Is doping really criminal?
Doping in sports started with anabolic steroids being used by competitive weightlifters to gain massive strength. Organisers quickly put a stop to this, terming them harmful to health. But since these are not harmful unless seriously abused, the ban was later based on "unfair competition" instead. Many other safe "performance enhancing" substances, some naturally occurring in the body, have now also been banned. People now need a doctor's prescription to access them.
Lance Armstrong's "criminal" activity (and that of the Austrian skiing team and all the rest) was simply to infuse red blood cells (RBC) to increase the oxygen in the blood. This "doping" was ignored until it was discovered through damaged RBC prove that "artificial" intervention had taken place.
Why then is it not illegal for athletes to train at high altitude, since that also "artificially" makes extra RBC. Isn't that "doping"? Isn't that unfair competition? How can a poor runner from Ghana runner who lives at sea level train in the Kenya highlands?
In the early days of competition, the authorities tried to address this inequality by deeming it illegal for any professional to take part in the Olympics. Countries ignored this ruling, sent their athletes to full-time training camps and simply wrote "electrician" on the entry form. Bike racing is all professional anyway, so it wouldn't have made sense there.
It's illegal for an athlete to use the anabolic steroid testosterone via a jabs or patches. But, if I wish to build bigger muscles, get stronger, recover my muscles after an illness or look younger, a doctor will happily give me a testosterone patch or jab. An athlete - or you or I - can naturally increase testosterone levels by eating large steaks, supplemented with amino acids and various herbs (fenugreek, tribulus terrestris, etc), and by performing extreme weight-training sessions. Why isn't that illegal? Isn't a massive natural testosterone level unfair competition? How can a poor Sri Lankan athlete afford those steaks and supplements or have access to a good gym and trainer?
It's illegal for an athlete to have growth-hormone injections. It's not illegal for an athlete to do extreme training and supplement with amino acids. Why isn't that also banned?
It's not illegal to supplement with creatine and improve performance up to 15 per cent, although they tried to ban creatine, but gave up. It's not illegal to use mind techniques to improve performance, but isn't that also unfair if it's not available to all athletes?
After more than half a century in the fitness industry, I say just let athletes take what they want, and may the strongest, fastest, fittest win. Criminal? Hardly.