an epic sporting competition, consider the street parties after England defeated Germany in the World Cup final and remember the nations joy as Linford Christie won the Gold medal in the 1992 Olympics. These events are all being tarnished by the over hanging shadow of drugs in every situation. People are starting to lose faith in one of the most basic and long-standing practices in our society, the contest of one man against another. Competitiveness and rivalry are human nature; this is shown though our huge support for a national team and the enjoyment we get out of competing against our rivals.

As a nation I believe we are losing trust in sport, especially athletics, and we are more reluctant to get excited about a big race as we suppose most of them to be on drugs anyway.’ I think there is a also a hint of irony in the argument against drug use in sport. The government actively promotes sport towards parents and their children; it is encouraged, as it is a way of getting children off the streets and doing something both enjoyable and constructive with their lives. Are the parents of this country being misled? Are they convincing their children to do something that they are trying so desperately to avoid by encouraging sporting activities? Sport is promoted as an alternative to drug abuse, but in this modern society maybe we are leading our fresh young talent on a passage straight into drugs.

I have presented an argument against the use of drugs in sport, and my opinion that drug use is bad for sport. More conditions must be taken into account; there is a problem but what can be done about it? As I stated earlier, drug use is becoming more common in major competitions, athletes are caught and punished, for example, in 1988, Ben Johnson won the 100m with a world record time, but was stripped of his title after a urine sample tested positive for the use of drugs. Not all athletes, however, are caught. If an athlete knew that there was absolutely no way that they would get away with taking drugs, then they would surely not attempt to cheat. This is sadly not the truth; athletes continue to use performance-enhancing drugs because the chance is still there that they will get away with it. An extreme and time consuming, but guaranteed preventative would be to test every competitor for drug use. This would however become less effective as technology advances and anti-detection procedures improve; this would result in complicated, extensive cheating in sport.

This may be a rather extreme and bleak prediction for the future but I believe that the minority of cheating drug users amongst the professional athletes are in danger of destroying all the positive factors that our country associates with sport as well as their own bodies. There is obviously a huge problem surrounding drug use in sport, and something defiantly needs to be done before drug use in sport completely destructs the feelings of sportsmanship, national unity and fair play felt throughout England and the phrase ‘It’s not the winning but the taking part the counts’ becomes totally unheard of.

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