Performance-Enhancing Drugs

Topics: Red blood cell, Olympic Games, Erythropoietin Pages: 5 (1467 words) Published: June 16, 2013
Documented Essay
English 250
Ending the Race
In sports today it hardly raises an eyebrow when an elite athlete fails a drug test. The use of drugs in sport to cheat is not necessarily a new concept but has become increasingly effective in the recent turn of the century. With the numerous medical and technological advances in our world today, much debate has come about the use of performance enhancing drugs/methods (PEDs/PEMs) by elite athletes. Even with the creation of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) in 1999 to regulate drug use in sport, minor progress in the fight against doping has been made. The war against drugs has shown to be ineffective as many athletes have been able to escape being caught for many years. It may be time for both sides to come together and create a system that works for everyone but does not endanger an athlete’s health. A system which allows controlled use of Erythropoietin (EPO) at doses with no health risk to athletes could provide a solution to many of the medical and economical issues of performance-enhancing drug use in an elite endurance sport such as cycling.

The drastic increase in the use of illegal PEDs has plagued the world of elite sport such as cycling. The benefits and rewards of illegal drug use greatly outweigh the risks. Elite athletes are lured by success in that the penalties for cheating are small (a six month to one year ban in professional sport, or a two year ban for a first offense in the Olympics) are greatly outweighed by multimillion dollar rewards of prize money, endorsements, and other rewards that are likely to come if not caught. A survey in 1992 of a small group of Olympic athletes found that they believed that the successful Olympic athletes at the time were using banned substances (Savulescu 666). Although the WADA serves to catch athletes that use these PEDs, they still have a ways to go before they catch everyone. It is estimated that only 10-15% of participated athletes are tested in each major competition of Olympic Games (Savulescu 667). Drugs today are also becoming increasingly hard to detect in blood and urine tests, which creates just another reason for athletes to use them. Running the small risk or being caught compared to the rewards and benefits of using the drug, along with increasing effectiveness of drugs has created more temptation than ever for athletes to break the rules.

The war on drugs has shown to be ineffective, especially in the past few years. Olympic cycling is plagued by the use of PEDs worse than any other elite sporting event. Although the WADA specifically aims to catch those who use methods of blood doping, erythropoietin (EPO), and other steroids in the sport of cycling, it has shown to be very unsuccessful. Take for example Lance Armstrong. Just recently within the past year Armstrong finally confessed to using PEDs in the sport of cycling for at least his first five Tour de France wins. One of the sport’s greatest, an idol for many people including those who have endured the battle of cancer, used PEDs for almost his whole career. How much of a shock it was to everyone, including some of those at the WADA. If they can’t rid the sport of PEDs then who can? Will the rabbit and hare chase exist forever?

One of the most commonly used drugs in the sport of cycling is erythropoietin (EPO), which is known to increase red blood cell (RBC) count in the body. EPO is naturally produced in the kidneys but has an artificial version known as Epogen which can be injected into the bloodstream which then increases RBC production. This drug benefits an athlete by causing the muscles to fatigue slower, improving overall endurance. This is very helpful in a sport such as cycling, where long hours of pedaling ware on your legs.

Although this drug may be very beneficial to athletes, higher amounts injected may result in high concentration of RBCs. Once the blood contains a concentration of 50% or higher amount of RBCs, the...

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