The War on Doping

Published date28 September 2018
Date28 September 2018
AuthorHelen Jefferson Lenskyj University of Toronto, Canada
Doping is universally viewed as the most serious problem
confronting high performance sport and a major threat to its
global reputation and integrity. Arguably more important is
the threat that doping poses to sports credibility and appeal
to commercial sponsors, and the subsequent damage to
Olympic industry brands. In sport circles, the demonization
of doping and those who dope is taken as a self-evident truth,
and it is not surprising to nd that more CAS appeals involve
doping than the other major categories of eligibility, contract,
transfer, discipline, nationality and governance.
For decades, the broad subject of doping in sport has
attracted an extensive body of scholarly and popular litera-
ture that far exceeds most other sport-related topics. In addi-
tion to reviewing relevant analyses in law and sport sciences
literature, the following discussion will challenge the widely
accepted premise that the ght against dopingis fully justi-
ed. The threat that over-zealous anti-doping campaigns and
subsequent CAS decisions pose to athletesrights will be
exposed, with a particular focus on the ways in which the
variables of gender and race/ethnicity are played out.
Although generally considered to be underestimations of
doping prevalence, statistics provided by WADAs annual
Anti-Doping Rule Violations Reports (ADRV) show that a
clear majority of ADRVs come from male athletes. Figures for
2013 showed about 80% of the 1,287 ADRV samples were
from men, and in 2014 and 2015, 79% were from male ath-
letes. Possible explanations for the dramatic gender differ-
ences include greater media attention, enhanced career
opportunities, and more lucrative sponsorships owing from
international sporting success. In short, men may risk more to
gain more. In terms of detection, men have an advantage,
since the physical changes that testosterone derivatives pro-
duce are compatible with hegemonic masculinities, whereas
similar changes in women are likely to attract more scrutiny.
The few research studies that examine gender differences
in doping identied a number of psychological as well as
physiological factors that had a greater deterrent effect on
women than on men. These included a guilty conscience,
unfairness to other athletes, illegality, suspension, unnatural
physical changes, reduced fertility, and the risk of media
exposure and embarrassment (Overbye, Knudsen, & Pster,
2013). Reviewing research on gender differences dating back
to 2011, Mazanov (2016) found that the use of supplements
and illicit drugs was higher among male than female athletes,
while prescription drugs and supplements for diet or health
reasons were more likely to be used by females.
Sport has long been termed a war without weapons, and
Olympic sport lends itself to wars of rhetoric as well as highly
symbolic, internationally televised victories in the sporting
arena. It is difcult for politicians and sports leaders to win
72 Gender, AthletesRights, and CAS
this war if their countrys sporting achievements are tainted
by allegations of doping. Not only should doping be exposed
and punished, according to this reasoning, but it must also be
seen to be exposed and punished. Mainstream media play a
key role in these processes, often with a cavalier disregard for
the facts.
In specic historical contexts the Cold War, Chinaseco-
nomic ascendancy, and Putins Russia, for example interna-
tional posturing about doping in sport serves to shame and
blame othernationsathletes for their unbelievable(drug-
assisted) performances. In the 1970s, the German Democratic
Republics state-ordered doping program was widely viewed
as evidence of the evils of Communism. Similarly, in the
1980s and 1990s, China became the subject of scrutiny
following the unexpected winning performances of Chinese
athletes, especially swimmers, in international competition,
while, since 2016, Russian athletes have been the focus of
global attention and censure. Meanwhile, athletes from pur-
portedly cleancountries may evade detection.
At the 2012 London Olympics, as doping suspicions con-
tinued to target Chinese swimmers, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen
won the 200 m and 400 m individual medley (IM) events. In
the nal freestyle lap of the 400 m event, she swam faster
than the top male swimmer, American Ryan Lochte. Veteran
American swim coach John Leonard called Shiwens perfor-
mance unbelievable,’‘an outrageous performance,and sus-
picious,while other coaches and swimmers added their own
allegations. Claiming that Shiwen had failed to demonstrate
a normal improvement curve,Leonard pronounced: []a
woman does not out-swim the fastest man in the world in the
back quarter of a 400m IM that is otherwise quite ordinary.
It just doesnt happen(quoted in Bull, 2012). In other words,
Shiwen was guilty of doping or she was not a realwoman.
73The War on Doping

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