A fine line for athletes to cross

your say February 01, 2013 00:00

Re: "Is doping really criminal", Letters, January 29.


Thomas Turk’s defence of Lance Armstrong’s mere infusion of red blood cells to increase the oxygen in the blood by avoiding using the words “performance-enhancing drugs” is feeble. On January 21, Armstrong publicly confessed that he used PEDs to gain an edge in cycling. He also apologised for drug use to the staff at LiveStrong, his cancer foundation.
Is doping criminal? The answer is no. But lying can be. Go and ask Marion Jones, the US former world champion who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and subsequently had to surrender those medals because of her revelation of drug use. She was sentenced to six months in jail for perjury after plea-bargaining. 
Will Armstrong fall into the same trap? Only time will tell on the criminal side, but there could also be civil suits for damages from sponsors, the writers who were previously sued by Armstrong, and even readers of his inspirational book who are now disillusioned.
As to other “unfair” advantages in training, there is little room within the limits of fair play to block any attempt to better your chances. It would hardly be fair to prohibit Andy Murray from running on the beach and eating 50 pieces of sushi a day on the grounds that they give him an advantage over Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. Federer and Djokovic have their own disciplines, and through legitimate means and (it’s almost safe to say) without PEDs, the standard of tennis has gone unbelievably high. Even Andre Agassi has said he could never beat Murray. If we follow Mr Turk’s stance of allowing sportsmen to “take what they want” to become “the strongest, fastest, fittest”, then we can be certain there will be many deformed men and women, and sports would be viewed as unnatural.
Competition is invariably inclusive of ground rules, which might not be the best and are subject to constant adjustment, but at least they don’t allow competitors to go haywire.
Songdej Praditsmanont