“Nothin’ you can do about it. Dopers always one step ahead of detection,” I was told.
I am not willing to go along with that line of reasoning, because it pretty much means the end of competitive sports.
Also, the history of state-sponsored doping programs shows that turning a blind eye toward chemical cheating leads to a growing pool of victims: the clean athletes who can’t compete with the doped ones, and the children run through dope-fueled, government-operated sports programs.
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?
Most of you reading this are not professional athletes, but even where we’re competing for a coffee mug or a 75-cent key-chain, the poisonous effects of doping permeate.
For example, it’s hard for me to imagine that some number of my age-group competitors aren’t using steroids or some other performance enhancing drugs. “Anti-aging” clinics offer easy access to HGH and testosterone, and masters athletes seem most likely to be able to afford them.
Indeed, a quick scan of USADA’s sanction list will show any number of amateur, masters athletes caught in those rare circumstances where testing takes place.
Now, for these reasons, in the complete absence of any evidence, whenever a masters athlete has a breakout performance, significant improvement, or is seemingly dominant, there are whispers.
The rumors, when false, rob suspected athletes of deserved glory, and true or not, demoralize everyone and take a little of the joy out of racing.
I’m not sure what solution to this is, but I think USA Cycling’s RaceClean Program is a good start. USA Cycling now includes a surcharge on membership to support a modest anti-doping campaign, and there’s a hotline to help them catch cheats.
Is this something USA Track and Field could do? I’d like to see a serious exploration of the possibility. I suspect that most athletes would support it.
Finally, while we’re exploring this issue, I can’t help but wonder about the mentality of these cheats. If they’re not pros, what makes them do it? We seldom see more than a clipped press release from USADA, or a news article regarding the impacts on the athletes cheated out of podium spots, sponsorships, and championships.
And since cheating is almost always discovered after the fact, how do we prevent athletes from going down that path in the first place?
Peter Flax writes a fascinating exploration of these issues in: The curious case of Oscar74: How USADA nabbed a masters doper. It is very definitely worth the read.