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Legalisation of drugs within sport

Would the legalisation of drugs within sport, create a level playing field?

The legalisation of drugs within sport is heavily publicised within the media given that the Olympics and other sporting events are up and coming, this is the chosen focus of my essay.

Within this essay I will be using a combination of six extracts from different sources all to display my point and argument to whether or not the legalisation for drugs within sport would benefit athletes and other elite sporting personnel.

Sporting events help give sporting achievements more publication within the media; therefore taking drugs to gain an unfair advantage against other athletes gives a negative image on all athletes as everyone therefore is tainted with the same brush.

Drugs in sport are said to be for personal enhancement but bodybuilders and elite athletes aren’t taking health implications into account. Society today wants bigger and better athletes therefore anything which can be done to achieve that will be, no matter whether if its legal or not. Even though drugs are illegal, taking them can be effective but hiding the substance when being randomly tested isn’t so easy.

It is known that drugs are used widespread within sport, no matter whether or not they are illegal to enhance performance and gain an advantage against other athletes.

Awareness needs to be given to the athletes as to the precautions and consequences which can occur to themselves as they’re not set out clearly, even though there are random drug tests and other methods to catch athletes out.

Even with the extent of studies which are undergone on doping there is still a high increase of athletes willing to take a risk to gain an achievement, for example, a 1996 Sports council survey of British Olympic athletes revealed that nearly half (48%) felt there was a drug problem in their sport while in track and field, the figure was 86%.

Not only are the drugs dangerous due to athletes and others being banned or fined but the health implications are a bigger risk, as some drugs are not legitimate if bought off the black market or an unlicensed premise. Even if the drugs are legal they may not be the correct drug or stimulant which could cause side-effects no matter how rare.

Media and the athlete’s trainer are the biggest influences on an athlete as these are the people who they look for to guide them to making a decision to promote themselves and their career. Competitiveness within the sport gives athletes an aim to win for themselves and all the work which they’ve endured.

“The overwhelming majority of athletes I know would do anything and take anything, short of killing themselves to improve athletic performance,” this quote is from Harold Connolly who admitted using anabolic steroids to improve physical ability and form. Even though Connolly was an Olympic athlete he still decided to risk his career to gain an advantage against other athletes.

The fact that competitiveness has a big role to play within society today with everyone after that winning position, gives a higher amount of pressure upon the athlete to want to win no matter how they can achieve it and if taking drugs is the easiest way to achieve it then they will try, no matter of the consequences and health risks which may occur.

In many different sports, drugs are widely publicised but within football it seems to have its own rule book concerning drug taking.

With higher pressures of the media watching footballers every move concerning money, fashion and girls, drugs are deemed far from football although as it is shown within the article I have chosen, this isn’t true.

Due to large amounts of money paid to players, they may receive anything to boost their performance and get noticed within a game, even ‘selling their souls to the devil’ wouldn’t be questioned as to the significance which it could imply on their career within the long run as long as it improves their drive for those 90 minutes of the game.

The rules are enforced to footballers, even if they don’t follow them. Rio Ferdinand for example, was banned for eight months and fined £50,000 after leaving a drug testing facility without actually taking the test.

Not only was this highly publicised but due to that fact that Ferdinand was such a high profile player it lead to a negative approach to his career leading to him be slated by media saying that he purposely didn’t give a sample due to the fact he had been taking drugs even though providing a negative sample two days later.

The difference between cheating and fair play has been merged via social aspects within today’s society. Due to this social aspect, all illegal drugs within sport are taken seriously but certain drugs may be given the benefit of the doubt.

For example, smoking marijuana before a game there would be no punishment as marijuana wasn’t a banned or restricted substance in 1988 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), even though the possession of this drug is illegal within Korea.

Fair play is necessary within competitive sports but each individual or team is different as to the weight, muscle ratio, resources available, etc. For example, a runner who lives at a higher altitude may have a greater advantage over one living near sea level.

Dependent upon how much training an athlete does then no matter what advantages they have, these can be over turned by any other individual if they work hard enough.

Health wise an athlete who takes drugs will suffer in the long run whereas those who don’t will eventually achieve and gain without harming their health.

If doctors are able to use such therapies, as blood spinning to allow athletes to heal quicker, it may encounter misuse such as adding banned substances to injections which would in turn enhance their performance. Not only would the enhancement in performance be an advantage but also illegal and in turn undetectable via a blood test.

With this method of therapy available to athletes who are in need of a speedy recovery, it may be considered that adding a concoction of steroids or performance enhancing drugs could give a greater benefit to attain a win and get back on form. With extensive tests and bans which can be enforced, athletes may be attracted to the thought they could overcome the rules as the drugs can’t be traced by some tests. Amongst the appeal of this, even if these therapies were banned, testing for them would be unsuccessful as the drugs may still go undetected.

With a wide variety of extensive test now having to be undergone by athletes to prove that they aren’t on drugs, the honour of competing has been slated as certainty that drugs aren’t been taken by athletes isn’t shown.

For example, the Modahl case, where an athlete underwent a drug test which subsequently returned positive although Modahl relinquished that this was down to medical conditions, not the fact that she had taken drugs. Even with the medical conditions being considered, there was also doubt as to whether or not the IOC had mixed up results and therefore Modahl couldn’t be proven to be taking performance enhancing drugs.

Greater steps are taken to make sure that drug tests aren’t tampered with such as observing the athlete as a test is taken, this shows that authority isn’t willing to trust the sample given as it may be corrupted.

In my essay I have illustrated the facts that within in every sport there seems to be a conspiracy to hide the fact that drugs are given and taken no matter of the consequences or the health implications which could occur later on in life. If drugs were legalised, I don’t think this would create a level playing field due to the fact even now when they’re illegal it doesn’t guarantee them a win. If legalisation were to go ahead then, more and more athletes would be dependent upon taking drugs to gain them a win which wouldn’t be an achievement at all. Not only would all the athletes feel the pressure to take the drugs not just because of the legalisation and everyone else taking them legally but the sheer fact that the amounts of drugs taken would increase to more and more over a period of time as a higher competitive threshold would be unveiled and overdoses or even young deaths could be a consequence.

If legalisation were to be undergone, regular checks and a substance limit to the amount of drugs which are able to be taken by the athlete should be enforced.



D R Mottram, Drugs in Sport (3rd Ed London, Routledge 2003)

I Waddington and A Smith, An Introduction to drugs in sport, (1st Ed, Routledge 2009)


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E Grayson, Drugs in sports – Chains of custody (New Law Journal 1995)

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