Are performance-enhancing supplements indispensable in sports nowadays?

[1] The Olympics – an ancient competition that shows the true colours of top athletes – do or can we still retain that? 

Once upon a time, there was a moment when the best male athletes of each ancient Greek city-state would compete for glory, and worship the Gods. You earned respect through your talent and hard-work. You stepped out on the podium bare naked, nothing but your body to steer or force your way to victory depending on your sport. Keeping in mind that the feminist role in sports has come a long way, is it all but different nowadays with the availability of sports-enhancing drugs and technology? Are these elements indispensable in the modern game to improve oneself? I hope to direct my article in discussing and investigating the evolution of sport – from the Olympic times to the contemporary age, the importance of technology and sports-enhancing drugs and the type of sports that impose severe regulations on those testing positive. Constructive comments are more than welcome below!

 

Background and evolution of the Olympic Games 

It is generally believed that the Olympic Games has started as early as 776 B.C., but eventually banned by Emperor Theodosius under harsh Roman rule. [2] Within these sport competitions, this was to showcase the physical qualities of the Greek citizen – in your typical survival of the fittest style. Moreover, by bringing many young contingents from around the Greek ‘nation’, this was to improve and encourage agreeable relations amongst city-states. The Hellanditus or referee, would be the judge of each sport, awarding each of the winners a palm branch in their hands and an olive branch crown to mark a hardly earned victory. Many red ribbons and flowers were thrown to the winners by the spectators, in order to show their appreciation of these ancient athletes. [2]

 

Importance of sports-enhancing drugs

Since the ancient times, many stimulants and special ingredients like wine and mushrooms, have been used so that each athlete had an advantage over others in their respective competition. According to the Olympic guidelines, it is advisory that all competitors take part, rather than winning. Many athletes nowadays are fully professional, moulding their art day in, day out, being role-models to the children watching at home. [3] Take nothing away from any athletes, they have battled throughout their lives to reach the very top of the mountain, but the doping sagas are merely a game of ‘catch me if you can‘, between the athletes and the anti-doping agencies across the whole spectrum of sports. Obviously, it begs to be asked whether it is relevant that the Olympic board keep making smaller limits to how much athletes can intake, or do we let it go because we want to watch the event for its enticing factor, as a spectator sport? Surely we need to meditate what is our priority – the art of participation or spectating in general, because this would turn out to be an endless and painful cycle.

 

Let us take the sprinting and cycling as the main examples. On the athletics track, you are bound to see many runners, but which one can we distinguish amongst all of them of whom are clean or not? Recently, from modern times to now, Canada’s Ben Johnson, Britain’s Dwain Chambers, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, America’s Tyson Gay and many more have broken countless records. [3] The idea of sprinting approximately 100 metres in less than 10 seconds is one that has been a dream amongst the world’s population. That is approximately 10 steps every tenth of a second. Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong are the reputed men to have won the Tour de France the most times – and getting their titles stripped because of the strict regulations imposed by the Olympic executive body and International Cycling Union (ICU). Hold on a minute. How does a person, let alone a cyclist manage to climb mountains and maintain speed for 150 to 200 kilometres? How about the high and low altitudes that riders need to get accustomed to, don’t their blood levels need to be tweaked in such a way to pass these gruelling episodes? In the US alone, it is researched that $1.4 billion US dollars has been injected to create more and more compounds and solutions are on our shelves. [3] The problem of sports-enhancement has grown from professional athletes to health clubs, with people using it to improve their aesthetics one way or another. True, the media does promote the idea of a slim and cut beauty look to males and females in our society, but is it truly necessary? Moreover and personally, it is superhuman to be able to break these records and trials, without the use of some sort of enhancement product. And until this is understood, sports-enhancement is truly indispensable nowadays.

 

Importance of technology 

Video technology is definitely one that comes under this heading. According to Sir Clive Woodward, the World Cup winning coach of England in 2003 and the current British Olympics Association (BOA) administrator, highlights the importance of how athletes must think about what to do with the information they compile. [4] Take for example, football and boxing as examples, where national teams and clubs or boxers themselves, study their counterparts’ styles and take an upper-hand, ultimately outfoxing their opponents before even entering the ring. This is key, as this is an example of how sports-enhancing supplements are not completely indispensable nowadays, but is it sufficient enough to conclude here?

 

Apart from observing your opponents, it can certainly improve one’s personal performance as well. Take swimming as an example, where the shark’s skin was used by the celebrity swimmers Michael Phelps and Alain Bernard. As time in the 21st century progresses, many scientists have found ways to improve our performance. However, with all these limitations and regulations that purists and fundamentalists are trying to impose – we are going back to the basics. How far can we allow these things to happen? Equally, when can we make these exceptions?

 

What next for sports in general?

I am using this section as more of a conclusion or area for deep thinking for you, the reader. In my own perspective, I believe that sports-enhancing supplements are definitely indispensable. Certainly, purists and fundamentalists would tell me that even with a lot of sports-enhancing drugs, athletes must work as hard. Indeed, the use of video technology is definitely an option to take an advantage, but to what extent does this lead top athletes to? Should we not embrace the development of technology to improve the main component in our sport?

 

After all, it is the performance that matters as well, and with increasing demand for great fitness, this hangs in the balance. It isn’t like Popeye just took some spinach and instantly puffed up to save Olivia again. I also wanted to emphasise that a lot of people watch sports, where athletes take the supplements – football, cricket, cycling…regardless of the strict regulations. We need to understand and consider this point profoundly: do we, as a general public continue to watch these sports for our love for them per se and their excitement factor, or sway away from it because of its corrupted athletes? Quite paradoxical, right? Especially when people are inspired to become another great, when a lot of merchandise is generated from these athletes. So, until then, we will never be able to cement our desires and let this burning question bubble loom ever so grey and large… Cheers and till next time! Hope you enjoyed this edition of Speaking Seb! 🙂

 

References 

[1] http://www.olympic-grill.com/resources/ancient_olympic_games.jpg

[2] http://www.olympic.org/ancient-olympic-games

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219897/

[4] http://tech.uk.msn.com/features/how-technology-is-transforming-sport

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