by Thomas Kurz
I believe that neither the government nor the criminal justice system should be involved when grown-up athletes do illegal doping. Illegal doping violates an athlete’s promise to abide by the rules of the sport and so should lead to a forfeiture of awards and a ban from competition but not to any criminal penalties.
Some means of doping are made illegal by nosy government authorities who feel they cannot let adult individuals take a chance at getting cancer of the liver, cancer of the testicles, and other ailments—as if someone else, other than athletes themselves, was responsible for their medical bills or their insurance premiums.
Doping is a poor substitute for rational exercise methods and state-of-the-art means of recovery. If it is used, it will cause harmful side effects and embarrassment that will outlast and outweigh short-term athletic success. For example, the use of anabolic steroids to increase muscle strength and mass causes a disproportion between the development of muscles’ contractile strength and the structural strength of the joints and ligaments, which leads to injuries.
In the long-run doping is more expensive than using correct methods of training combined with optimal selection of natural means of recovery. In the costs of doping one has to include the inevitable side effects with their costs: medical, legal, ruined reputation, and lowered earnings.
Even strict supervision by experienced sports medicine specialists, such as those from East Germany, does not prevent the most unpleasant side effects, as evidenced by the fate of many East German athletes, which is described in Faust’s Gold by Steven Ungerleider.
Anabolic steroids are used also for speeding up recovery between workouts. How many of those athletes who speed up recovery with steroids or unnatural hormones have systematically used all available natural means of recovery? I mean, starting with a physiologically sound arrangement of exercises in a workout; then the right sequence of workouts in a day with multiple workouts and in a week of workouts, and in longer periods; then additional exercises specially designed to speed up recovery between workouts; then various modes of sports massage and physiotherapy; and a healthy daily routine, of course.
The right sequence of a workout’s exercises makes an athlete recover faster than a wrong sequence of the same exercises, and the same goes for the sequences of the workouts themselves.
There are natural ways of increasing growth hormone releases through specially designed exercises. High altitude training increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood without autotransfusions or erythropoietin. So which is more expensive—reading up on exercise physiology and making a few trips to the mountains or taking artificial hormones that are detectable and have side effects galore?
But to conduct a state-of-the-art training process and intelligently use the natural means of recovery take learning and judgment. One must creatively apply knowledge of the exercise sciences: physiology, biomechanics, psychology, didactics, and methods of training. This is too much for many coaches and trainers of even professional athletes, it requires much more than knowing how to cycle the administration of anabolic steroids.
When one sees a trainer who supposedly has taken exercise physiology courses make baseball players sit in static stretches before practice, and on top of that the trainer encourages partner stretches and pushes the players down into stretches, then one knows why it is too much. When one sees a highly paid coach of a football or a baseball team order players to warm up on stationary bikes, then one knows the coach does not want to or cannot design and run an interesting warm-up.
There is more to a warm-up than moving until one’s body temperature increases. A warm-up is supposed to be a flowing succession of exercises relevant to the sport that progress from general moves to sport-specific, warming up athletes while easing them into their techniques and into the right mindset for practice or a contest. If a coach cannot put together a good warm-up, how can such a coach design the main part of a workout and the cool-down? As you know from reading this article, arrangement of exercises in a workout affects recovery.
A coach of any sport who did not study anatomy, biomechanics, sports physiology, biochemistry, sports psychology, pedagogy, and the theory and methods of sports training is deficient. This kind of coach may know his or her sport, but he or she is not proficient in the standard techniques of other sports (such as all ball games, gymnastics, aquatic sports, and track and field). The incompetent coach does not read up on the current state of knowledge, and does not apply this knowledge. Such a coach holds back the athletes, which may lead to the temptation of doping.
If one chooses to use means of enhancing performance that are illegal or unethical, it is not enough to find the medical personnel who are willing to participate in the scheme. To avoid detection the athletes’ physicians, the sports scientists, and the coaches would all have to have the highest level of qualifications, and an extensive knowledge and experience with using the given type of dope. Right here is a snag—high quality people are not likely to do unethical things. On top of that, since methods of detection are constantly improving, so the doping methods and choices are constantly changing, not many specialists have much experience with any of it. Further, one has to keep in mind that safety records of illegal drugs are even worse than of drugs (such as Vioxx) that are approved by governments.
To sum it up: Illegal doping is an admission of an athlete’s ignorance and of a coach’s incompetence.
Here is demo of possible side-effect of taking anabolic steroids:
(Read background info in an article Is This What Happens ‘When Steroids, Racism and a Badge Mix’?
And here is an excellent explanation of pros and cons of steroid use by a strength coach:
Theory and methods of training is a science that deals with systems of training and methods of improving athletes’ performance. It is a central subject in university courses for coaches and p.e. teachers of former East bloc countries. Its concepts are presented in the book Science of Sports Training, which describes and explains all the means of sports training that lead to reaching peak performances without resorting to illegal ways.
This article is based on the Stadion book Science of Sports Training. Get it now and have all of the info—not just the crumbs!
If you have any questions on training you can post them at Stadion’s Sports and Martial Arts Training Discussion Forum