I like to think of running as a pure sport. Results are based on time, not subjective scores unlike some other sports. Part of the reason I switched from other sports to running when I was younger was because I got fed up of the coaches having favorites. I felt like there was way too much politics involved in how much game time players got. Although politics can play a role in running (who’s on varsity, who’s on a relay team, etc.) I feel like it plays a much smaller role. You just have to look at the time on the clock to see who won the race.
However, with news stories popping up about elite athletes doping it’s hard to look at running as that same pure sport I saw it as when I was younger. Although I’m obviously not running at a level that peer athletes are doping (at least I would hope not!) I like to follow elite athletics. When athletes are caught, I sometimes feel unsure about whom I should be supporting and who is cheating. In a way, I appreciate when athletes’ performances go up and down. At least then it seems like they are being real. I haven’t watched the Tour de France in quite a few years because it just seems to be laden with cheaters.
One of the biggest problems is that there are many loopholes for athletes to avoid being caught. The scariest part of all is that new drugs and methods are constantly being discovered, which makes drug testing even less effective. It’s hard for drug testing methods to keep up with the new discoveries of doping.
Sometimes I find it hard to understand why an athlete would take the risk in exchange for athletic success. They can be risking their health (some substances have negative health effects), reputation (Lance Armstrong sure isn’t loved by many people nowadays), and financial stability (success = more money). I assume that many others wonder the same thing. I wrote a paper in my sports psych class last fall titled “Why Elite Athletes Dope.” I learned that there are quite a few factors that can play a role in deciding whether or not an athlete will take that risk. Here’s the abstract for the paper I wrote:
“A variety of factors play into the decisions for athletes to start doping or using other prohibited methods to improve physical performance. Certain personality traits are linked to an increased likelihood of doping such as an ego-oriented achievement, decreased self-confidence, being extrinsically motivated, and perfectionism (Moran, Guerin, & Kirby, 2009). However, situation can play a large role, if not bigger, than personality traits. External pressure, the culture of the sport, as well as the people that the athlete surrounds him/herself by (coaches, managers, teammates, role models, family, friends) can influence the athlete’s likelihood to dope as well (Wagner, 2008). One of the first steps needed to stop the prevalence of doping is to understand the motives for athletes to engage in this activity.”
How do you feel about the doping situation? What do you think make elite athletes decide to start doping?