Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Thoughts on Doping

There has been a lot of chatter over recent days/weeks/months with some athletes coming forward about doping and other scandals being released.

  • Women's shot put gold medalist stripped of her title days after receiving it (Source).
  • Lance Armstrong has been pinpointed in one of the largest doping rings in history (at least, that has been discovered). This included names of several other cyclists who have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.
  • Christian Hesch confessed to using EPO (performance enhancing drug) to compete and win road races for cash throughout the globe.
The Boring Runner recently put a post together asking if you would use it and under what situation. This question and post got me pretty fired up. Maybe it is the way I was raised, or maybe it is my need to always follow the rules... But I really don't see why someone would ever, under any circumstances, use a performance enhancing drug. I know there are various types of drugs that do different things, but I think it is shameful and deceiving.

In the case of Christian Hesch, he admitted to using and the whole thing seemed very cash-motivated. He did a lot of road races, won a lot of money, and even screwed over a friend in publishing his confession to make sure he earned more money. Our society is driven by greed in many ways and I believe Christian Hesch did what he thought was necessary to win the cash that he wanted. I'm sure as he continued to get away with it, it became easier. (You can read Christian's New York Times article confession here and an article about his friend's perspective here.) I though this interview on The Trailer was really interesting, hearing things directly from Hesch, live and unedited. This whole Christian Hesch thing is like a train wreck. I'm so disappointed with the situation, but I just have to read all the articles and listen to all the interviews. He says that he acted alone, but it just seems more logical that he would have others with him. In my opinion, it is much easier to do something you know is wrong, if someone else is also doing it.

As you probably have figured out, I really love running. During the Olympics, it became evident that not many others around me love running or take it seriously. They just assume people are doping and that is why they are fast (this was actually brought up a couple times in conversation). I feel incidents like this taint the purity of the sport. I know in previous years there have been several doping incidents in the sport of Track and Field. I know there are strict doping tests but some athletes continue to get away with it and I'm not quite sure how (if you can find an article describing this, it would be helpful). I mean, some of those that won medals were previously suspended for doping. Is it like prison where you serve your time and come out and get to come back? Should there be more severe consequences for any kind of doping to help "clean up" the sport (kind of like a zero tolerance policy).

But then again, I feel the lines that constitute doping are not always black and white. Or are they and I'm misled by the circus of the Lance Armstrong investigations? Is the world of performance-enhancing drugs constantly changing with different technology available?

This is a topic that really intrigues me, and I'm interested to hear what you have to say. Do you think that the lines for doping are black and white? If not, please explain. What do you think the image of Track and Field--is it tainted by doping? If you have any suggested articles or books on this topic, I'm interested to know more.

Sorry for the text-only post folks, but I don't want to use any images due to copyrights.


  1. Great post! One of the Olympic events featured a guy who they said had tons and tons of caffeine before competing, and I wondered what it takes for a substance that affects performance to be banned. Are there certain levels of caffeine that are banned? Just curious about that one. But I also read an article about a confessed EPO doper in Runner's World.


    It's wrong, and it's sad. In the case with Armstrong and other winners, it steals away chances for others to legitimately win in their events. With Armstrong, did they go back and declare other winners?

  2. That is a good question about caffeine. I'm not sure...

    Thanks for sharing this RW article!

    I don't believe they declared other winners when they stripped Lance Armstrong of his titles because I think other athletes are being investigated that could have possibly placed. I remember reading this but I can't seem to find the article. I'll come back and respond when I find it.

  3. What, you didn't have any pictures of your own to go along with this subject? LOL.

    Like you, I am very "follow the rules" so it blows my mind. I do not associate track & field with it though, even though I know there have been issues. And I don't think it is B&W. Even what Yo Mamma Runs said below about caffeine...

  4. I haven't been able to watch or care about the Tour de France since that one American guy got his title taken away about 5 years ago. So, I guess it did (and still does) taint cycling for me. As far as track and field, I am mostly interested in the events I compete in myself: The 5k, 10k and marathon. The big name busts in track/field events have mostly been in other events, so I can comfortably watch those events without wondering too much about doping.

  5. PretoriaRunningManOctober 31, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    I obviously haven't been in a situation where I'm under pressure to win in order to get endorsements or win prize money etc, so I can't really judge individual athletes for doping. But here's what I think. Taking performance enhancing drugs, under any circumstances is wrong and dishonest and I definitely think harsher punishments should be imposed on those who dope. I think the 2 year ban for first time dopers and then life-ban for multiple offenders is too lenient. It should be at least 4 or 5 years. A lot of athletes who get caught and serve their 2 year ban end up doping again when they come back. A case in point, Ben Jonson and the Belarusian shot putter who just recently tested positive after winning the Olympic gold. And then of course there's the Lance Armstrong case. The worst thing about Lance is that he deceived the world for seven years knowing full well that his wins were not legal. It's really sad because so many people looked up to him and considered him a legend. It kind of makes you wonder how clean other athletes are. BTW, did you know that the Kenyan athletes are also being investigated for doping?

  6. Hmm, the more I think about it, I agree that things aren't so black and white.

  7. Thanks for this long response. I think that a 2 year ban for a first-time offense isn't good enough for the same reasons you said. Athletes know it is wrong, but they still do it, and get a slap on the wrist? I don't think that is right.

    Obviously, Lance Armstrong raised a lot of money for cancer research over the years and that is fantastic. However, he also deceived the world and did many things (that he knew were wrong) while raising this money for research. It is very much a grey area indeed. I think it was smart for him to step down from the Livestrong Foundation.

    No, I didn't know that the Kenyans were being investigated for doping--can you send me a link to any articles you've seen?

  8. hmm this is an interesting topic. I think that almost every athlete takes a supplement of some kind to help them either recover or perform better...where it crosses the line to me is when it becomes prescription or illegal...then again I guess it's not like runners don't get steroid shots for knee pain. hmm this is tough.

  9. PretoriaRunningManNovember 1, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    These are some of the articles I came across alleging widespread doping among Kenyan athletes. According the articles, none of the more well known international athletes have been implicated so far. It seems to be mostly the locally based athletes. But as I said, reports like these are very worrying because they really do tarnish the image of sport as a whole. You end up wondering whether dominant athletes are dominant because they have the natural talent or because they're getting assistance from elsewhere.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19763647, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/9572277/Kenyan-athletes-under-scrutiny-in-doping-inquiry.html, http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/712123/German-insists-on-doping-among-Kenyan-athletes.aspx

  10. Irina @ Chocolatea TimeNovember 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    This is a very interesting topic, especially to those of us who know what it takes to be any sort of athlete (I use that term loosely because I don't consider myself an athlete...just the occasional runner). Personally, I have the guiltiest conscience ever and don't think I would ever dope even if someone guaranteed that I would never get caught. My most extreme challenger/competitor is myself so cheating myself would be pathetic. Heck, sometimes I try to avoid things like Clif Gel Shots because I want to see how I will perform without them! I can see how people could get caught up in the fame and glory associated with being an all-star performer. What it really comes down to is one's morals. Great post!