The recent results from the trial of Lance Armstrong compels me to write about doping in some fashion. Many articles have been written on the topic lately, so I will focus instead on a different topic. Doping is particularly widespread, and it has been the focus of numerous debates. What else can be said about the issue? I will bring to light another approach, an historical account of doping. To do so, let’s flash back to the 1904 Olympics.
Thomas Hicks was a marathon runner from the United Kingdom but representing the United States at the Summer Olympics in St. Louis. He crossed the finish line second behind Fred Lorz, who was disqualified for covering a majority of the track in his manager’s car after succumbing to a bout of exhaustion. The judges deemed Hicks the gold medalist in the event.
However, Mr. Hicks was not himself an innocent man. He had been “doping” with approximately 1 milligram of strychnine, raw eggs, and brandy. After his second dose of strychnine, Hicks soon collapsed, just across the finish line. Some sources state that another dose may have killed the man, but the lethal dose (at least in dogs and cats) is cited to be 0.75 mg/kg. This would assume a lethal dose an order of magnitude greater than what Thomas Hicks received. Nonetheless, we can conclude that Mr. Hicks would have been disqualified by today’s standards.
Considering that doping has been so widespread, why do we not allow it? Why do we allow performance-allowing medications, such as painkillers, but we do not allow performance-enhancing medications? With the advent of new technology, should we just accept this as a component of competition?
In a recent article, the effects of doping on at-risk populations was reviewed. I recommend reading this article to obtain a grasp of the different methods of doping. The group makes the argument that widespread doping among international athletes has spread and will continue to spread to adolescent populations. In addition to their use in sport, the adolescents use the same products for cosmetic and other non-athletic purposes. For example, steroids and human growth hormone (hGH) have been used by high school girls to reduce fat and increase muscle tone. Considering the wide range of general health and developmental dangers associated with anabolic steroids, hGH, erythropoietin (EPO), anti-estrogens, stimulants, and more, we must focus efforts on education for these populations.
Still, the debate continues. A consequence that is all too rarely ignored is that which I described above. What is not dangerous for professional athletes may prove detrimental to adolescents. Even if considered safe for all populations, use of these substances can lead to abuse without proper education in place.