drugs in university sport?
By Mike Burton
men would squirm at the thought of watching their testicles shrink, but
for many athletes, this is just one of the sacrifices they are willing
to make in exchange for the benefits of using performance enhancing drugs.
The Canadian Interuniversity Sports commission has identified doping in
sports as a serious issue and, consequently, steps have been taken to
ensure that the problem can be controlled. Dan Smith, director of sports
and recreation services at Western, believes that education is the key
to a drug-free sports program.
"We can never allow ourselves to be as na•ve to believe that performance-enhancing
drugs don't exist," Smith said. "So, work on education and providing
information is very important."
Smith also believes that the CIS's requirements regarding drug education
have been a major step in the right direction. For an athlete to receive
eligibility to compete in the CIS, he or she must participate in educational
seminars. They aim to enlighten athletes about anti-doping procedures
and counselling regarding both banned and legal substances.
The CIS, like all other national sporting institutions in Canada, follows
the Canadian policy on doping as stated by the Canadian Centre for Ethics
in Sports. The policy requires that athletes be subject to unannounced,
no-notice drug testing.
According to Tom Huisman, director of operations and development at the
CIS, random drug testing is a two-pronged attack on identifying users
and deterring athletes from using performance-enhancing drugs.
Despite the level of attention that doping infractions receive, Huisman
stresses that there have been limited cases in which varsity athletes
have tested positive for banned substances.
"Since 1990 there have been 4,300 tests administered," Huisman
said. "And of those 4,300 cases, there have only been 33 infractions."
The penalties for testing positive for banned substances are very severe,
and for substances classified as "steroids," the penalties can
First-time offenders who test positive for steroid substances are suspended
from competition for four years and are permanently ineligible for federal
sports funding. Repeat offenders face a lifetime ban from Canadian sports,
both amateur and professional, and the CCES is looking to extend the penalties
Athletes testing positive for banned substances classified as stimulants
are also subject to punishment, however, these penalties may be less severe.
If the level of stimulants in the body exceeds the legal threshold, an
athlete will be required to submit a letter of explanation, and upon review,
the situation will be considered either inadvertent or it will be deemed
an infraction. The penalties in these situations may range from the offender
receiving an official warning to receiving a temporary ban with re-instatement
after three months.
"More often it is deemed inadvertent. Probably half of the cases
are a result of athletes taking cold or cough medication," Huisman
said. If an athlete is unsure about a product's ingredients, the best
advice for him or her is to avoid taking it.
The CIS's penalties can be very severe to athletes, however, Mustangs
football coach Larry Haylor believes that the harshest penalty would be
an offender's intrinsic disappointment.
"Public ID is the worst penalty," Haylor said. "The CIS's
penalties are very severe, but being identified as a cheat is even worse."
Haylor, like most coaches and players, said he believes users contaminate
the sport and something has to be done to prevent drug-use from continuing.
There are many venues for people to obtain information about health risks
and alternatives to steroids. However, there are also more venues, most
notably the Internet, which offer products designed to give athletes a
"The Internet is a double-edged sword," Huisman said. "It
has made information about steroids and supplements more accessible, but
it has also made information about the dangers and alternatives more available."
Kris Aiken, a former Western football player, has published an article
on anabolic steroids on the Internet at www.testosterone.net and is also
familiar with the random drug-testing procedure.
"We have to sit through the same seminar every year, so players are
definitely aware of the risks," he said. Aiken, who has been tested
twice in his career, is confident the number of athletes using banned
substances is extremely small and his advice to athletes who are hoping
to improve their performance is simple, but essential.
"Proper nutrition and dedication to the sport are the most important
factors," he said.