Isn’t it funny how the word “dope” has two meanings that go together really well. One meaning is a drug and the other is an idiot. They complement each other perfectly in the case of sport. You have to be pretty stupid to take performance enhancing drugs and think you can get away with it these days.
Unfortunately it occurs in biathlon but it doesn’t seem to be as big a problem as it has been in sports like cycling and athletics. The recent discovery of 3 positive tests before the Olympics has again brought the issue of doping into sharp focus. It isn’t the first time biathletes have been caught doping and I am sorry to say it won’t be the last. However I believe it is grossly unfair to name the accused before their B samples have been tested and especially when no official statements have been released naming them.Even though names have been released on the internet and one athlete has confirmed it they are innocent until proven guilty by the IBU Anti-Doping Panel. I firmly believe that the vast majority of the biathletes are clean but when you hear about these cases it always makes you wonder a little bit.
It does surprise me that biathletes who cheat think it will do them any good. I mean it might make you stronger, faster and give you more stamina but if you can’t shoot all the ski speed in the world won’t help you. Drugs are never going to turn you into the best athlete ever. They may benefit you in small increments but if you are considering taking them you probably aren’t good enough to be at the top anyway. At best you could qualify for the World Cup races or your national team or maybe push youself up 10-20 places from where you are. If however it does take you to the top you will be under intense scrutiny from WADA (The World Anti-Doping Agency) as they always test the winners, for example Emil Hegle Svendsen revealed that he has been tested 7 times in 2 weeks,and you are highly likely to get found out. Then your career is over and you will always be under suspicion if you return from a ban. All the hard work you have put in (because the drugs alone don’t make you win) will be a waste of time.
However playing devil’s advocate you can see why people can be tempted into it. For example if you have worked really hard and can only attain a certain level drug free the desperation to improve and do well can be all consuming. Athletes are a breed apart and basically give their whole lives up to their sport. Not succeeding can be crushing and if you are not mentally able to handle that the temptation is there to cheat. If like now the Olympics are coming up it makes people more obsessed with qualifying for them. Recent high profile examples in other sports prove that even people you might not expect can be so desperate that they will do anything to win. There is no excuse however and I think the majority of biathletes give their everything and if it’s not good enough they just accept it and do the very best they can cleanly.
It is a pity that sport is blighted by the curse of doping but as long as chemicals exist that can enhance your performance there will be those who give into weakness and take them. All we can do is continue to test and expose those who do so and educate and encourage all athletes not to do it. The risks athletes take in general can cause a lot of harm to their bodies. Elite athletes are damaging themselves by pushing their bodies to the limit on a daily basis and so adding to that by doping is very dangerous. Your sports career is very short in relation to your entire life and so taking health risks can ruin the rest of it. By their very nature these drugs are illegal and so you don’t know what the long term affects are because they are not rigorously tested like medicines.
It is always sad when a sport is damaged by athletes who dope and it generally reflects badly on the reputation of the sport and it’s athletes. However you must remember that it is a small minority who dope and generally they get caught if not straight away then in the fullness of time they will be discovered. WADA seems to be doing a good job keeping on top of the biathletes with rigourous testing and by catching those who do take drugs. Just remember anything you win or gain by cheating is not real and certainly undeserved. However tempting success maybe be in the end you will suffer the most because doping is for dopes!
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