The nobility of sports is unfortunately often marred by the practice of doping. What exactly is doping and just why is it so rampant among sportspeople from different fields?
Doping, in general, means to add impurities to something. When athletes use prohibited substances or methods in order to improve their sporting performance unfairly, it is referred to as ‘doping’.
Normally, when we think of doping, the first thing that comes to our minds is steroids, but doping also includes the use of forbidden drugs like stimulants, hormones, diuretics, narcotics and marijuana; the use of forbidden methods like blood transfusion and even refusal to take blood tests or tampering with the samples of blood.
Why do athletes indulge in doping?
Every athlete knows that doping means cheating. But they do it anyways, for many reasons:
Pressure to perform: As an athlete keeps on participating in more and more events, the pressure to win increases. This increased pressure and the hope of doing something better and outstanding the athletes take this path. They see doping as a path to improvement.
Name, fame and money: Who doesn’t want name, fame and money? A straight win can mean a lot of prize money along with fame. This temptation can make an athlete do things beyond ethics.
Overcoming injuries: Sometimes, coaches want athletes to recover quickly from injuries they may sustained. This causes them to push the athlete to take medication which might be banned. In such cases, the athlete might not even be aware of doping.
How are athletes tested for doping?
In 1960, Council of Europe tabled a resolution against use of doing substances in sport. Now The World Anti-Doping Agency carries out various tests for doping.
The testing includes analysis of biological specimens such as urine, blood, hair, saliva, sweat etc.
Urine drug screen: Two samples of urine are taken. One is tested using an analyser performing immunoassay. If the result is positive than another sample is tested using gas chromatograph (a lab technique to separate mixtures) for thermionic emission (heat flow) specific detection, as well as for flame ionization detection.
Saliva drug screen: This can used to detect the drug use during the few days prior to testing. The results of this test are very poor.
Blood test: Blood tests are the most accurate way of telling if the person is intoxicated or not. This test measures the presence of metabolite in the body at any given time. But as they require specialised equipment and specialists, the tests are very costly. Thus blood test is not normally used.
Typically, urine testing is the most common method used to detect doping.
If the athlete is required to take certain drugs due to an illness, which happen to fall in the prohibited list, then an exemption can be given by Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).
Inputs from World Anti-Doping Agency
Photograph via sxc.hu
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