Volume 94, Issue 26

Tuesday, October 17, 2000


Testing the limits of doping in sport

Marijuana looks gray in the eyes of sport

Testing the limits of doping in sport

Photo by Brianna Mersey

By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

Upon the closure of the Sydney Olympic Games, we remember the medals won, the goals achieved, the dreams shared and the anti-doping tests that came up positive.

"The Sydney games proved that drugs are becoming a major problem in sport," said Lenora Parker, drug free sports program manager for the Canadian Centre for Ethics and Sport.

A lot of focus was put on the positive drug tests instead of on the competition, Parker said. "It's a sad thing when that happens."

To ensure consistency, Parker said the CCES uses the same guidelines as the International Olympic Committee. The CCES carries out all the drug testing of athletes in Canada, Parker explained. "Canada does not do clearance testing for its athletes, but it does do focus testing," she said. Seventy-five percent of Canadian athletes who went to Sydney were tested, she added.

Also, about 75 per cent of drug testing done is "no-notice" testing; testing wherein a drug officer spontaneously shows up to any competition or practice to conduct a witnessed urine test, Parker explained.

Parker clarified the IOC list is under ongoing review and each year the list is updated. Changes are made to make wording clearer, add new substances, or take substances off the list to ensure comprehension, she added.

There are alternatives to the banned substances on the list, but they are obviously not as strong because they do not contain the potent drug, Parker added. There is also a category of restricted drugs that have specific guidelines about their use. Restricted drugs need a declaration form, detailing the need and use from a doctor, which must be submitted in advance, she added.

The level of competition where anti-doping starts varies by sport, but an overwhelming amount begins at the national level, Parker stated.

Tom Huisman, director of operations and development of the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union, said the CIAU uses the anti-doping service that the CCES provides.

Four hundred tests are completed annually within the CIAU and there have been no positive tests since 1997, he said. Football is the most targeted CIAU sport in anti-doping. "For every two tests completed, one of them is football," he added. Huisman explained that football was singled out not only because it was such a large contigent, but football players historically have been seen as large users of banned substances.

The CIAU promotes education of university athletes and each school hosts drug seminars where athletes are given a handbook, outlining all of the updated banned substances, Huisman said.

"Western is fully supportive of the drug education program and fully opposed to banned substances," stated Darwin Semotiuk, chairman of athletics at Western.

There are serious implications with a positive drug test, Semotiuk explained. The first offence is a four year suspension from university athletics, which uses up four of any athlete's five years of eligibility, the second offence results in a life-time suspension, he added.

The Canadian anti-doping system is a much more comprehensive program than others in the world, Huisman stated. "There is more testing and good education, which is hopefully a big preventative component."

Huisman explained that testing is necessary to ensure everyone is playing at the same level. "When a student athlete starts their season, they can feel confident that their competitors are drug free."

Despite testing and education however, it is not a foolproof method, Parker stated. She mentioned that not all substances are detectable and people will continue to find or create substances that are not banned. "That is why the IOC is constantly updating the list," she said.

Judith Blackman, assistant professor of sociology at Brock, said that drugs in sport are a chronic problem. "[Drugs]have been a big issue in Canada since Ben Johnson," she remarked.

"An idea has circulated that if people want to do this to their bodies, they can compete in performance induced Olympics, parallel to the regular Olympics," Blackman said.

Blackman said that pressure to do well has a lot to do with drug use among athletes. Coaches and peers might also pressure athletes into taking drugs, she speculated.

The sporting world has to enforce level playing ground for athletes and to do this, drug testing is necessary – but ethical issues increase if it spreads to other arenas, Blackman said. "If it comes to testing people in the work force on a regular basis, then there is a large societal problem," she added.

Before athletes are banned from competition for drug use, a case should be made for why they were taking drugs to begin with, Blackman said.

If an athlete is taking medication for a cold, then they really are trying to get back on that level playing field with the rest of the competition, she said.

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