The Impact Of Performance Enhancing Drugs On The Olympics

3241 words - 13 pages

   The use of performance enhancing drugs is undermining the integrity of the Olympic games.  It is impossible to accurately determine the number of athletes who use them, but it is believed that a substantial percentage do.  According to an anonymous Soviet coach, "Perhaps 90% of sportsmen, including our own, use drugs" (CASA 40).  One reason it is difficult to determine how many athletes "dope" is that in international events like the Olympics, the methods used to detect the use of these drugs simply are not effective.  So, although only a few athletes are caught, many benefit from their use of performance enhancing drugs.  It is unfortunate and unacceptable that such high level competition be marred by athletes' drug use.  The inefficiency of drug testing in the Olympics is a problem, and methods for drug testing must be improved. 

            There are many types of performance enhancing drugs.  One common form of performance enhancing drugs is anabolic steroids.  As of the 2000 Olympics, there were a total of thirty-six different types of anabolic steroids (Zorpette 17).  Anabolic steroids can be defined as "synthetic versions of testosterone, tweaked so that they can be taken orally, or so that they persist in the body" (Zorpette 17).  The use of anabolic steroids is prohibited by all "major sports organizations", such as professional sports organizations in individual countries, as well as international committees, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which runs the Olympic Games (Simon 74).  Anabolic steroids enhance athletes' performance by stimulating muscle growth.  By increasing one's muscle mass, a person gains physical advantages, like being able to run faster and jump higher (Cosell 310).  Like all other performance enhancing drugs, the use of

anabolic steroids is prohibited because athletes gain an unfair advantage over the rest of the playing field by using them.  In the Olympics, the use of anabolic steroids can be traced back as far as 1954, when Soviet weightlifters began taking anabolic steroids (Zorpette 17).  Since then, the use of this drug, as well as many others, has increased dramatically. 

            In addition to the growing number of anabolic steroids, new ways to enhance one's performance are emerging.  Two fairly recent drugs that have had a significant affect on competition are erythropoietin, or EPO, and human growth hormone, or hGH.  These two drugs pose significant problems because current testing methods cannot detect them (Zorpette 17).  Human growth hormone enhances performance because it decreases one's fat mass, and EPO serves to augment the number of circulating red blood cells, which in turn allows for more oxygen to be carried to muscles in the body (Zorpette 19).  Other advantages that performance enhancing drugs give to the athlete include increased endurance, the narrowing of blood cells, and even a slowed heartbeat, which enables archers and shooters to better steady...

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