Ever since the Greeks immortalised the Olympic spirit, competition has been the essence of any athletic meet: the best athlete wins by merit. Often over split-seconds or by longer margins. Sheer grit, endurance and determination separating winners from the rest.
Globally, no event commands such wide audience as the Olympics. Regular IAAF athletic meets do also have good viewership. As the basis of most athletic games is movement, running prowess and muscle power are important.
Recently though, sport enthusiasts both field and off track have been treated to a surge of disturbing cases of cheating. A hitherto concern of western athletes, a spate of local positive doping tests amongst our elite runners have cast a shadow of doubt over us.
What is the genesis of this new development locally?
There are several theories around the origin of the issue. One of the drivers is individual recognition and prize money. On the second front, advancing a nation’s interest could also be a reason as the alleged Russian Olympics case would suggest. And nowhere else is this visible than every time a medal table count shows up. The pride and glory that citizens of that particular country have is unforgettable. The playing of one’s national anthem is also welcome. But is this the only reason to cheat in competition?
When athletics became an avenue to assert supremacy and bragging rights of global dominance, it could have created the problem. Amongst themselves, the triump of global superpowers account for a major component of banned doping athletes.
For most athletes, endurance and determination are virtues and ethos they aspire to live by; the best man wins and is congratulated. But what to do if your competitors are cheating? Do you run with hopes of never winning or do you level the playing field? For a long time, African athletes have been puritans; putting raw muscle and talent to tarmac. The development of sports psychology and physiology, relatively alien concepts to us for a while, have now become commonplace. The link between “rogue science” and performance enhancement is slowly being established. And with that, a readily available “cheat sheet”.
Athletics is big business, complete with business models where “investors” identify, nurture and invest time and money on athletes. There is expectation from the athlete to deliver at some point.
Demographics on percentage of positive tests per sport and per country paint an interesting picture. For the sake of fans and to restore glory to sports, lengthier bans, stiffer punitive measures must be given.