Drugs and Sport – Why It’s Not Worth It

Whether it is a performance-enhancing drug or recreational drug, doping in sport is frowned upon and dealt with very seriously. One of my former tutors at King’s College, Jonathan Taylor, was one of the lawyers at the tribunal for Martina Hingis’ trial. She had tested positive for cocaine and the subsequent ban that resulted effectively forced her into retirement. Despite her claims that the presence of cocaine in her blood could only be down to the handling of contaminated bank notes, there is a zero-tolerance policy taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in relation to drugs and sport.

No matter how innocent the athlete may appear to be, WADA must uphold its stringent approach. Those who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs are punished for cheating and putting themselves at an unfair advantage of which their competitors are deprived. In terms of recreational substances, WADA cannot be seen to endorse the use of these drugs and so the offending athlete is also liable to punishment. Any failed test for prohibited substances will result in punitive action, including a probable ban.

The harshest example of this can be seen in the case of British Olympic Skier Alain Baxter. Baxter had failed a drug test when ‘lev-methamphetamine’ was found in his sample. It later transpired that this substance is present in the American version of a Vicks nasal inhaler. The British version does not contain the prohibited substance and Baxter bought and used the American one at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, assuming the content would be the same. In its judgment, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said that Baxter was a “sincere and honest man who did not gain a competitive advantage despite the trace of lev-methamphetamine in his system”. In spite of his honesty and innocence, Baxter was stripped of his Bronze medal, which was ultimately awarded to his 4th-placed Austrian counterpart, Benjamin Raich.

It would seem that the resulting damage from testing positive for a prohibited substance is not only of that to your reputation, but the financial consequences can also be severe. Adrian Mutu, a Romanian footballer who is famous for having played for Chelsea, Juventus and Fiorentina, tested positive for cocaine in 2004. He was banned for 7 months and fined £20, 000. Chelsea purged him from the club for breach of contract. He later signed for Juventus for free. Chelsea sued him on the basis that they were denied a transfer fee that was due to them for what should have been his sale to Juventus. As he breached his contract, he was removed from the club and as a result he was able to sign for Juventus for free, where normally the recipient club would be required to compensate the selling club for the transfer. The matter went to the Courts and was resolved within the last month. The Court of Arbitration for Sport dealt him out a staggering fine of €17 million, which he was told to pay Chelsea to compensate for their loss. This represents the highest ever fine imposed by FIFA.

The moral of the story if you are a professional athlete is not to do drugs – it is quite simple really. In all likelihood you will get caught, and your punishment will be severe. There are not many athletes who can comfortably afford to pay the fines, and the damage to reputation can be brutal – nobody likes a cheat!

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