Doping is inevitable

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 14, 2008 Ed Cartoon

Today’s Weekend Edition discusses doping in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The inferred level of performance- enhancing drug use among student-athletes makes an adequate system of rule enforcement virtually impossible.

This begs the question: what motivates these athletes to break the rules and risk possible suspension and long-term health damage?

Matt Baxter, a wide receiver for the Western football team, was given a two-year suspension from CIS after testing positive for Letrozole metabolite. It can be reasonably assumed Baxter is the tip of the iceberg in terms of abusing banned substances in university athletics.

It is very difficult to gather any concrete evidence or first-hand stories from players and coaches. There is very much a “code of silence” among players, and coaches have a “see no evil, hear no evil” mentality with their players.

If a player shows up to training camp 20 lbs heavier with increased strength, it is more likely that player will make the team. So long as the reasons why the player grew suddenly are concealed from the coaching staff, the coaches are not about to prod further.

While professional athletes are compelled to break the rules because of the financial incentives, most of Western’s student athletes will never play pro sports. For the vast majority of these players, wearing the Purple and Silver will be the apex of their career.

Varsity athletes are immensely competitive people. The prospects of victory, improved individual performance and the glory of starting for Western is enough for many players to go the drug route.

In addition to in-game competition, there is popularity that goes along with being a contributing Western Mustang. Younger players will see veterans on the team using performance enhancers, be it Letrazole, growth hormone or steroids and they desire to be the same size, both in reputation and in musculature.

In some ways, joining a varsity team is like joining a family at university. There are players out there willing to go to certain lengths to be a part of the varsity family and continue their athletic career.

Additionally, once a player is a starter, there is pressure to either play through injury or make a speedy recovery when injured. Some players will use drugs to speed their recovery from muscle and tendon injuries.

What makes policing CIS doping particularly bleak is the lack of funding. The organization cannot afford anything more than random testing; there have been 47 doping suspensions since 1990. With 10,000 student athletes in Canada, it is impossible to ensure everyone is clean.

Ultimately, there have been athletes looking for a competitive edge for as long as there has been high-level competition. It will be impossible to snuff out doping in the CIS or any level of athletics because the athletes are always looking for new ways to boost their performance while slipping under the radar.

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