This morning, we begin by looking at professors who have engaged in research to find out what causes professional athletes to use substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and whether there exist solutions to stop or decrease it. In an effort to better understand the causes, the Kinesiology Department and the Cal State Fullerton Center for Boys and Men sponsored a symposium last Thursday titled, “How do we prevent drugs in sports?” John Gleaves, Ph.D., acknowledged that athletes doping is not new, as it dates back to the birth of the scientific revolution (mid 1500s). While WADA bans certain substances and techniques “on the grounds that they are unhealthy, unfair and are contrary to the spirit of the sport,” testing athletes for drugs and punishing them when the test comes back positive apparently not a strong enough barrier to prevent the practice. In fact, it has increased. Caleb Banta-Green, Ph.D., who teaches at the University of Washington, observed that “there is at least an attitudinal change that [she believes] will eventually lead to some pretty meaningful changes.” The change, she remarked, likely come from the changes in U.S. drug policies. Her example of such a change is illustrated by the difference between the abuse and misuse of drugs. She defined abuse as “continued out-of-control use despite negative consequences” and misuse as “using [it] for a purpose other than intended, using drugs not prescribed to you and using them for non-medical purposes.” The U.S. has experienced a “300 percent increase in prescription opiate pain medication over the last 15 years” – likely a combination of abuse and misuse. Banta-Green seems to believe that the Office of National Drug Control Policy is headed in the right direction when the Office discussed its goal to renew a community-based prevention program that focuses on the public health aspect of the drug problem. Educating individuals on the health risks may act as a better solution over punishing athletes for its use.
Vest Christiansen, Ph.D., believes the increase in use of drugs in sport relates to an identity problem many Americans have. Christiansen hypothesized that the increase in doping in sports correlates to the high dissatisfaction Americans have of their bodies. He backed it up with statistical data: “the level of dissatisfaction that Americans have with their bodies in women more than doubled from 1972 to 1997.” Interestingly, he also stated that the increase in the women’s liberation movement caused men to experience a masculinity crisis. To counteract this, male recreational athletes began taking muscle increasing supplements in order to appear more masculine. This false sense of belief both genders share (men have to have bugling muscles, while women must be thin and petite) causes these crises. No concrete solutions came from the symposium, but the point was to inspire professionals to think about the problem and to come up with solutions. I am more in line with the thought that it has to do with the perception of the body and the image both genders seek, and media is a huge cause of the problem. If you don’t believe, me, turn on the television or look at the ads that show up on your computer. It won’t take you long to see images of handsome men with big muscles, or beautiful women with curves in all the right places clad in tight clothing (or hardly any).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering adding an anti-discrimination clause “modeled on the Olympic Charter’s Principle 6.” Principle 6 says “sport does not discriminate on any grounds, including race, religion, politics or gender.” (IOC spokesman Mark Adams acknowledged that Principle 6 protects against all forms of discrimination). If you are as puzzled as I am in how Sochi maintained its bid in light of its anti-gay propaganda law, stay tuned. The law was passed last year, (meaning that changing the venue for the Olympics would be quite unrealistic), but that did not stop critics from hurling negative comments toward the IOC in allowing Sochi to proceed with hosting the Winter Games. In response to its critics, the IOC said that while “it cannot dictate laws in a sovereign state,” Russian President Vladimir Putin assured the IOC “there would be no discrimination against homosexuals during the February 7-23 Games.” A siren might go off in your head, because it leaves open to question, “what happens to LGBT individuals after the Winter Games?” A brief comment: it is likely will be discriminated against, if they are not being discriminated against outside of Sochi already (I say outside because if inside, I would like to think that the media would have a field day with it).
The IOC continued to experience substantial pressure from nations – to the point where the IOC announced that it may include a clause precluding nations from bidding if that nation has discriminatory laws. Former tennis champion Martina Navratilova and singer / pop star Rihanna spoke out vocally in support of Principle 6, and it is reasonable to foresee other international icons supporting the move as well. Andre Banks, co-founder and Executive Director of All Out (an international gay rights group) is part of the fight to put pressure on IOC President Thomas Bach that future host nations have a non-discrimination policy within a country that applies for a host position. Note: if America plans to run to host Summer 2024 or Winter 2026, we might want to revisit some of the laws that we have in certain states that are flagrantly discriminatory – not only to the LGBT community, but to women and other nationalities.
Lee McConnell, a Scot who was part of the women’s 4×400 in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, lost her appeal to take Team USA’s gold medals away after one of Team USA’s athletes included drug cheat Crystal Cox. Although Cox helped her 4×400 team make it to the finals, Cox did not run in the finals. Cox was later found to been on steroids from 2001-2004, who consequently suffered a four-year ban based on her illegal use. The British Olympic Association (BOA) maintained that USA should lose its medal based on the cheat, and that the team must forfeit its medals. If IOC ruled in favor of Great Britain, then USA would be stripped of its golds – Russia would take gold, Jamaica would assume the silver position, and the Brits would earn bronze. The IOC based its decision based on the technicality that Cox did not run in the final, thus leaving Great Britain in the same spot it began, and allows Team USA to maintain its gold medals. All is not lost, however. The Brits may exercise its right to enact a legal challenge to the IOC verdict. However, UK Chief Ed Warner believes that, based on the advice he received, “a legal appeal would fail.”
Here are a few more articles to round out today. There’s an interesting article in the New York Times that talks about what athletes receive if they finish 4th to 8th place at the Olympics – “it is not, as some athletes suggested (presumably jokingly)… a swift kick to the rear end.” Hint: it beats rock. In the Bahamas, the International Association of Athletics World Relays Bahamas 2014 introduces the first three sponsors of the Relays: Atlanta Medical Insurance Company Ltd., Caribbean Bottling Company Ltd. and John Bull Group of Companies. Finally, here’s a fun picture of how high the new world record is in the pole vault in comparison to other objects that are tall.