The upcoming Rio Olympics are clouded by many things. Mosquitos, crime, violence and Brazil’s economy just to name a few. But there is something that stands out above the rest and that is the issue of performance enhancing drugs.
There is a chance that in ten years time the Rio Olympics will still be a big story of sport. This will be about the time positive drug tests could come to light. And while cheats being caught is brilliant, it also proves that the battle against drugs in sport is a long way from being over.
This is such a a massive issue for fans and athletes alike and not just at the Olympics.
Supporters are being cheated of memorable sporting moments by having to question every brilliant performance on the sporting field. You can’t tell me that you don’t watch the Tour de France with just a pinch of salt now. The 2017 Australian Open will also not have the same feel about it after Maria Sharapova’s failed drug test earlier this year.
The Essendon and Cronulla drug saga have further shown that Australia too is not immune from this crisis. Ask Essendon fans in particular what drugs have done to their ability to enjoy the game.
Clean athletes meanwhile are being stripped of an equal playing field. Look no further than Jared Tallent who, only last week was awarded a gold medal four years after the London Olympics after it was found that the original winner was a drug cheat.
Tallent could also be awarded another gold medal shortly, with a drug test violation being attributed to the winner of the walking world championship a few weeks ago. A man who has already been banned for drug use.
This not only wrong, it is damn sad. Tallent has put in hours of honest training, effort and guts for these moments. Although justice prevailed in the end, it has left everyone with sour taste in their mouth. Being rewarded four years on just isn’t the same.
At the moment the consequences for cheating are not huge. Sharapova for example will miss two years for her misdemeanour. Two years! All that will do is freshen her up and extend her career by a few years. That doesn’t hurt her. She is still marketable, shown by the fact that many of her major sponsors including Nike have stuck with her after her suspension length came out. For this reason, a monetary penalty wouldn’t work either. The harshest penalty would be to strip her of what she wants most, which is to play the game she loves.
If you’re an elite athlete, you need to ensure everything you do is done within the rules. The list of banned substances is available and there is no excuse for accidentally taking something or not being aware a particular drug was on the banned substance list. That doesn’t wash.
Every athlete that dopes should be banned for life. If you are found guilty of deliberately trying to improve your performance by taking a banned substance, you should never be allowed on the professional sporting arena again. It is the only deterrent that has long lasting consequences and takes away what an athlete wants to do the most and that is compete. It would also remove suspicion of a repeat offence for a returning athlete.
We need to get to a point where we aren’t talking about tainted Olympic Games and major tournaments ten years on. We need to be talking about the unbelievable athletic performances and terrible mascots that were involved in these events.
If you were in a workplace and you deliberately cheated your business out of millions of dollars, you wouldn’t be given a second chance. Why should athletes? It is no different. Find another job. Pay the consequences. There are plenty of other people who would be willing to play by the rules and take that place.
There will always be cheaters. In life and sport a like. Unfortunate, but the reality of life. Hopefully though with heftier penalties the people who umm and ahh about making that cheating decision will be inclined to make the right one. That will go a long way to fixing this mess before it is too late.