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The Drug Debate

April 22, 2010

There’s never a good time for a footballer to be found guilty of taking drugs, but the latest controversy surrounding ex-Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu has come at a rather interesting time for me. Whilst studying A-level Physical Education, one of the things that I have been required to do is debate about the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), and whether or not they should be legalised or indeed remain completely unacceptable.

Despite the fact that Sibutramine (the drug Mutu has been found guilty of taking) isn’t an obvious choice for a professional athlete to use, it is still against the law. In 2004, Mutu was found guilty of taking a much more recognised drug, cocaine, and was slapped with a 7 month ban. On that occasion, his current employers Chelsea sacked him with immediate effect, but the story is a little different this time. Italian giants Fiorentina have vowed to stand by the Romanian International and he will not have his contract terminated. Mutu is due to return in October, having already served 2 months of the ban.

So, should PEDs be legalised?

The argument for the use of illegal substances is fairly straight forward and understandable. One may say that the use of drugs increases the entertainment factor of sport, as athletes are able to perform well above their ability; Breaking world records, running quicker times, playing better football, and making bigger tackles are all things that truthfully we would all love to see. PEDs enable these goals to be achieved, and make sport a much more exciting prospect. That is, if everybody used them.

In the case of Usain Bolt, he’s a unique sprinter. There has never been anyone as quick as him, and possibly never will be. When Bolt lines up for a 100m race, you don’t give any of the other athletes a hope in hell. The use of PEDs would level out the playing field and bring competition much closer together. Bolt wouldn’t be a consistent, predictable winner, and there’s the potential for much closer, more watchable races.

Whilst a lot of athletes who take PEDs are caught, there a lot of others who get away with it. Random drugs testing makes it very hard for athletes to escape punishment, but for the number that do, they can enjoy a career full of success and personal achievement. Those arguing for the use of PEDs may say that due to this fact, every athlete should have a right to use any drug they want to enhance their performance, instead of wasting time training for major events, only to be beaten to the post by someone who may be on drugs. The introduction of drugs would stop this happening, and again, would level out the playing field entirely.

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a drug which increases the number of red blood cells in your body, and therefore helps the flow of blood around the body and increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. This, of course, aids performance. EPO is a banned substance. Altitude training is a method used by a lot of athletes, particularly long-distance runners, before major events, and this too increases the number of red blood cells in your body. Altitude training is legal.

So, what’s the difference? They both increase one’s number of red blood cells, and they both carry the same health risks; nausea, increased heart rate/blood pressure. Yet one is illegal and one is legal. Does that make sense?

Whilst the arguments for the use of PEDs is extremely valid, there are of course counter-arguments that so far have stood firmer in society and sport.

Any form of drug taking is seen as cheating. It’s illegal in society, and illegal in sport and any one who is caught taking drugs receives a vast amount of negative press. What people may not understand is the pressures and expectation that sport brings with it today, from the media, supporters, and significant others. It’s enormous, and some athletes are unable to deal with that pressure without breaking the rules. However, that is no excuse.

Drug taking is against the original Olympic Ideal; to play fairly, to the best of one’s ability, with the value of taking part being regarded as more important than winning. That Olympic Ideal still stands today of course, yet is constantly broken by drug-taking athletes.

One may argue that drug taking completely defeats the object of being a professional sportsperson. The idea of working towards a goal goes completely out of the window, and there must be very little satisfaction in gaining success with the knowledge that you worked very little to get there. Perhaps athletes don’t care about those values, and just want to win at whatever cost. The Lombardian ethic has perhaps influenced a lot of drug taking in recent times.

Finally, drugs bring with them extreme health risks, including a dangerous rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and somatic anxiety as well as physical risks and even death in some cases. Surely for the benefit of sport and for youngsters growing up with aspirations to become professional athletes, it is the responsibility of athletes to resist the temptation to take PEDs and uphold the values of sport and the Olympics.

It’s a tricky topic to comprehend, and one that will go on forever. People will always take drugs no matter what, and perhaps it is inevitable that one day, PEDs will become legalised and sport will become no more than a selection of the world’s most dedicated drug users coming together to run, jump, and compete against each other.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2010 2:38 am

    Hello, I apologize for contacting you in this fashion, but I think you might be interested in submitting your site to my new sports directory…at

    I’m assuming comments are moderated so when I click submit this post won’t automatically appear on site, if it does, I again apologize.

  2. April 24, 2010 4:18 pm

    Drugs have been present for a long time in sports, and here am not only referring to football, there was the drama involving Armstrong in cycling and many more (not remembering the names at this time ^^ )
    But I think these sportsmen ( and women) are sometimes forced to take drugs just to make sure they do not feel the effect of a recent injury or operation, and may be some legal clause must be sent out to accept the presence a certain level of drug in the body ( not overdoses)… just look at when Rooney played against Bayern for the return match, he must have been injected some sort of drug/painkiller (and patched up of course) so that he could run around without feeling too much pain, and if they had conducted a test on him that day, he could have been easily banned…

  3. George permalink
    April 24, 2010 9:07 pm

    Drugs like cortisone aren’t illegal so Rooney wouldn’t have been banned should he have been tested. The governing bodies of sport know what is and what isn’t legal, obviously, and there’s a difference between taking a legalised drug to get through a game after injury and taking a drug to enhance your performance.

    Some illegal drugs ARE used to get through injury, but the majority of drug users do it to gain a significant advantage over opponents.

  4. April 26, 2010 12:29 pm

    No drugs is an impossible tasks unless it becomes mandatory for everyone. Only then will we see sport being contested fairly

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