Drugs are a blight on sport, but with the rewards for success being so high most athletes are prepared to push the boundaries to achieve that fame and wealth.
In the 1980’s Chicago-based Bob Goldman, a doctor and founder of the U.S. National Academy of Sports Medicine, asked elite athletes whether they would take an enhancement which guaranteed them gold medals but would also kill them within five years. More than half those asked said “yes.”
Move forward twenty years and this mindset had not changed “I was shocked to see that out of 198 world-class athletes, 52 percent would be willing to give up their life for five years of an undefeated run of wins,” Goldman told Reuters during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
He has repeated the survey every two years for the next decade and the results have always been the same. Just over half of the athletes questioned said they were prepared to die as long as they won Olympic Gold.
Many sports fans do not appreciate that one of the reasons The International Association of Athletics Federations fought so hard to stop amputee Oscar Pistorious racing against able-bodied athletes with his carbon-fibre blades, was they feared if he started winning against able-bodied athletes, in that search for Gold some athletes would seek amputation when there was absolutely nothing wrong with their legs. When you hear that athletes are prepared to die for Gold this is not such a far-fetched idea.
One country whose testing for doping has come under question in recent years is the USA in 2013 they came in 4th on the table of shame in terms of athletes banned for testing positive to banned substances, but it was the fact that the Kenya came in third that raised a few eyebrows. There is no Kenyan anti doping agency and only one laboratory for testing in the whole of the African continent, and that is in South Africa. The Kenyan authorities claimed that 90 per cent of the tests in which their athletes had tested positive, were because they had been taking medication which had contained banned drugs. Many of these athletes though were tested in the USA and some felt that the Kenyan’s were being made scapegoats.
Last week Kenya announced that they will sanction agents managing four of their athletes who recently failed drug tests. They have openly blamed these “foreign agents for leading athletes into using performance-enhancing drugs.” Having been criticised in the past for not taking adequate measures to try and stamp out the growing number of doping cases this approach has raised a few eyebrows. However the Kenyan authorities may well have a point.
“If you manage three or four athletes who have been sanctioned then you (the manager) will also be sanctioned ” President of Athletics Kenya Isaiah Kiplagat is quoted as saying. ” You don’t deserve to manage Kenyan athletes. Our new Sports Act gives us powers to take action on such agents. We won’t spare anybody.”
This may well be what is needed to restore what had been an almost impeccable record for Kenyan athletes.
To show just how lax the US Doping system is, this writer was advised by an athlete competing in the USA that it was commonplace for most of the team to smoke marijuana before a flight to the next game or a long bus trip. The theory being that the drug would relax them and their muscles and therefore limit damage sitting for long periods in a confined space. If this is as commonplace as this athlete claimed, why are there not more US athletes facing suspension?
Maybe the Kenyan’s are right and they are being targeted unfairly. Maybe their approach of banning the management of the Athlete is in fact a move in the right direction. It would be good to see other nations take a similar approach, as something must be done to try and stop these cheats. Yet with a mindset where more than 50% are prepared to die as long as they win a Gold medal one feels it will take a great deal more than this.