Since the 1960s, following World War II, there has been an augmented use of illicit drugs by athletes (soc notes). Doping, commonly defined as the use of a drug or blood product to improve athletic performance, is one of the most controversial matters in modern sport (lawref). There are arguments for both the acceptance and ban on the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport, with both sides having reasonable justification for their belief.
Some argue that using such drugs would take away from the spirit of the sport, while others believe enhancing performance through any means is the spirit of sport and that wanting to be better is a part of being human (ethics). Nowadays, it is very common to use drugs to relieve pain, enhance performance, alertness, and so on. So, why is the use of drugs in sport such a big deal in society? And how did it become such a commonality? Over the years, sport has evolved due to a number of social processes, which have contributed to the increased extent of doping in this social activity (soc notes).
Sports have become far more competitive, and there have been higher stakes placed on competitions and performance by governments and sponsors, resulting in increased pressure on athletes’ performance. With greater advancements in technology and medicine, the development of performance enhancing drugs served as a means of relieving some of the pressures on athletes to become better, and essentially have greater chances of winning. The question still lies in whether or not this method of improvement would alter the meaning of sport.
Every country has the desire to be well known around the world, and gaining this identity is much harder for smaller less developed countries, compared to the more developed ones. Following World War II, governments had discovered a new way of attaining this identity, through sporting competitions. The sporting and athletic position of a country mirrored their political standing. Countries began to use sporting competitions as a way to prove their superiority. This was the case especially between the Western Allies and the Eastern bloc, with their rivalry between one another.
For example, there would be associations between the amount of medals won by opposing sides like the United States and the Soviet Union, and how greater winnings would symbolize dominance (socnotes). Governments became more involved with the performance of athletes, wanting them to do better, as the nations pride was on the line. This led to increased pressure on the athletes to perform better, not only for the country, but also for the desire to become national idols, and receive other rewards in the form of money, cars, housing and more (new website). Sports became more commercialized through increased sponsorships as well as globalization.
Due to greater investments in athletic performance and competitions, athletes were continually exposed to more and more pressure on their performance. Athletic performance was given a much greater value, through politicization and commercialization, it was now symbolically associated with the athletes nation. There once was a time when sports were merely played for the purposes of having a good time (law). This social activity has evolved in such a way that now even at the level of children’s sports, there is a great amount of competition. This extent of competition in modern sport is even more pronounced at the elite level.
Children, athletes at different levels, elite athletes and even those playing sports for leisure all share one thing in common, they want to win. Sporting and athletic abilities began to determine whether or not you would be qualified to receive scholarships, be advanced to the next level of a sport, and gain incentives based on your performance. Since, it is a part of human nature to do what is in your best interest, and receiving the benefits listed above was something that was desired by all players, they began to train harder, putting forward their best efforts to gain any sort of benefit against their opponents.
When discovering the use of performance enhancing drugs, athletes were given a tactic they could use to their advantage to become the better, stronger, faster athlete and essentially help them win in competition. Nowadays, drugs are so commonly used whether it is to relieve a minor pain, stay alert, help you sleep, relieve anxiety and numerous other problems. We have become increasingly reliant on drugs for almost everything, because they are often a quick fix to our problems.
For example, after an extensive workout, people often use Tylenol to soothe muscle pain or take inhalers to help with asthma, both of which link physical activity to the use of drugs. So, why is it socially unacceptable for athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs, when there seems to be no issue with using drugs for all other purposes? The difference with these situations is that they are missing the competitive aspect that is found in sports, and they are not enhancing their performance, they are simply bringing their body back to baseline.
With advancements in technology and medicine, researchers and medical doctors developed drugs that could improve the functioning of athletes, which included blood doping, growth hormones, anabolic steroids, and more. Athletes, with concentrations on winning, have become more dependent on medical professionals to help them achieve this goal. Medical advice is used in exercise interventions, training, diet, monitoring, and even on which chemicals can help enhance performance.
The development of such drugs have provided athletes with methods that they can use to become better, get where they want to be, face increased pressures and ultimately, win. But, if athletes use such drugs to better their performance, this would be taking away from the natural abilities that are prized in sport. Hence, the use of such drugs by athletes is not something that society is in favour of. There have been several cases concerning athletes, both elite and those playing at the high school or university level that have been found doping.
This became a reoccurring issue all around the world, as athletes used this method in efforts to improve their performance in sport. The frequency of illicit drug use and the effects it had on sport, with relevance to its meaning, spirit, integrity led to stricter policies and bans on such drugs. Elite level baseball players, cyclists, football players, basketball players and much more, had been found guilty of using this method to better their performance in competitions, resulting in suspensions from games as well as facing charges.
For example, Lance Armstrong, one of the most known cyclists who won the Tour de France seven times in a row was found guilt of taking performance-enhancing drugs and was stripped of his titles. Baseball players including Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and more, all of which were idolized by fans and prized for their athletic abilities. Positive tests were also revealed in football in players such as Shawne Merriman, Pat Williams, Charles Grant to name a few. All of these athletes are at the elite level because of their natural astounding capabilities, which sets them aside from the average person.
This naturalness that is displayed in sports competitions and games is what attracts fans from all around the world to the game. If athletes’ performances are no longer a product of their natural competencies, then sports will no longer be valued, as it is thought that there is nothing spectacular about an athlete performing with the aid of drugs. Since, opinions of society are what shape the rules of sports, if doping is unacceptable by society, then an athlete that has used performance enhancing drugs would be considered a cheater, due to their violation of the socially constructed rules.
Over the past few decades, sport has evolved into a more competitive, symbolic, medical dependent social activity. Athletes have been faced with increased pressures to perform to the best of their abilities due to the greater investments by both governments and other sponsors in performance. There has been a shift towards a far more competitive nature of sport then before, placing extreme importance on winning.
With advancements in medicine, and greater help from medical professionals to help create a trained athlete, there have been developments of performance enhancing drugs. Because of the incentives, scholarships, and fame associated with performance, athletes have been increasingly found using methods of doping to be at a greater advantage in athletic abilities compared to their adversaries. Sport is an activity that is known to display all sorts of exceptional talent and shows the capacity of our human body and displays human physical excellence.
Athletes are respected because of their hard work, effort and training that allows them to achieve such tremendous abilities and performance. When athletes are found using performance enhancing drugs, there is no longer any significance in their performance or ability to overcome challenges, as they are doing so through the aid of chemicals. Doping takes away from the meaning of sport, and the integrity of performances. Because of the frequency of doping in sport, many policies and bans have been put forward in efforts to try and control this occurrence.