Test Tube Perserverance
SALMAN HASAN Sports have evolved to become an integral part of our society. Throughout the world, people participate in sports in almost every form and fashion, from running to football to cycling. Accordingly, the number of people tuning in to these sporting events has increased dramatically. This has put enormous pressure on athletes to perform in order to maintain status and to stay ahead of the competition. Often, this pressure pushes athletes to use alternative sources of perseverance in order to cut corners on their competitors.
The prevalence of medicine in sports, namely performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), has increased, accordingly. The history of PEDs dates back to Ancient Rome — to the days of the gladiators. Romans reportedly ingested strychnine in order to prevent fatigue during the iconic gladiator games. Fast forward 1800 years and the first reported death due to strychnine ingestion was recorded in the 1904 Olympic Games. At this time, the use of stimulants such as strychnine were commonplace, actively used by coaches as ingredients in drug concoctions, along with cocaine and caffeine.
The usage of PEDs has increased throughout the years, peaking in the 1980s and 90s. The rise of PEDs begs the question — what caused the adoption of PEDs in the first place? Was it fueled by society’s need for more action and excitement in sports, or simply from the desire of athletes to outcompete the competition in an unparalleled fashion? Regardless of the cause, performance enhancing drugs have become alarmingly routine in today’s sports culture.
It seems that every other year a sports scandal involving PEDs or anabolic steroids is unearthed, such as Aaron Rodriguez in his 2003 MVP season or Lance Armstrong in his several Tour de France titles. Some claim the lack of regulation or the lack of knowledge is the primary cause of the increased prevalence of performance enhancing drugs.
The effects of PEDs over time have been proven to be fatal, such as in the case of the strychnine-ingesting runner in the 1904 Olympic Games. But the adverse effects in even the recreational user are vast, ranging from hormone imbalance — the cause of several disorders — to HIV or hepatitis contracted by transmission via non-sterile needles.
George Will, a columnist for The Washington Post, said, “A society’s recreation is charged with moral significance. Sport - and a society that takes it seriously - would be debased if it did not strictly forbid things that blur the distinction between the triumph of character and the triumph of the chemistry.” This is the essence of the situation at hand.
How much of the accomplishments and entitlements can be given to the athlete versus the drug or chemistry behind their success? With leagues of athletes taking PEDs, their actions and skills will eventually become completely mechanized and the human characteristics of hard work, persistence, and perseverance will be taken out of the equation. It is imperative that the public knows of the dangers of doping and anabolic steroid usage, so that we may begin taking steps forward, towards a more just and assiduous society.