Sport. A pastime undertaken for enjoyment and amusement. An activity engaged for purposes of competition. Where a person or team take on another person or team in a physically demanding exercise to determine a winner and a loser. Over time the natural competitive instinct inherent in the human psyche has developed a vast number of games, contests and sports, all of which can be won; and all of which can be cheated at somehow.
Before the age of complex chemistry and readily-available narcotic substances, cheating, bribery and throwing of games was the single most damaging thing in sports. The Chicago White Sox of 1919 for example. However now we live in an age which has whole subcultures dedicated to recreational drugs, and an Olympics Banned Substances list longer than a pharmacists stocklist. It’s become increasingly easy for would-be cheats to get hold of the skank they need to either increase their performance or enhance their mood.
Drugs have been responsible for some of the saddest stories in sport – from the Seoul Olympics and Ben Johnson, to the bizarre, almost tragi-comic saga of the Greek athletes Konstas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou falling off their bike at Athens. From the alcoholism of the best footballer Britain has ever seen – George Best – to the bizarre episode of Rio Ferdinand’s missed drug test. Drugs have been responsible for some of the worst moments in sports history, and their effects range from bans and fines to those which are life-changing.
There are two distinct areas to consider when dealing (if you’ll pardon the pun) with drugs: performance enhancing drugs and recreational drugs. Performance enhancing drugs such as THG, Nandralone and other anabolic steroids boost an athlete’s natural performance in a shorter space of time than training or a healthy diet would do. Several atheletes, despite the stringent testing, are still turning up for Olympics loaded with banned substances. In fact the problem now warrants its own comparative statistic. Olympics’ success are being measured by the number of failed drugs tests. And of course if a drugged-up athelete actually wins a medal, and is then disqualified, it effects the entire story of the games. Switching games for a second, one remembers the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester – where three medals are given out for weightlifting. The Romanian contender won two golds, the Welsh contender one gold and two silvers. The Romanian was found guilty of taking a banned substance, Wales gained two more golds and shot up to sixth overall in the medals table, ahead of Scotland. Thankyou very much! Thankfully most performance enhancing drugs, apart from beefing you up a bit, don’t do lasting damage to the human body.
However the seriousness of recreational drugs such as cannabis and cocaine – probably the two most prevalent to todays’ rich sports star – outweigh any possible enjoyment. Careers have been ruined, and lives irreversibly altered. Alcohol and cigarettes are of course legal drugs, and whilst their effects are considered less dangerous than class A-C drugs, they are still addictive. Paul Merson and George Best immediately spring to mind.
Whatever the evils of corruption and racism, amongst others, no other single thing in sport has the ability to physically, emotionally and mentally ruin a competitive human being.