Incidents of doping hit all-time high as athletes chase dreams of success

In 2004, what everyone in the Greek sports world had been afraid of happened: Cases of the use of forbidden substances – in the athletics world that is – rose steeply, and those are just the ones that came to light. After all, only a small minority of athletes who use forbidden substances are caught in the act. There are many ways of evading discovery, such as knowing the half-life of a substance in the body, masking stimulants or steroids with other substances, or simply using hitherto untraceable substances, such as tetrahydrogestrione, or THG. Had a coach from within the American athletics world not spilled the beans, the substance would have remained unknown to doping control laboratories. But that does not mean there aren’t other unknown substances out there. Which means the athletics world is hardly being faithful to the immortal ancient spirit. Rise in cases One did not need to be a prophet to predict that cases of substance use by Greek athletes would rise. A place among the final eight brings not only glory but money and professional security, especially if accompanied by a medal. Many are willing to risk discovery and possible damage to their health in exchange for their names appearing in the record books in indelible letters. Statistically, it is long-term users who are in danger of suffering long-term damage to their health. The rest, if they are not unlucky and not predisposed to some disease, will probably survive. After two to three years of use, they will either leave sports altogether or return to their former levels. This should not be taken as encouragement for young athletes to begin doping. This newspaper has always expressed its opposition to the practice. But after the Ben Johnson debacle at the Seoul Olympics, this writer then said that «anyone trying to reach the top in athletics through being absolutely clean and honest is doomed to fail.» Contracts, this writer wrote then, simply do not get signed without a big victory, a major record being broken. And those cannot be broken without the use of drugs. The question then, at Seoul, where Greek athletes won only one medal (Babis Holidis in wrestling) was what kind of athletics did we want: Clean, and without medals, or medals overshadowed by doping? If the former, the various sports ministers would have to come clean and say: «We won’t win medals, but we’ll have clean and honest sports events.» But that carries with it a political cost. Would, however, that that was the case, rather than the hypocrisy of today.