Monday, 15 October 2012

The Doping Olympics, could it work?

Last week, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)  concluded in a report that seven times Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. Of course this is a great shame that one of the legends of cycling cheated to win his seven titles, and has been subsequently stripped of them. However, the feat of winning the Tour De France seven times is still incredible, and there was still significant competition despite the doping as it seems that many others within cycling were also in on it and seeking to gain an illegal advantage. I can’t help but think though that with all the doping going on, the advantage they were seeking to gain had been wiped out by the fact that many others were also doing it and therefore levels out the playing field. Yes, there would have been the honest cyclists being left behind by the dopers, but it creates a two tier competition, those doping and those not doping, which makes me consider the question: could there be a separate completion category in sport where doping is allowed and all competitors are allowed to cheat to see what can be accomplished. The Doping Olympics if you will.

In all sports, there are rules over drugs and doping to stop competitors cheating, and in most of them there are examples where the rules have been broken, with Olympic events seeing many drugs cheats over the years. Notable cheats have been Ben Johnson who won the 100m gold in a world record smashing time of 9.79 seconds at the 1988 Olympics, and Marion Jones who won five athletics gold medals at the 2000 Olympics before admitting drugs use. But before we get hung up on the fact they cheated, just think about what they achieved for a moment. Johnson blitzed the field in his 100m final, breaking the world record with 9.79 seconds, a time which is still seriously quick even by today’s standards. It was a mega sprint and everyone was amazed with the race, before the cheat problems arose. Also with Jones, winning five gold medals in various athletics events is staggering, showing winning capabilities in a range of events. Armstrong also deserves some credit as he still won seven titles with fellow cheats as competitors. These are all remarkable feats, and they were all a result of cheating and seeking to gain an advantage, whether it’s through blood doping or other drugs. The shame about it comes when you consider the honest individuals who trained all their life to win without taking drugs or cheat, but have virtually no chance; that isn’t fair. So what if we remove the honest people from the competition and just have doped up competitors. This would therefore remove the sad aspect of an honest person having no chance, but still provides us with thrilling, amazing sporting moments, as well as good competition towards it, which would lead to even better results. It would be a chance to see what humans are physically capable of doing when there are no rules to slow them down.

Ben Johnson's amazing 100m sprint

Of course there would be issues raised over it, such as health and ethical issues. Some could say that it could have bad effects on the body and the person’s health to take drugs or participate in blood doping, however there are so many examples of drugs cheats within sport, and there have been no major health issues over taking certain performance enhancing drugs. Within cycling, 17 of the last 33 Tour De France victories have been won by someone cheating through doping and drugs including riders from the US Postal Service team, with whom Lance Armstrong rode. Doping and drugs have been tried by many people and there haven’t been adverse effects, just mind-blowing performances. Also, within professional sport already, competitors are surrounded by doctors and other medical staff, monitoring them so they would be in safe hands for taking drugs and spotting potential problems that could arise. Another issue could be that it doesn’t set a good example to children to have drug takers and cheaters as role models, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Cheating is already rife amongst sport, such as diving in football which is the most popular sport in the world. Kids also get taught to cheat in many other things, such as video game cheat codes, and robbing the bank in Monopoly. Cheating is a way of life and everyone does it at some point in their life. If anything, it goes against cheating, as the competitors have become equal. If one kid robs the bank in Monopoly, then it’s unfair and cheating, but if they all rob the bank and end up with an equal share of money then no advantage has been gained amongst them, they are just going to have one heck of a game, as they all have lots of money. As for the drugs, is it such a problem? It teaches kids to push themselves and strive for the best, but also that drugs must be safe and taken under supervision, in the right environment. It’s a similar thing with motorsport: professionals race on the track, as it’s a safe, controlled environment, but not on the public roads. Motorsport is dangerous, but is very safe in the right environment, unlike on the public roads where it is serious. A small minority could look at motorsport and think ‘yes, I want to try that in my car down the high street’, but that is no reason to ban the sport. There is a clear distinction between right and wrong, and as long as that is message passed onto the public it should be fine.

The Doping Olympics could be a place where humans can push themselves to the true limit, and seek what is physically possible, using what is available to them to go faster for longer and win. The idea already legally exists in the normal Olympics, as athletes take energy drinks and other energy foods to give themselves an advantage and then there are artificially and scientifically designed prosthetics in the Paralympics, but it would just be taking it further to gain an even bigger advantage. It would no longer be cheating as everyone would be the same, and would provide such a spectacle as we’ve seen from current drug takers in sports, just without all the fallout afterwards about the cheating. As long as it was organised and carried out properly so that athletes knew and understood what they were entering as well as being monitored by medical staff throughout it should be fine. The normal Olympics would be there as the main event for ‘proper’ athletes, but then afterwards, there could be the Doping Olympics where they go to extremes. It would be the Olympics on drugs, and it would be phenomenal. It would provide additional benefits, as all the monitoring of athletes taking drugs in the Doping Olympics would result in good research to help officials find cheats in the real Olympics and put them in the right competition, and for the viewers it would provide all the excitement of smashing world records, but without the cheating drawbacks.


  1. No; on so many levels.
    The most basic (and one you deal with fleetingly and with no real thought) is that people would still cheat. You would have people enter the "normal" olympics while on drugs they believe to be undetectable. yes studying those who are using drugs legitimately might help to develop tests to catch those who are non-legitimately; but you are still left with the same problem. one of the types of doping by armstrong and his team was blood-doping--injecting themselves with their own blood. not something you can test for as it isn't a foreign agent to the body.
    While you may have a new level of competition that offers people the chance to compete legitimately with drugs you don't solve the problem of cheating in regular sport.

    plus other reasons.

  2. Also, the sponsors wouldn't want to associate themselves (except maybe drug companies!) with 'doped' competitors. Take away the money and you take away a large part of the reason why the competitors cheat.

  3. So there have been no 'adverse effects'? I would have thought the cyclists who died in their sleep because EPO thickens the blood is quite adverse?