A Tryst With Performance Enhancing Drugs- How Far Will It Take You?

Posted on June 10, 2012 in Sci-Tech

By Nikhil Borker:

With the French open coming to an end, the upcoming Euro Cup and the much awaited London Olympics on the horizon, there is no doubt that we are going to be treated to some scintillating sporting action this year. Just like every coin has two sides, there is a dark side of sports as well. Over the past two to three decades the phenomenon of doping has become a part and parcel of all grand sporting events. Doping refers to the swallowing, injecting or inhaling of substances called performance enhancement drugs or PEDs.

What has made doping prominent among the sporting fraternity? PEDs offer undue leverage to athletes. Ephedrine increases oxygen levels in body, caffeine improves reflexes and motor skills, cocaine eliminates fatigue and steroids provide relief from pain. The use of PEDs ensure an increase in performance levels by 33%. There’s no doubt that athletes consider them as a convenient way of attaining success. These occult substances even allow totally unfit athletes to give their 100%. Besides, excessive dependence on these drugs can lead to long term side effects like inflammation of lungs, heart attacks, hypertension, kidney failure, etc. Thus, use of PEDs is proved wrong on the following grounds:-

1. Deterioration of athletes’ health.
2. Contempt of medical ethics.
3. Creating a sense of inequality and spoiling the sporting environment.

Even though PEDs are banned, the question of inequality still arises. What about those people whose athleticism levels are raised by certain genetic defects called mutations. Several examples can be quoted in this context. 0.2% of female athletes like Santhi Soundarajan and Caster Semenya suffer from AIS syndrome which imparts men like physical abilities to these women. Mantyranta,the Finnish skier had abnormal levels of haemoglobin in his blood cells which boosted the oxygen levels in his body, thus, raising his stamina. On one hand mutations can be considered as gods’ tribute to these fortunate people , while on the other, one may argue about the partiality associated with them.

Right or wrong? Finding a solution to this problem becomes a convoluted task. The most pragmatic solution that comes to mind is to follow a four stage procedure as detailed below

1. Medical tests be conducted on all athletes to check the physical fitness. Those unfit should be barred from participating.
2. The fit candidates should be subjected to urine and blood tests to check for PEDs. Those tested positive should be banned.
3. DNA tests to be conducted on those who clear the above tests to determine any genetic disorders.
4. The decisions on mutant athletes should be based on the degree of advantage that they might get.

However this is only a watchdog kind of solution. A healthy and competitive environment can be created only if athletes undergo self-enlightenment and stop using such substances. On this note, let us hope that we have controversy free Olympics and our country bags a lot of medals this year!