Should people in sports use performance-enhancing substances?

Columnist Dan Donohue writes about the debate of using performance-enhancing substances

Dan Donohue
Dan Donohue

I recently watched a mind-blowing documentary on Netflix called, Icarus.

It was an incredible account of the athletes within the Russian Federation, and how they were part of the most elaborate doping scandal in the history of sport.

It told in staggering detail of the lengths that those at the top of Russian sports and indeed within the Russian government, went to in order to ensure their athletes won at all costs.

It got me thinking of why people go to the lengths they go to in order to win, even if that means cheating.

I remember the feeling of disappointment I had when Lance Armstrong (pictured inset) was finally exposed as the drugs cheat that many had labelled him previously.

I have never really had any interest in cycling as a hobby or sport but he was one of the most iconic athletes of all time, winning seven Tour de France titles after overcoming such adversity in beating cancer and was a big idol of mine.

Why did he taint or, more to the point, destroy his legacy by using PEDs?

The huge financial rewards, the lure of success and the social exposure of their sport creates a massive incentive to win, even when winning means cheating the system, the fans and the sport that made them the icons they are.

Many will argue that some forms of PEDs help to level the playing field. Anabolic steroids are a natural derivative of testosterone, helping the individual to push themselves harder, whilst facilitating faster recovery from a strenuous game or event.

In no way am I, nor ever will I, promote the use of performance enhancing drugs. But it does raise the question of why athletes would be inclined to use these hard to detect substances to get an edge over their opponents, if they were sure that it could go undetected.

It’s abundantly clear watching any sport that there are some athletes within that are far more gifted at what they do than others who they compete with on a regular basis. They are extraordinary – another reason why some may choose to level the field in order to compete with them by using something that gives them a little more edge.

Some athletes are genetically more gifted in how they are built, when combined with thousands of hours of practice, makes them pretty much unstoppable.

Michael Phelps is a great example of this and this may be one of the reasons as to why he’s the most decorated Olympian of all time.

Some say that genetics determine nothing, but it’s a positive thing to have at your advantage.

Interestingly, this subject divides scientists around the world as to the effects of legalising PEDs.

I for one, disagree. For me, it would take the awe and wonder that’s produced by watching the best in the world perform their craft with the majesty that they can.

Food for thought, whichever side of the fence you sit on.