Drugs in sports

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Jessie A. (Grade 7)

Twenty per cent of athletes in Western countries admit to using drugs. That's one out of every five athletes, and that's only those who admit to it.

When you're watching sports on television, you have no idea if what you are seeing is the athlete's true abilities, or steroids in effect. A program of random drug tests, education, treatment, and discipline would cost an estimated one million dollars annually. But one million dollars may be a small price to pay for fair play and good health. That's why random drug tests would be extremely effective if taken by the athletes, not only throughout the season, but throughout the rest of the year as well. Drugs shouldn't be tolerated in any team, in any sport.

Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have many health risks. Risks with steroids include heart disease, liver tumors, and edema (abnormal fluid accumulation in body tissues). The athletes should ask themselves, "Is this really worth my life?"

Glen Sather, Edmonton Oilers general manager and coach, says, "In my mind I'm absolutely convinced there is no drug abuse problem on my team." Sather could sadly be mistaken.

"What can be perceived as a way to excel in sports or everyday life can easily ruin that life," said Dr. Andrew Ferko, associate professor of Pharmacology, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia. "When the ultimate goal of the drug-taking athlete is to win at any cost, those costs may be greater than the athlete realizes. He or she may literally be dying to win. There are already a lot of health risks in the world to be concerned about. Why create another for yourself? All you're doing is making your life a lot more complicated and unhealthy for yourself."

Using steroids is like cheating on a math test. If the teacher saw you cheat, she would take your paper away and give you zero. So why don't athletes get banished or suspended? In some countries, they do banish athletes if they fail the drug tests, but some isn't good enough. The Houston Rockets had no tolerance for athletes who used drugs. Lewis Lloyd and Mitchell Wiggins were banned from the National Basketball Association for cocaine use. An athlete can be treated without penalty if they come forward voluntarily. But, to their disadvantage, Lloyd and Wiggins did not volunteer. Rockets coach Bill Fitch said the situation has taught him a lot about lying, because, "They'll look you right in the eye every time and deny it." But when the tests came back positive they couldn't deny it any more.

Every team should have a rule that said if they used drugs, they're off the team. It would be a lot fairer to the athletes who don't use drugs. Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, says, "Using performance enhancing drugs is a despicable and dangerous form of cheating."

The majority of athletes who have just used steroids for one game to see if they would improve, continue to use steroids for the rest of their career. There have been 51 positive tests at the Olympic Games since doping controls were introduced in 1968. At the summer games in Barcelona in 1992, five athletes failed drug tests. If steroids were harder to get, fewer athletes would take them, and sports would be fairer.

Performance-enhancing drugs shouldn't be tolerated on any team for the ideals of fair play and health risks. Solving the problem of drugs in sports would make a lot of people happier.

Next time you're watching sports, think to yourself, "Am I seeing the athlete's true abilities, or are steroids in effect?"

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