Olympic doping tactics become more complex

September 22, 2016 — by Katherine Zhou

In the recent years, many doping scandals have been uncovered, revealing the prevalence of the issue, especially in sports based on strength or endurance.


Among other things, criticism of the 2016 Olympics in Rio centered on flooding, claims of robbery and green diving pools. However, another issue plagued the Games: doping, the administration of drugs in order to enhance or inhibit performance in sports.

Doping is hardly a new concept. Even in ancient times, Olympians gnawed on animal testicles to boost strength.

One of the first prominent cases of doping surfaced in 1904. American marathoner Thomas Hicks won a gold medal after his handlers fed him what seemed to be a harmless energy drink of whiskey, egg whites and strychnine, a chemical now used in rat poison.

However, only after Danish cyclist, Knud Enemark Jensen,  died from an amphetamine-related crash in the 1960 Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) started enforcement over doping in 1968.

In the recent years, many doping scandals have been uncovered, revealing the prevalence of the issue, especially in sports based on strength or endurance.

When 454 Olympic samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games were retested, many athletes were caught for doping, including Kenyan Nesta Carter, who ran the 4x100m along with Usain Bolt and won the gold in 2008.

At this year’s Olympics, a shocking 110 Russian athletes were caught, including the entire track and field, weightlifting and rowing teams.

In fact, many Olympians came forward to reveal a history of state-sponsored doping: Nikita Kamaev, the executive director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, emailed a historian to admit that he wanted to write a book about the true story of sport pharmacology and doping in Russia since 1987 while he was a young researcher in USSR Institute of Sports Medicine.

Along with that, the former director of the Russian anti-doping program, Grigory Rodchenkov, revealed in May of 2016 the doping techniques of Russian athletes during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. After rumors that he was behind the scandal, Rodchenkov resigned and fled to America in January.

In the 2014 Games, the Russian anti-doping laboratory facilitated an elaborate plan to fake doping tests for thousands of Russian Olympians.

The plan, which was organized meticulously for years, consisted of a Rodchenkov giving Russian athletes a three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor. Then Russian intelligence and anti-doping officers replaced dirty samples with clean urine, breaking into tamper-proof bottles. Rodchenkov told the New York Times that helping with doping techniques was necessary in order to continue to receive funding from the government.

Rodchenkov estimated that 100 dirty samples were expunged by the end of the Olympic Games, with none of the athletes caught. Russia ended up winning the most amount of medals in the Olympics, surpassing the U.S. and Canada.

This year, it is speculated that the Russians tried to use a similar plan: switching dirty samples with clean ones between intelligence and anti-doping officers. But they were caught, and after retesting, a historic 110 athletes tested positive for doping.

David Goldblatt, author of “The Games: A Global History of the Olympics,” claims that this stems from a “culture of cheating” in Russia, which dates back to the Soviet Union, when the state would sponsor administrations of testosterone and anabolic steroids.

Every year, the drugs athletes use are similar: anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and occasionally asthma medication or insulin.

Although drugs rarely change, methods for doping grow more complex each year, making doping a more widespread issue.

For example, a competitor might schedule their drug use so that they peak at a time when they won’t be tested, so that by the time it’s game day, their levels will be back to normal. Beyond medications, athletes will use blood transfusions.

Americans are also guilty of these offenses. Take for example, Olympic sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won the silver in Rio for the 100m dash.

Gatlin was first banned from international competitions by the International Association of Athletic Federations in 2001, when he tested positive for amphetamines, a stimulant. However, he was reinstated after he claimed that he had been taking them since childhood for attention deficit disorder. Gatlin was handed another 4-year ban in 2006 for testing positive for testosterone, a steroid, while he claimed that a massage therapist rubbed steroid cream onto his legs.

Junior Chloe McGhee, a track and field athlete who qualified for CCS trials in the 300m hurdles last year, thinks doping is simply “cheating yourself,” as it restricts athletes from realizing their full potential independently.

“[In the case of Gatlin’s first suspension], he had to use drugs to fix his symptoms, so I believe that athletes shouldn't be banned for life, but have suspension and enough time to be fully clean,” McGhee said.

Senior Stefanie Ting, a competitive swimmer who competed at the CIF Swimming and Diving State Championships, sees a zero-tolerance policy as being the only cure-all.

“I think if athletes are caught using performance enhancing drugs they should definitely be banned for life,” Ting said. “Even if it was only one incident, the credibility of the athlete is destroyed. There's nothing worse than someone cheating others who work hard at to earn their wins.”

3 views this week