On World Drug Day, we look at the doping scandals that shook the sporting world
On the 7th of December 1987, the UN General Assembly decided that the 26th of June would be declared the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The intentions behind declaring this day as the World Drug day was to take a step towards curtailing drug abuse and to highlight its true harms. Their ultimate goal, or dream was to see a society completely free of any drug abuse. 31 years on, in 2018 there are still no signs of any stoppage of drug abuse, and the vision of living in a drug free society is still significantly distant. And whereas the recreational use of drug might be most popular, drugs and illegal doping in various sports is also on the rise.
In the recent years, there have been numerous scandals and cases of various athletes using banned and illicit medicines or drugs to boost their performance at the world stage. Let’s revisit some of the most sensational cases that shocked us the most in the recent past.
Lance Armstrong’s epic tomber en disgrâce
No other fall from grace has been as legendary and shocking as this cyclist’s. He started his career in the nineties, and had his first breakthrough in 1995, when he finished the Tour de France for the first time ever, placing 36th overall. Then in 1999, he won the Tour de France for the first time ever after a harrowing couple of years following a diagnosis of testicular cancer. In 2000, he won again, and this streak continued for a record 7 years till 2005, when he became the only player to win seven titles, that too consecutively.
After 2005, the doping allegations began to mount. The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) as well of the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) started looking into the matter and after another seven years, came down like thunder on Lance Armstrong. It was revealed that he had been taking performance enhancing drugs consistently over his career to enhance his performance and ensure that he won every single time. Along with stripping him of all his seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic Bronze medal, they called his scandal “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”. This doping scandal shocked the world given the immense love and adoration that Lance Armstrong had gathered over the years.
Maria Sharapova’s 15 month ban
Probably one of the greatest female tennis players of our generation, the whole world was shocked to learn that she was involved in a doping scandal. After testing positive for a heart drug called meldonium at the Australian Open in 2016, she was handed a 2 year ban by the authorities. It was later reduced to 15 months because it was found out that the tennis star wasn’t knowingly doping. Sharapova had been taking meldonium for a long time, and continued to use it because she missed an email from the World Anti Doping Agency stating that it was banned.
After her 15 months got over, she re-entered the world stage by gaining wildcard access into various tournaments. Her direct wildcard entry was criticised by many, saying that the tournaments only brought her in because they knew that she would draw a huge crowd. It was a different story with the four Grand Slam tournaments, which state that if a player is out of action for more than a year, their rankings will be deleted. So she had to begin again from the very bottom, which is why she is currently ranked world no. 24.
Russian team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
The host team was recently booked for potential illicit doping by a British media report, and the official committee of FIFA was called in to investigate this claim. They found, however, that there was ‘insufficient evidence to assert an anti-doping rule violation by any footballer’ and exonerated Russia of any charges.
However, the British media report wasn’t wrong is suspecting some foul play out of a country that is infamous for drug abuse and subsequent doping scandals. It’s athletes have a long, recorded history of using illegal drugs to enhance their performances at various tournaments, including even the Olympics. As many as 41 medals have been stripped away from this nation upon finding out that the athlete had an unfair advantage by using drugs.
The fairness of any sporting event is seriously undermined if an athlete chooses to dope or enhance her performance, and the consequences, though harsh are justified. We hope that these athletes and the consequences that they’ve faced serve as deterring factors to other athletes who might be considering to dope, and hope that drug abuse, at least in the sporting world comes to a close.