Following the latest revelation of drug use in cycling, the question rising to the surface is simple. Should all drugs be allowed in sport to level out the competitive playing field?
THE LATEST REVALATION
British and former Team Sky cyclist, Josh Edmondson, is the latest athlete to reveal that he broke the sport’s rules by injecting himself with numerous vitamins as well as using the controversial drug, Tramadol.
A quick google search on Tramadol explains that the drug can slow your heart rate and an overdose can lead to your breathing stopping all together. However, such was the pressure on twenty-four year old, Edmondson meant that he went to extreme lengths in order to gain any advantage that he could.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Edmondson explained that whilst with Team Sky, the pressure for a major race in 2014 took its toll, leading to him breaching an implemented ‘no needle’ policy “two or three times a week” regularly in the space of a month.
He goes on to explain that he revealed everything to his Team Sky bosses but at the time there was “a cover-up” by the senior management.
This revelation is the latest of successive allegations made against Team Sky in recent times, prior to Edmondson’s interview. The Daily Mail investigated a ‘mystery package’ delivered to Sir Bradley Wiggins on the final day of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine – a tournament that Wiggins won.
Prior to that, Wiggins and Sky team mate, Chris Froome had their medical records leaked online which revealed Wiggins had used therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) before major races. When speaking on the Andrew Marr show, Sir Wiggins explained that he took the drug for allergies and respiratory problem and was only “putting myself back on a level playing field” in his terms.
SHOULD ALL DRUGS BE ALLOWED IN SPORT TO MAKE AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD?
With International Sport becoming a case of making a strong usage of the facilities on offer, are the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) any worse than, say, using the best running trainer in order to compete in a race?
In the academic paper: ‘Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport’, Julian Savulescu, an Austrian bioethicist, outlines in his research that the allowance of PEDs could actually make sport fairer.
The research may come across as bizarre but his reasoning is sound to the average sporting participant. Savulescu describes the current state of elite sport to be a “generic lottery” and goes on to state that with the help of PEDs, “the winner is not the person born with the best genetic potential to be the strongest”.
An example of this is the success of Finnish skier, Eero Maentyranta. In 1964, Maentyranta won two of his three Winter Olympic gold medals in Innsbruck, Austria. In subsequent testing to his success, it was found that Maentyranta had ‘forty to fifty percent more blood cells than the average human’. Is it fair that the “generic lottery” works in that way?
The paper goes on to explain how Classical Musicians use Beta Blockers, a drug that lowers heart rate and blood pressure, before big performances. Though this may not seem in any way similar to using such drugs in elite sport, it is.
A highly rated cinematic conductors is worth around £8million for the various performances and music they produce each year. In comparison, Sir Mo Farah has a net worth of around £4million and whilst there are rules against cheating in elite music, none point to a musician not being able to stem their nerves by using PEDs although the stake is somewhat similar to elite sport.
Of course, this is an example taken from the top level of both professions but the point that is trying to be made here is that the involvement in drugs can make for a higher standard of entertainment and evolve sport as opposed to cast a shadow over it.
THE REASONS WHY ALL DRUGS SHOULD BE BANNED IN SPORT
With every controversial subject, there is a counter argument. In this matter, it should be said that the counter argument is very strong on a very serious issue occurring in numerous sports across the globe.
The main argument is the health hazards that come with using PEDs. The US Anti-Doping Agency (USAPA) state on their own website that PEDs have the ability to “to drastically alter the human body and biological functions”. It then goes to explain the risks that comes with each individual drug. For example, if an individual were to take a diuretic, in order to shed weight, without medical supervision the consequence may be “potassium depletion and possibly even death.”
Death is the key word in that last statement and without being able to medically regulate all takings of PEDs across the millions of athletes in the world, it is obvious why there are such harsh repercussions for anyone that breaches the rules around PEDs, an organisation cannot actively encourage something so threatening to be hanging over their heads – it just does not seem morale.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
In conclusion to this topic, this point also has to be made. Sport overall is a risk – in England, a brain mashing, physically absorbing game such as Rugby is condemned. Even the beloved sport of Cricket has seen deaths occur in recent times so is it any worse to let athletes compete on a level playing field using PEDs?
As Savulescu states “test for health and not drugs” meaning that an athlete’s health should be what testers are looking for. He suggests to monitor the Packed Cell Volume (PCV) which should be set at a safe level (e.g. a cyclists PCV level should be 0.5) and if an athlete breaches that during testing, it is not safe for them to compete.
Like anything else, these things have to be regulated and although PEDs have the potential to unleash another level to elite sport, moderation is key in preserving the health of these individuals.