Drugs in Sports

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Today's athletes continue to push the boundaries of excellence in performance and physical fitness. Helping them are refined training methods and technologies. Never have athletes had more training aids at their disposal. Twenty years ago, drug testing in sport was in its beginning stages. Now, it is complex and in constant change. Keeping sport clean has become a never-ending race between drug testers and those who choose to cheat. And as much as the quest for the podium or championship should be the big news, often negative reports about positive drug tests end up overshadowing competitors' accomplishments. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is nothing new; in fact, the international anxiety about drug use began in the 1950’s. At that time the focus was more on anabolic steroids and the use of them by Soviet athletes in the World Games in Moscow, in 1956. Since this time there have been numerous committees and federations that have begun testing athletes for the use of illegal drugs. Along with these committees, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also banned anabolic steroids in 1973 and began random testing of athletes for performance-enhancing substances and recreational drugs. In the beginning of the NCAA’s testing, they only tested Division I football players at bowl games and some NCAA championships. Since 1990, Division I-A, I-AA and II, as well as Division I indoor and outdoor track and field athletes, have become subject to year round drug testing. In addition to these tests, all NCAA student athletes are subject to random drug tests at championship events and post-season bowl games. A study was done, interviewing NCAA athletes, Division I and Division III, to talk about the issues of role acceptance, deviance in sports (the use of performance-enhancing drugs), and drug testing. The study showed that students were in favor of the drug testing, and noted performance-enhancing drugs to be a problem. Athletes said that they were not in favor of drug use, that you can reach your potential as an athlete without the use of drugs, and that drug use is unacceptable. Although the student athletes were in agreement that drug use is unacceptable, they seemed confused and uncertain as to what constitutes being an “illegal, non-medical” drug. ( Daican, 2). Earlier studies have shown that, with the exception of steroids, the rate of drug use in athletes was similar to the rate of drug use among non-athletes. Even more recently, studies have shown that student athletes have even lower levels of drug use than non-athletes.(Rosenthal, 30).

Moving from college athletes to professional athletes, there was an article in the Sporting News, discussing the issue of drug testing among professional athletes. In the article, the author talks about how the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the International Olympic Committee all test for steroids, but the only baseball players tested for steroids are minor league players who are not on 40-man rosters. The author goes on to say that maybe drug testing may be expensive, or maybe it would not be effective in deterring players from using steroids, or maybe that it is even a violation of civil liberties; but as reasonable as those arguments are, they are cop-outs. “By ignoring steroid use, the owners and players have perpetuated MLB's biggest fraud since the 1919 Black Sox. They've made ungodly amounts of money-taking in a record $3.5 billion in revenue last season-but they've wrecked their sport.” The author later says that it is a matter of doing the right thing, even if the tests will not catch every cheater, even if revenues drop along with home runs. The author finishes his article saying that there is only one word to describe MLB (Major League Baseball): shame.(Rosenthal, 30-31). Last year, President Bush gave his State of the Union speech, appealing to athletes and professional sports leagues to get rid of the...
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