16 Oct Doping No Longer Limited to High-Level Athletes
Doping is often in the news, particularly every two years, when the summer and winter Olympics showcase athletes that seem impossibly talented. In some cases, the fascination with an athlete is short-lived, as reports surface revealing that the athlete used doping to get ahead in the sport.
Considering the embarrassment, crushed dreams and shame that the athletes experience, it might be expected that doping would be a disappearing trend. Drug testing in sports has become so regular that athletes can hardly believe that their drug use won’t be detected.
However, recently at the anti-doping conference held by the Arne Ljungqvist Foundation, experts showcased the doping problem. Dr. Timothy Armstrong, of the World Health Organization, explained that using drugs to improve performance has become popular even among high school boys.
The trend has led to doping becoming labeled a public health problem, not limited to sports. Dr. Armstrong says that approximately three percent of boys in high school are regular users of steroids or growth hormones. This problem, says Dr. Armstrong, reveals not just a physical health issue but also a mental health issue among the boys, and needs to be taken very seriously.
Dr. Arne Ljungqvist, the creator of the Foundation, echoed Dr. Armstrong’s concerns when he cautioned that doping has become a public health threat. He said that it is no longer a problem that exists only among Olympic athletes or professional athletes.
Dr. Ljungqvist explains that elite athletes play a significant role in the trickling down of doping in athletics. Elite athletes are role models for younger athletes. Dr. Ljungqvist was encouraged to see the international health authorities convening to share the concerns surrounding doping.
Director General of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), David Howman, agreed that trends among high-level athletes often make their way down to the general society. Howman stresses that the sharing of information among international and local drug agencies is key to reigning in the doping problem.
For example, before the 2012 London Olympics, there was an anti-doping drive that emphasized communication between the Anti-Doping Agency of the UK, the police and customs authorities, and the International Olympic Committee. Data was shared between the agencies to aid in reducing cases of doping by athletes. The discoveries were made in the out-of-competition phase of the events.
Howman explains that each organization has only a small segment of the total information available, but when the organizations work together, they can make an impact on the level of doping occurring in athletes.
Howman also mentioned the UNESCO Anti-Doping Convention, which has subscribers in 172 nations. If each national group aligned their practices to the Code, anti-doping practices could become uniform. More information could be gained, such as what substances are most often being taken and what broader health effects are involved.
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