“The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run is committed to keeping ultrarunning a clean, drug-free sport. Use of performance enhancing drugs or blood doping as defined by the USADA is forbidden. The Western States board reserves the right to disqualify a runner based on competent evidence of such use.”
What this means in actual practice remains to be seen, as it is unlikely the event will be able to scrape together enough money to establish a real doping control program. But at least they are putting it out there in advance of someone getting caught.
Often, when I have discussions with people (athletes and non-athletes) about doping in sports, I hear this “What difference does it make?” argument. In other words, if we allow doping, then everyone will do it and the playing field will be leveled.
This assumes two things: 1. that everyone in sport is an adult and in charge of their own training and decision making, and 2. that doping is generally safe.
In actual practice, however, neither of these assumptions is likely true.
In most countries, runners and other athletes come up through a “system” where children athletes are groomed toward college programs and the best generally go on to competing as professionals. We’ve already seen how the demands of child athletes are already beyond what many college athletes were dealing with only a generation ago, and we’re already seeing a rash of high school doping.
Now imagine the children living in any number of totalitarian countries. Would they be in the position to make reasoned decisions about what they are putting in their bodies?
If we are curious about what a state-sponsored athlete doping program would look like, and what the impacts on developing children athletes would be, there is an excellent case study for us to review: the German Democratic Republic, AKA East Germany.
During the 70s and 80s, GDR had approximately 10,000 athletes in it’s doping program. Most of these athletes were recruited as children and were put into an aggressive, medically supervised doping program even before they hit puberty. Many of them are suffering from the impacts of these drugs even today. (skeletal injuries, cancer, gender identification, premature death etc.,)
BBC Sports has published an excellent but harrowing series of articles about the East German doping program. This one titled “East German Athletes Were Chemical Field Tests” is particularly excellent, and disturbing.
If you have 47-minutes to spare, you can also watch this terrific documentary: The Great Olympic Drug Scandal. It will put to bed any notion of the victimless crime of doping in sports. In actual fact, everyone becomes a victim.