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  • Sam Draper

Substance Abuse in the Sporting World

The use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sporting industry has been around for what seems forever. It comes in many different forms and in many different sporting events and is still a huge problem today, whether this is in the Olympics, cycling, or MMA.

There has been a vast history of doping scandals that have occurred within the Olympic games, with one of the biggest to occur being Russia’s state-sponsored doping program. It was revealed by a whistle-blower from the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow in 2016 that Russian athletes have been given performance-enhancing drugs before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to make the country look good and bring pride to the nation by winning many medals at their home games. This was all to be covered up during the anti-doping tests done for the games as it was revealed that the Russian intelligence service had access to ‘tamper-proof bottles to replace the Russian athlete’s urine samples for them to look clean. (There is an extremely interesting documentary on this called ‘Icarus’). After a full investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 2019, they imposed a four-year ban on Russia for the Olympic games and world championship events due to manipulating the athlete's test results however, the ban has now been reduced by two years and allowed Russian athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and to compete at the 2022 Olympic games but not under the Russian flag or anthem.

A more recent high-profile case that has sent shockwaves through British athletics was the

suspension of Team GB men’s 4x100m relay sprinter CJ Ujah after testing positive in both his A and B samples for prohibited muscle-building substances known as Ostarine and S-23 at the Tokyo Olympics. The men’s relay quartet won silver in the event and Ujah’s positive samples mean that they are likely to be stripped of their silver medals. In a statement, the sprinter said he was ‘shocked and disappointed by the announcement of the positive samples. He went on to say: ‘To be absolutely clear, I am not a cheat and I have never and would never knowingly take a banned substance.’ The case is still under investigation and the outcome will be released in due course.

The cycling world has also had one of the biggest drugs scandals the sporting world has seen, with Lance Armstrong having his seven Tour de France titles stripped from him due to his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Doping allegations of Armstrong started after he won the 1999 Tour de France for which he would deny involvement for years. However, in 2012 a United States Anti- Doping Agency investigation concluded that Armstrong had been using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. In the investigation, he was also named as the ringleader of ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen. Armstrong subsequently received a lifetime ban from all sports and had his seven Tour de France titles stripped from him. In 2013, Armstrong publicly admitted to his involvement in the scandal after years of denial.

The sport of mixed martial arts has also had more than its fair share of issues with substance abuse however, this enters a dangerous realm through its consequences since it could end with fatal results. One of the biggest cases comes from the UFC where Jon Jones had just beaten Daniel Cormier by KO at UFC 214. However, three weeks after beating Cormier, Jones’ test samples came back which were taken the day before the fight, and he tested positive for Turinabol which is an anabolic steroid. The fight result was changed to a no-contest and Jones was suspended for 15 months. However, there are many people who argue that this should result in a longer ban, potentially even a lifetime one. This is because in combat sports the aim is mostly to hurt your opponent until you win a lot of the time through punching your opponent in the face. But a fight like this is supposed to be even with no one fighter having an advantage, so if one fighter has an unfair advantage in the fight where they are trying to seriously hurt your opponent, with some fighters going into a fight with a killer mindset in order to win, could this be considered as potentially attempted murder? Because, for example, Jones knocked out Cormier in that fight, the results could

have been potentially worse since Jones had an unfair advantage over Cormier arguably never stood a chance to win that fight and was putting his life at risk at the same time without knowing that Jones had an unfair advantage.

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