A brief history of doping in sport

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The desire for a competitive edge is a part of human nature. From the history of the early Olympics, we learn that Olympians back then knew of the importance of testosterone and ate sheep testicles.

Galen, a Greek physician, concocted a potion made of the rear hooves of an Abyssinian ass, ground up, boiled in oil, and flavoured with rose hips and rose petals, to improve performance. Mushrooms and seeds were so prevalent among Olympians that in 393 AD, the Olympics were banned. In 1806, the modern Olympics were restarted. Since that time, the authorities have been inundated with verbal reports of athletes using “performance enhancers” to gain an unfair advantage in competition. In the beginning, strychnine and cocaine seemed to be the drugs of choice. Then in 1930, Nazi doctors created anabolic steroids to increase aggression in troops. At the 1932 Olympics, the USA won 103 medals, and Germany won 20. At the 1936 Olympics, the USA won 56 medals and Germany won 89! During the Second World War, captured German scientists were now working in the USA and the USSR. At the 1952 Olympics, the USSR entered the Olympics for the first time. The medal haul that year saw the USA winning 76 medals, the USSR, won 71 and Hungary 42 medals. By the early 1960’s, anabolic steroids were more refined and began turning up in more sports.

In 1964, Belgium was the host of the first conference in doping, and at the Tokyo Games that year (Tokyo), drug testing was introduced in cycling. In 1967, a British cyclist, Tom Simpson, collapsed and died in the Tour de France. Three tubes of amphetamine were found in his back pocket. That prompted the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission to develop a drug-testing programme where athletes who tested positive were punished. This was accompanied by a worldwide education programme. At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish modern Pentathlete tested positive for alcohol and was stripped of his bronze medal. In 1971, the first list of banned substances was published, and this list consisted mainly of stimulants and narcotic analgesics. At the Pan American Games in Cali, Columbia, drug testing was introduced in athletics. The day following the announcement, one of the major participating countries announced that approximately half of their team developed a mystery illness and returned home. In 1972, the first comprehensive drug-testing programme was introduced during the Munich Olympics. In 1976, the first reliable test to detect anabolic steroids in urine was unveiled. Eleven athletes tested positive in those Games, eight were for anabolic steroids. At this Olympics, the East German women’s swim team won an unprecedented number of medals. Observers noted that these ladies all spoke with deep voices, had facial hair, and Adam’s apples. We have since discovered that in 1970, all athletes in East Germany had to take a blue pill that they were told were “vitamins”. After the unification of Germany in 1990, it was discovered that the “blue pill” was the anabolic steroid Turinabol, commonly called “OT” or T-bol”. In 1988, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. The top three finishers in that race event all tested positive for performance enhancers in their careers.

THE REVELATION

In November 1999, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established, and in October of 2005, we saw the International Convention against Doping in Sports. This was followed by the implementation and enforcement of the World Anti-Doping Code. One hundred and eighty four countries, including Jamaica, signed. By the start of the 2008 Olympics, 64 countries, (including Jamaica) had not yet implemented the code! Since that time, the world has seen the BALCO scandal and the detailed report revealing state-sponsored doping in Russia. The implementation of athletes’ passport (where the blood indices of athletes are collected and stored) allows athletes who use substances, so far undetectable, to now be sanctioned if at some point in time these substances are detected, even though he/she never tested positive! Finally, the revelation that the athletes themselves have approved the storing of urine samples for 10 years, (so that as anti-doping agencies refine lab techniques that can detect previously undetectable performance enhancers) means that cheaters WILL eventually be exposed.

No one can say that a woman never ran 100m in 10.49 seconds. What we can say is that prior to 2005, athletes could, (and some did) use illegal methods that assisted and was responsible for their athletic performances. We now have the rules and methods to detect those who cheat. Testing negative now will mean little until the ten years have passed and new and improved methods of detection did not find anything adverse. Therefore, let us begin a new era of athletics that would give hope to coming generations.

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