The importance of sports
It does not take much imagination to think of the lengths an athlete would go to win an Olympic medal or to represent their country in a national sports team. Regardless of sport or athlete, the standards in every area of human achievement is being challenged at a time when mankind is undeniably at its peak in many areas – be it medicine, health, nutrition, or communication. This is after all, an age where news – good and bad – travels fast to reach billions in a heartbeat.
The stories of Usain Bolt, David Beckham, Maria Sharapova and others are inescapable – and happily so. We as a global society share a love of sports, be it the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, or Wimbledon; sports are clearly a great opportunity for bonding and shared pleasure for our species. They even have a significant place in human diplomacy and international politics.
The pressure to perform
Sports are crucial to humanity. In this importance, lies the problem. The culture of competition creates a strong desire to gain any advantage possible – by legal means or otherwise. This has undeniably created a ‘forbidden fruit’ of sports supplements and recreational drugs. The current legislation may need improvement, as very often such substances creep into legal grey areas. These issues have been very well explained in a myriad of documentaries, ‘Breaking the Taboo’ and ‘The Culture High’ being only two recent examples.
Doping is arguably the most important issue facing sports, but it is yet to be resolved or properly legislated. Whether the issue is EPO’s, or peptides such as Human Growth Hormone, or even marijuana or morphine, all athletes face the moral dilemma or whether to use or to avoid.
However, this applies not only to athletes. All 7.3 billion of us can lured by the promise of quick pain management, or ‘optimising’ our experiences. Whether people face criminal charges or sporting discipline, the question is universal, and applies to one and all.
The hypocrisy of doping legislation
The key issue is one of honesty and transparency. It is a question of being well-informed, and the current culture of prohibition and punishment undermines this. It has driven sports doping underground, rendering it not unlike the black market of recreational substances created by the so-called ‘War on Drugs’. If we had the right formula of nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle to get the most out of ourselves, why should the use of any of these substances be punished or criminalised?
The stories of Lance Armstrong, Jon Jones, and Anderson Silva are three that need to be explored. The sheer hypocrisy of stripping someone of a title for performance enhancing drugs, or even the unrelated use of recreational drugs during celebration, is unacceptable. The problem lies with the punishment and not the perceived crime.
Furthermore, criminalisation impacts upon the quality of such substances. It is really a matter of safety. Young competitors need to have the minimum standards of trust with medicines and supplements. With the current legislation, quality control is impossible. Not only may the substances be unsafe, how can it be known if these steroids or treatments really produce the results they are purported to?
I am yet to be convinced that anything other than natural nutrition and produce are needed to get the best out of my own human and sporting experience. However, not all people think this way. The key question is that of the salesperson, we are all the advocates of our own personal legacy. The truth can be illustrated well by the Malboro Man. With his death, no-one can really sell a smart adult cigarettes on health grounds. Education and honesty are at the heart of what people try and trust.