Doping: it’s only cheating if you’re caught

With rampant substance abuse in sport, we shouldn't be surprised anymore

It seems like every few years a major athlete falls from grace when they’re caught doping. 

Tennis star Maria Sharapova recently admitted to using meldonium, a newly-banned, performance-enhancing drug. With her public confession, she joined the not-so-exclusive club of other high-profile athletes like Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez whose reputations were tarnished by doping. 

Yes, doping should be frowned upon, but do we really have a reason to be up in arms when most professional athletes are bending the rules anyways?

While the jury is still out on the future of Sharapova’s career, her case is just one example of drugs violating the notion of pure, natural athletic competition.

Many argue that the reason sports are so popular is because of the limits they impose on athletes, forcing them to rise to the challenge. What makes athletics so incredible and awe-inspiring is the way athletes creatively change the landscape of what we believe they’re capable of. 

Adding doping into the mix makes these limits less clear — the rules of the game change without the fans knowledge — taking away from the beauty of major sporting events.

Whether it’s at the Olympics or in just another regular season game, my awe towards the world’s best athletes has been increasingly undermined by one question — was doping involved?

From 2008-10 nearly 200 world records were broken in swimming due to polyurethane swimsuits. These full body suits were banned before the 2012 Olympics because they not only helped to cut down on athlete fatigue, but also provided more buoyancy and speed. 

Only nine records were broken at the next Olympics after switching back to textile suits.

While no specific athlete has been shamed, nor should they, many believe that the record books of swimming are forever tarnished. 

So, while doping breaks the illusion of professional sport, new drugs, training regimes or even certain suits will come along faster than bans and regulations can keep up, allowing athletes to remain ahead of attempts to maintain a level playing field. 

New drugs and training techniques will continue to change the landscape of sports, and with advancements in medicine and technology, records will continue to be broken.

I often get in debates trying to compare two athletes from different generations. The difference between them isn’t always pure athleticism — it’s also advancements in science and technology.

Once sporting authorities decide a drug or piece of equipment gives too much of an advantage to athletes, it will be banned.  

But in any case, the harm has already been done to the sanctity of sport. 

Joseph is The Journal’s Assistant Sports Editor. He’s a third-year History major. 

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