Athletes and Drugs
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History has seen many young and promising lives ruined by drug addiction. Career in sport demands a lot of strength and determination. Constant exhausting trainings might encourage sportsmen to enhance their performance by the use of stimulating substances, but every one of them should understand the consequences. With regular medical testing it is impossible to conceal such practices, and the revelation of truth will be the end of life in sport. It is the case of a former track-and-field world champion Marion Jones.
Her achievements prior to the scandal were outstanding: five Olympic medals for sprints of different lengths and long jumps made the sportswoman the first female to take so many. Five awards during one Olympic summer (three of them were gold) are a rarity. Apart from unexpected world glory Marion Jones also gained a lot of profit. At that moment of euphoria more than a decade ago no one knew what was hiding behind this success. In 2008 the name of the athlete appeared in the news headlines again, and this time she was not depicted from the positive side: the woman admitted that she resorted to steroids during the Sydney Olympic Games. The sportswoman was sentenced to serve six months in jail with the official report of “lying to investigators” (Holt, 2008). The New York Times informs it was a verdict of a United States District Court in White Plains. Other sources prove that there were “two counts of lying to federal agents” (Shipley, 2007). Jones found no justification for herself, but people who knew her claimed that the surrounding – those who “were involved in some of the largest drug scandals in the sport” – could push her to the wrong choice (Holt, 2008).
The peculiarity of the Jones’s case is that although suspicion connected with the company Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative started to arise already in 2003, and her name was involved in this suspicion, at that time the athlete was in consistent denial. After the Olympic Games in Athens she was seriously accused of using various drugs during the previous Summer Olympiad by one of the sport functionaries. However, it could not be proved, for the athlete had never failed a drug test before. For the first time it happened at the Beijing Olympic Games. What followed after revealing of her lies may be called the most tragic in the whole case: Jones was deprived of all her medals at the Olympic level and of her American record since 2000. It must have been even more painful than the forced ending of the career, for the athlete retired after the scandal. Mrs. Jones could not avoid imprisonment even due to her still struggling authority in the sports world. Maybe, even a longer imprisonment than half a year would be less demoralizing than the award eliminating sanction. It was her moral fine unaccompanied by the material one. This court decision may be assessed as a common one in this case of a person from a sports world. Public needs to be shown that responsibility for the offence is taken, and a short serving term is not so difficult to endure for the sportswoman. So, both federal government and the Olympic Committee took part in imposing sanctions upon Marion Jones.
Drug tests of different years reveal various results. Thus, one refers to the so-called “clear” (tetrahydrogestrinone or THG), a powerful anabolic steroid (Shipley, 2007). Jones admitted using it since 1999 till 2001. Other tests showed that the drug the athlete was abusing was blood-boosting steroid erythropoietin (shortened to EPO for convenience), which is a widely used doping substance in the world of sport. Evidence shows that she was fed drugs unknowingly in the form of tablets, which she thought were drops of flaxseed oil, a nutrition supplement, but by the end of 2003 she realized that it was a drug. As BBC Sport explains, EPO is a natural hormone produced by kidneys and meant to stimulate production of blood cells, but its artificial manufacturing made it possible to inject it to sportsmen for the sake of performance enhancing. The effect lasts for over several years. Its peculiarity and the reason it remained unnoticed in the case of Marion Jones is that it cannot be detected by regular drug testing. Ironically, the first method of its screening was developed at the Sydney Olympic Games. One of the side effects derives from increased rates of blood thickening and might include blood clots formation, heart attacks and strokes. All of the possibilities are more likely in the case of intensive training.
The resonance of this case is incorporated in the fact that the whole story only enhanced distrust of the society to the whole system and fairness of the Olympic Games. The single positive aspect is that the athlete pleaded guilty. This, however, cannot eliminate the problem: in the modern world as long as there is no total and advanced drug control, the whole idea of participating in sport events loses its sense. Punishing the rule violators not only on the disciplinary, but also on the state level is crucial for prevention of similar cases.
Sport is a rather cruel human activity in terms of competitive behavior, but it does not mean one can cheat and not be punished. Everyone should understand the consequences of lies, which has a tendency to always be revealed. As public figures, sportsmen must realize it more clearly than anyone else. The whole nation, and sometimes the whole world trace their achievements, so the news about use of illegal substances may leave the supporters disappointed. Besides, it is a disrespect manifestation to fellow contestants and disregarding of the whole fair play principle.
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