Category Archives: training

Why Sport’s Zero-Tolerance Stance on Performance-Enhancing Drugs is Wrong

Anti-doping has become an arbitrary process, so why not change the rules? By Julian Savulescu –

Julian Savulescu (born 22 December 1963) is an Australian philosopher and bioethicist. He is Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford, Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Sir Louis Matheson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Monash University, and Head of the Melbourne–Oxford Stem Cell Collaboration, which is devoted to examining the ethical implications of cloning and embryonic stem cell research.

The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Cheating is wrong. Winning by cheating is fraud.

In 1913, Eugene Christophe cheated in the Tour de France. A race vehicle crashed into him, causing his front forks to snap. Instead of repairing them by himself, he cheated by having a small boy pump the bellows for him while he melded them in the local blacksmith’s fire. He broke the rule of the time that dictated the cyclist himself had to repair his own bike.

Of course, today that is not cheating at all. When Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) was thrown into a fence by a media car during the 2011 Tour de France, his team was able to replace his broken bike. He carried on, bandaged up by race medics as he went. And this year, when Chris Froome was the victim of a race motorbike driving too close in crowded conditions, he went up to the line of current rules by running with his bike while a replacement could not reach him. He went onto win the overall race again, of course.

The values behind the original rule were reasonable: pitting one man and his machine against another, limiting the effect of wealth in providing mechanics and replacement bikes, and so on. And as every weekend warrior knows the faster the bike, the more it punctures and cracks. There is a tactical trade-off to be made.

But there is nothing wrong with the rules today either. They limit the extent to which mechanicals and incompetent race vehicles decide the race, and focus the result on the rider himself in his struggle to be the best. Those are also reasonable values, and ones which many would agree are fairer for the athlete, and more interesting for the spectator.

So why do we cling to our zero-tolerance rule for performance-enhancing drugs?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) claims that this rule embodies the spirit of sport, which it expresses as a list of values:

• Ethics, fair play and honesty

• Health

• Excellence in performance

• Character and education

• Fun and joy

• Teamwork

• Dedication and commitment

• Respect for rules and laws

• Respect for self and other participants

• Courage

• Community and solidarity

But instead, the rule has led to intrusive and prurient invasion into athletes’ bodies and lives, with humiliating testing protocols and leaked medical data. It has led to widespread mistrust and scapegoating: when the rules on meldonium changed at the beginning of the year, Maria Sharapova was infamously caught out for using it, but WADA allowed an amnesty for lower doses after 172 athletes tested positive for the drug.

Rules are frequently enforced patchily because applying them systematically and thoroughly would be unaffordable. One estimate put the figure at $30,000-40,000 AUD ($22,440-29,920) per athlete per year. Testing labs have often appeared incompetent, with Rio, Beijing and Doha labs all recently suspended. Recent reports into Russia proved what we all knew: that there is no level playing field in testing worldwide. Some athletes know they will not be caught by their agency, others take the wrong over-the-counter supplement and get pilloried.

I have argued for a new set of rules, based on a new set of values. Those values are athlete safety, and maintenance of the human test. By this I mean that we should ban substances that are risky to athletes, and which mean that the resulting performance significantly loses its human element. This might depend on the sport: a beta blocker might be inappropriate for an archery competition where nerves of steel are part of the test but fine for a weightlifter who gets a little nervous in large crowds. It might also limit the extent of doping rather than the type. If a cyclist improves his blood values by altitude training or by the drug EPO, the outcome is the same, as long as it does not go too far (beyond normal physiological limits) and become dangerous or super-human. We could then focus our limited resources on values that matter.

The rules of sport are designed to protect the athlete and to build a structure within which we can have some confidence of a deserving winner, whose talents in a certain area have been tested against the others.

They will always be somewhat arbitrary: on December 31 2015, when Sharapova took her meldonium, it was legal. The next day it was not. Australian modern pentathlete Alex Watson was banned for taking caffeine, whereas Chris Hoy brought his own coffee machine to the London Olympics.

But if we created an independent body, with a smaller, tighter remit to prevent doping that went beyond the natural physiological limits, or otherwise risked athletes’ health, we would be providing athletes with a framework they can build on instead of a martyrs’ pyre.

Julian Savulescu is uehiro chair in practical ethics, University of Oxford.

Steroids grow in popularity in New Zealand

New Zealand men are taking steroids in growing numbers to get the perfect body.

“These are generally males 20 to 40 who are wanting to look good, rather than elite athletes looking for edge in performance,” Dr Emma Lawrey told the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, in Queenstown on Monday.

Dr Lawrey says the seizure of such drugs coming into New Zealand has increased five-fold since 2008.

“Over the last two years we’ve seen hundreds of packages of performance enhancing drugs picked up annually, over half of which are androgenic anabolic steroids.”

Steroid users increase their risk of heart attack, upper limb tendon rupture and liver.

A recent survey of male gym-goers in Kuwait found 70 percent didn’t believe it was possible to get a good body without using steroids.

Only 18 percent of those surveyed were able to accurately describe the adverse effects of steroid use.

Steroid use on the rise in New Zealand

A New Zealand study showed five out of 32 bodybuilders admitted to using anabolic steroids at some point, and in another New Zealand study of 142 elite-level high school rugby players, only five admitted to use.

However, one in five felt they were at risk to using at some point in their career, she said.


Anybody thinking about going on a cycle, do not forget about Post Cycle Therapy!

Which Russian athletes can compete at Rio 2016?

The following is the list of sports and athletes that can and can not compete at Rio Olympics 2016.

Some sport organizations are still pending decisions and decision should be given shortly to Russian Athletes.

Aquatics (swimming, diving & water polo)

Russians hoping to compete: 67

Decision: Some Russians have been banned, with further rulings to follow.

On Thursday, Vladimir Morozov and Nikita Lobintsev, who had been banned after being implicated in the Richard McLaren report on state-run doping in Russia, were cleared to compete in the Games.

The appeals of Yulia Efimova, a London bronze medallist, and Daria Ustinova were still pending.


Russians competing: Three

Decision: Russians can compete.

World Archery said the three Russians have been “tested extensively” and had no previous doping convictions. It expressed “shock and concern” over recent allegations but praised the IOC’s “courageous decision” not to give Russia a “blanket ban”.


Russians competing: None.

Decision: All of the 68 Russian athletes have already been banned, though long jumper Darya Klishina has been cleared to compete as a “neutral”.

Yuliya Stepanova, the 800m runner whose evidence helped expose the Russian doping scandal, will not be allowed to do the same, however. The IAAF had previously cleared her to compete, but the IOC’s latest ruling disallows any athlete with a previous doping ban.

Stepanova has since questioned that ruling, describing it as “unfair”.


Russians competing: Four

Decision: Russians can compete.

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) has included four Russian players in the draws for Rio, “pending the validation of the International Olympic Committee”.


Russians competing: 11

Decision: All boxers cleared

Governing body the AIBA reviewed each case and cleared each boxer on Thursday, 4 August and that decision was ratified by the IOC.

Canoeing and kayaking

Russians competing: 18

Decision: Most Russians can compete.

Eighteen Russians remain eligible after the International Canoe Federation “immediately suspended” five of the 23 qualified, as they were named in the McLaren report, pending further investigation.

ICF general secretary Simon Toulson said it was a “bitter blow for the Olympic movement,” but that “swift action” was needed to show “that if you step out of line you won’t make the start line”.


Russians competing: 11

Decision: Some Russians can compete.

Governing body the UCI says 11 of Russia’s 17 athletes have been cleared to compete, with three withdrawn by the Russian Olympic Committee and another three implicated in the McLaren report into state-sponsored doping.


Russians competing: Five

Decision: Russians can compete.

Governing body the FEI says there is “no indication of any organised doping malpractices within the Russian equestrian delegation”. It adds there is “absolutely no reason why the Russian equestrian athletes should not compete at Rio”.


Russians competing: 16

Decision: Russians can compete.

Fencing’s governing body the FIE cleared all 16 Russians to compete, saying it had “re-examined the results from 197 tests taken by Russian athletes in 35 countries, including Russia, between 2014 and 2016”, which were all negative.


Russians competing: One

Decision: Cleared

On Thursday, 4 August, the IOC panel confirmed the eligibility of Maria Verchenova to compete.


Russians competing: 21

Decision: None yet.

The International Gymnastics Federation previously said it was opposed to a blanket ban, and on Monday said it would establish a “pool of eligible Russian athletes” as soon as possible.


Russians competing: 14

Decision: Russians can compete.

The International Handball Federation took “immediate action” to re-test Russian athletes following the IOC’s ruling and found “all results are negative”.


Russians competing: 11

Decision: Russians can compete.

The International Judo Federation, whose honorary president is Russian President Vladimir Putin, has cleared all Russians to compete, with president Marius Vizer saying they had been tested from last September to May “on many occasions, at many international judo events, abroad from Russia”.

Modern pentathlon

Russians competing: Three

Decision: Most Russians can compete.

One of the four qualifying Russians, plus a reserve, have been banned by the governing body UIPM, after being implicated in the McLaren report’s ‘Disappearing Positive Methology’ scheme. The remaining three have been cleared to compete.


Russians competing: Six

Decision: Russians can compete.

Russia’s initial squad of 28 has been reduced following 22 suspensions. Fisa said the latest banned athletes were “not considered to have participated in doping” but did not meet the IOC’s criteria of having been tested in labs outside of Russia.


Russians competing: Seven

Decision: Russians can compete.

World Sailing initially suspended Pavel Sozykin but cleared him to compete alongside his other six team-mates.


Russians competing: 18

Decision: Russians can compete.

An ISSF statement said all 18 Russian shooters are eligible having not been mentioned in the McLaren report, nor tested positive through further doping controls. The governing body added that “all Russian athletes are being carefully monitored” by its intelligence-based testing programme.

Table tennis

Russians competing: Three

Decision: Russians can compete.

“An investigation which included an individual test analysis of each player, conducted outside the Russian anti-doping system met the necessary requirements,” said the International Table Tennis Federation.


Russians competing: Three

Decision: None yet.


Russians competing: Eight

Decision: Russians can compete.

The International Tennis Federation said the nominated Russians have been tested 205 times between them since 2014, adding that is “sufficient” for them to go to Rio.


Russians competing: Six

Decision: Russians can compete.

Volleyball (and Beach Volleyball)

Russians competing: 30

Decision: Russians can compete.

Governing body the FIVB said it had “conducted a full examination of the Olympic eligibility” of all Russian volleyball and beach volleyball players and had now submitted them all to Cas and the IOC for approval.

It had earlier said Russian athletes had been tested at the same level as all other countries and the majority of the testing analysis of Russian athletes had been conducted outside Russia.


Russians competing: None

Decision: All eight Russian weightlifters have been banned from the Games.

The International Weightlifting Federation confirmed that two had been banned for doping violations, and another four were named in the McLaren report into doping.


Russians competing: 16

Decision: One Russian banned.

United World Wrestling appointed a “special commission with the mandate to review the doping cases related to the Russian wrestlers currently qualified to compete for the Rio Games”.

On returning its findings, the governing body said Viktor Lebedev, who returned a positive doping test at the 2006 Junior World Championships, will be banned from competing.