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Posted on October 10th, 2012, by

The development of modern sports is accompanied by numerous scandals provoked by the use of doping, drugs or alcohol by sportsmen. In actuality, the problem of doping is practically inseparable from modern sport. Many professional sportsmen use doping to achieve better results. At the same time, they pay little attention to the impact of doping on their health. The results and sport achievements are prior to them compared to their own health and life. For a long period of time, the negative impact of doping on human health was underestimated, but the studies of the use of doping and its impact on athletes’ health revealed the fact that doping, as well as drugs and alcohol have a destructive impact on the health and well-being of sportsmen. The more they use drugs the higher is the risk of health problems and, therefore, professional sportsmen will be unable to perform well and, what is more, they will need to end their professional career. As a result, doping undermines their health and well-being. Nevertheless, the risk of health problems often turns out to be inferior to desire of fast attainment of positive results and successful professional career.

In this respect, even the most successful and talented sportsmen, which comprise the elite of the modern sport, are vulnerable to the seductive power of doping and various drugs since they allow sportsmen to achieve consistently better results in a shorter period of time.

However, this is the race, in which sportsmen can never win because it is their health that is at stake. As a result, the International Olympic Committee and numerous international and national sport organization attempt to control the use of doping by sportsmen and eliminate this problem, at least among professional sportsmen who use doping and drugs more than amateurs. In such a situation, the use of doping by sportsmen expose them to the risk of strict sanctions, including lifelong disqualification. In this respect, stakes become particularly high for elite sportsmen who get used to be leaders in their sports but they also vulnerable to the use of doping that naturally puts them under a threat of being disqualified. Therefore, it is important to understand the current situation in sports and why elite sportsmen as well as other sportsmen keep using drugs, which apparently have a negative impact on their health and lead to the disqualification of sportsmen and annulations of their sport results. At the same time, it is important to develop an effective system of prevention of doping and drug use as well as other maladaptive behaviors among sportsmen, especially among elite sportsmen, who are models of behavior for millions ordinary people.

Substance abuse in modern sports

The development of modern sports is closely intertwined with the problem of doping and drug abuse. In fact, doping has practically become a norm in the modern sport because many sportsmen use doping to achieve better results and gain first places. At the same time, sportsmen are aware of the negative impact of doping on their health, but it does not prevent them from using doping on and on. In this respect, it is important to understand the extent to which doping is used in the modern sport and causes which force sportsmen to take doping, in spite of the risk of being disqualified and banned from sport lifelong.

First of all, the modern sport is mainly the professional sport. This means that sport has already become a lucrative industry which brings substantial profits to companies investing into the sport industry and sport events. Naturally, sportsmen also benefit from the development of the professional sport because they are professionals who earn for living practicing sport and gaining high places in competitions. The more successful a sportsman is the more he or she gains. Hence, sportsmen are motivated financially to perform better and get better results.

In fact, the traditional explanation of using doping and drugs, such as the idea that sportsmen use drugs out of sport interest and desire to win a competition, is a bit out of date. In actuality, financial benefits become the major moving force which stimulates sportsmen to take doping and drugs. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the study conducted by D.K. Simonton (2003) who analyzed the use of doping in the course of the history of sport. The author mainly focused his attention on the development of sport in the 20th century which was marked by a particularly significant growth in the doping use by sportsmen. Simonton points out that the most substantial growth of doping and drug abuse have been noticed since the mid 20th century, when the sport has started to shift from amateur to professional sport. In the late 20th century, doping becomes practically a norm and a large number of sportsmen were and still are taking doping and drugs regularly. In fact, today, the development of modern sport is often characterized as the competition between pharmaceutical industry producing drugs which can be used as doping and anti-doping committees in different sports, which aim at the prevention of using doping and drugs by sportsmen.

The emergence of doping and drug abuse among sportsmen was the result of the consistent transformation of sport from a form of entertainment into a highly profitable industry, in which sportsmen became a kind of commodity used to attract spectators and, thus, maximize profits of sport franchises. At the beginning of the doping era, which started in the mid-20th century, sportsmen were not fully conscious of the negative effects of doping on their health. However, numerous researches revealed the destructing impact of doping and drugs on human health, while the use of drugs as well as alcohol by athletes deteriorated their health even more because, unlike ordinary people, athletes used their full physical potential and they use drugs to avoid the total physical exhaustion (Weiss, 1999). In fact, many drugs helped sportsmen to recover faster after physical exercises, training and competitions. As a result, they could recover faster and participate in a larger number of competitions. The latter means that sportsmen could earn more.

In this respect, it is worth mentioning the unprecedented growth of sport events and competitions, which directly or indirectly forced sportsmen to take drugs and use doping to recover and to be able to achieve positive results. Without drugs and doping, sportsmen would be unable to afford such an unnatural physical exhaustion. In addition, drugs and doping assisted sportsmen to gain the best physical shape faster and improve their results substantially. At this point, many specialists (Moller, 2006) raise numerous ethical concerns associated with using drugs and doping by sportsmen in the modern sport. Moller is particularly concerned with the use of drugs and doping by elite sportsmen because they traditionally play the leading part in the development of sports. In fact, it is elite sportsmen who are the main attractions to the audience and people attend sport events and watch them on TV mainly because of stars, whom people are accustomed to view as undefeatable winners. As a result, elite sportsmen suffer from the dubious pressure. On the one hand, there are financial concerns, while, on the other hand, there is psychological pressure from the part of the audience which expects that elite sportsmen will win.

However, it is impossible to win constantly. Therefore, sportsmen need either to take a pause in their work or take drugs and doping to accelerate the process of recovery.

In such a situation, Moller defines the main ethical dilemma which raises in the modern sport: to what extent doping makes modern sport fair since a hard working sportsman that does not take drugs and doping can hardly compete with a sportsman who uses drugs and doping along with training (2006). As a result, doping is associated with an essential condition of sportsmen’s success and the example of elite athletes, who do take drugs and doping, encourages beginners to take doping and drugs too. In addition, there is another ethical concern, which is grounded on the split between the desire to win and the negative impact of doping on sportsmen’s health. The anti-doping committees tend to punish and disqualify sportsmen using doping, but, on the other hand, the entire system of modern sport encourages sportsmen to take drugs, doping and other substances, including alcohol to relieve their stress, which they suffer from during competitions, and to accelerate their recovery.

The impact of substance abuse on male and female athletes and the prevention of doping in sports

In order to understand the destructive impact of doping and substance abuse on the health of athletes, it is necessary to dwell upon the impact of doping and substance abuse on different groups of athletes, as well as non-athletes. This analysis will help to understand the extent to which the impact of substance abuse may be dangerous to athlete’s health. Many researches (Weiss, 1999, Fourcroy, 2007) argue that doping has a negative impact on health of sportsmen as well as ordinary, but this impact is unequally harmful. To put it more precisely, Fourcroy analyzes the development of pharmacology and application of new drugs in sport. The researcher arrives to the conclusion that the use of doping inevitably leads to the overall deterioration of human health, regardless whether an individual is a sportsman or not. The main reason for the negative impact of doping on the health of people is their side-effects and negative impact which can be traced in a long-run study of drugs. For instance, the use of steroids by sportsmen in the 1960s – 1970s, which became extremely popular at the epoch, undermined the health of many sportsmen, including elite sportsmen when they retired or even during their professional career. Hence, doping brought and still brings short-term positive results, but in a long-run they undermine sportsmen’s health and they lead to the end of professional career of sportsmen.

At the same time, anti-doping committees, being conscious of the great danger of doping and drugs to the health of sportsmen, have introduced strict sanctions against sportsmen using drugs and doping. In this respect, the elite sport is under a particular attention of the anti-doping committees because of the significance of elite sportsmen to the public and the image of sport at large. Wilson (2006) argues that anti-doping policy became the mainstream policy of the International Olympic Committee and numerous sport organizations. As a result, today, the career of sportsmen using doping can come to an end faster not only due to the negative impact of doping but also because of sanctions imposed on sportsmen by anti-doping committees and sport authorities.

Furthermore, the impact of doping is destructing, but some sportsmen are more vulnerable to the negative impact of doping and drugs than others. In this respect, female athletes prove to be more vulnerable to the consistent deterioration of their health and irrevocable changes under the impact of doping (Ransdell et al., 2004). The reason is the lower resistibility of female athletes to stressful physiological and psychological factors. In other words, male athletes can afford more than female athletes because they are physically and psychologically stronger, while female athletes are often vulnerable to stresses which may outgrow into depressions. Randsell warns that under the impact of stressful factors female athletes can use not only drugs and doping but also alcohol, which is also dangerous to their health. At this point, it is important to understand that both male and female athletes use their full physical potential to obtain positive results. Hence, they do not have physical resources to resist to new threats to their health caused by the use of alcohol, drugs and doping. Eventually, their body cannot resist to negative environmental and pharmacological influences and health of sportsmen starts to deteriorate consistently.

In such a situation, it is obvious that sportsmen, including elite athletes, need effective recovery programs as well as programs aiming at the prevention of drug abuse. Sherman (2000) argues that elite sportsmen need special drug abuse programs because they are vulnerable to a larger physical and psychological pressure and they work in a highly stressful environment. Consequently, they need higher protection from the risk of drug abuse as well as the use of other substances, such as alcohol. In fact, substance abuse is a serious threat to the health of elite sportsmen and to their professional career. They work constantly on the top level and they are more exhausted than sportsmen. In such a situation, they often start using drugs or alcohol to relax or to recover faster after training or competitions. However, this is the direct way to the total degradation or disqualification of elite sportsmen. Hence, if they do not have special drug abuse programs, they are unable to resist to doping and drug use, while conventional programs do not always work in relation to elite athletes because of the aforementioned specificities of their work.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of modern sport faces a challenge of the widely spread use of drugs and doping, which affects not only ordinary sportsmen but also elite athletes. The main causes of using doping and drugs in modern sport is the commercialization of sport, which has already become a highly profitable industry, where sportsmen become commodities with the help of which sport franchises earn money, while sportsmen view their health as commodity too because using their health they earn for living. However, the situation is paradoxical since the better is the performance of an athlete the higher is the risk of using doping and drugs to recover and improve results. Hence, elite athletes are particularly vulnerable to the risk of using doping and drugs as well as alcohol. The substance abuse should definitely be prevented to avoid the destructing impact of doping and drugs on health of sportsmen and, in this regard, elite athletes need special drug abuse programs which take into consideration specificities of their status, environment and professional career.

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