Athlete drug testing continues to make headlines. In recent weeks several Major League players were suspended by MLB for testing positive for PEDs. More recently, PGA golfers who have qualified for the 2016 Olympic golf field became subject to the more rigorous Olympic drug testing program. Included in the Olympic testing regime is a “whereabouts requirement,” under which golfers must provide a one-hour time slot between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. when they will be available for testing on days when they’re not in competition.
This is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) requirement faced by all elite athletes who are in the registered testing pool of their respective international sports federations. For many non-athletes the idea of having to provide your whereabouts on a daily basis, with a specified hour to take a drug test (or to do most anything, for that matter) is an imposition on personal freedom beyond debate. Yet the supposed desire for genuine competition among fans and citizens, who themselves are nipping-and-tucking and crafting artificial personas on social media, justifies the intrusion. After all, we’re talking about athletes, many of whom get paid big money, so anything goes, right?
It’s such blasé thinking that no doubt has led to several countries, including France, Australia, Italy and Germany, to criminalize the use of prohibited substances under the WADA code. Foisting standards upon athletes that most others would actively resist is so commonplace that it barely garners attention. Such disinterest is dangerous. Athletes in team sports are employees, at least here in America. Standards applied to one set of employees have been known to creep into other workplaces. So, be careful what you ask for, Joe Fan.
For athletes who have become accustomed to a disciplinary scheme that calls for suspensions for a positive drug test, the thought of jail time for PED use is a sobering reality check. Those who are demanding “clean sport” are on a mission, the destination of which is uncertain. None can deny that over the years, the penalties for PED use have increased universally. The drug programs in the four North American team sports are of relatively recent vintage, and the penalties for a positive test have grown and continue to grow stiffer. Bans in Olympic sports have increased in increments of years, and now stands at four.
Yet, no matter how severe the penalties get, athletes are still testing positive, and typically under systems that employ a strict liability standard. Athletes are responsible for what goes into their bodies is the refrain. Recently a former athlete who participated in his sport for over 15 years said that during his career he was aware of everything that went into his body. Really? Every ingredient in all food he ate, supplements he ingested, medications that were prescribed and taken? He was aware of everything?? Cue the sanctimonious music.
Such are the melodic tones that athletes face across the globe, and hardly anyone offers even a shrug. And why should they? Networks, sponsors and fans deserve to know that the games and matches are authentic. That the competition is honest. That the competitors are real and not lab created. For the elite athlete carrying big coin, it comes with the territory. Just ask the guy with the hair plugs, wearing the tee shirt that instantly shrinks his beer belly, who’s calling in sick tomorrow so he can go play golf. He’ll tell you.
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