Posted August 1st, 2007
Every time a drug-using athlete sets a record or has an
outstanding performance in any sport, a false
imprint is made on a young, impressionable person. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was created in 1999 to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sports.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is the international independent organization created in 1999 to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sports, in all its forms. WADA’s world headquarters is in Montreal, Canada, and they have regional offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. This past February 1, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Convention against doping in sports was ratified by 47 nations. At the same time, Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, recognized the importance of a stronger and more unified effort.
Rosa Mota and WADA
Rosa Mota began her running career in Portugal at age 14 as a competitor for an athletic club. Twelve years later, in 1982, she captured the European Championship’s gold medal in the marathon distance in Athens, Greece. This was the first time women were included in the marathon. She went on to win three more European Marathon Championships, a silver and gold in the Olympics, and she captured three gold medals in Boston, two in Chicago, and one in London. Rosa had become the world’s marathon runner with the most wins.
My wife and I met Rosa when she first came to the U.S. after her Athens win. We became close friends and still travel together to races and events. In 1994, Rosa retired from competitive marathon running and turned her courageous and competitive spirit to WADA. She became their ambassador from Portugal. She travels throughout Europe with this message to young student athletes: “Through sporting activities you can achieve great things, but you must be honest, clean, and not take drugs. Learn to win, and, what’s more important, learn to lose.”
Rosa and her coach, Jose Pedrosa, had always been concerned about the use of performance enhancement drugs in any sport because it sends the wrong message to the young and
vulnerable. Because of Rosa’s involvement, I became interested in WADA.
The fight against doping
Traditionally, a three-pronged approach has been used to combat doping. One prong is testing, which serves to detect the presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s urine sample. The possibility of a positive test result will hopefully cause an athlete to think seriously before using a drug. Ongoing drug research is necessary because the landscape of drugs changes, as does their methods of usage. Testing must be kept as up-to-date as the cheater and the drugs.
Another component is education. Programs that are strong and meaningful to the athlete in every sport must be developed and aimed at drug prevention. Education must occur early enough so that athletes will develop values and tools that will help them make a decision not to use performance enhancement drugs.
The third prong addresses the entourage of characters surrounding an athlete who can profit from the athlete’s performances. Very often within this cast are people whom the athlete trusts to help make decisions. Coaches, parents, trainers, teammates, doctors, therapists, administrators, lawyers, agents and sponsors all have an interest in the athlete, and it only takes a little imagination to see how they may profit from outstanding performances. These same people have little to risk and are often removed from the penalties of drug use. They need to be held accountable for any part they play in encouraging or enabling an athlete to dope.
Drug-use risks are increased with the ease of access. The Internet has become a common venue and one that is difficult to police. Suppliers are using the Web to market doping products that are being produced in countries that lack anti-doping legislation. These products can be purchased and sent anywhere in the world. Suppliers exist who are promoting the use of steroids that are produced for veterinary purposes, or drugs that are manufactured with toxic ingredients and, worst of all, instruction for dosages that are so large that it will hasten the endangerment with use. The profit margins are so high that in many cases organized crime syndicates have entered the field of performance enhancement drug trafficking. These organizations have always been attracted to high profit, low risk schemes.
Government agencies within the nations that signed on to UNESCO’s efforts have made investigations on a large scale possible. The information gathered by these investigations can then be forwarded to anti-doping authorities in various sport commissions, federations, and committees, making sanctions possible; these sanctions include not just the athlete but also the trusted entourage of persons.
Why should we be concerned?
Every time a drug-using athlete sets a record or has an outstanding performance in any sport, be it professional, collegiate, the world stage of Olympic sports, or even the local club, a false imprint is made on a young impressionable person. The use of performance enhancement drugs are dangerous to the health and well being of people using them and the public should not tolerate these dangers or consequences at any level. Doping in sports is a public health issue and governments around the world should lead the way in investigations into trafficking.
For more information regarding WADA, its activities, and a current list of banned substances, visit www.wada-ama.org.