Archive | October 24, 2014

The Lasting Effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs: What does this mean for sport?

October 24, 2014

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By Brittany Corwin – Thompson Rivers University 3L JD Student

In 2013, University of Oslo’s Professor of Physiology, Kristian Gundersen, and his team of scientists found that athletes’ muscles can retain the performance-enhancing benefit of anabolic steroids well after the athlete has actually taken the steroids.

Gundersen’s team studied the effects of steroids on mice, saying that the same mechanism is at work in human muscles and that other performance-enhancing drugs would have similar long-term benefits. He recently explained to the BBC that when a person takes anabolic steroids, they develop more nuclei within muscle cells that allow the muscle cells to grow bigger and stronger when trained. If steroids are taken away, muscle mass will be lost but the nuclei will remain inside the muscle fibers and it will be much easier to return to the same strength after a period of not training.

Effective January 2015, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, will double the doping ban to four years for athletes found guilty of doping. This will be an increase from the previous two-year ban for a first major offence, with athletes banned for life if tested positive again.

If performance-enhancing drugs have lasting effects, this invites the question of whether the new four-year ban is really enough? Regardless of whether or not the athlete is now clean, an unfair advantage may persist for the rest of their athletic career even though subsequent testing will come back negative.

The BBC piece comes in response to the past summer in which US track and field athlete, Justin Gatlin, ran the fastest ever 100 meter and 200 meter times by a man in his thirties. Not to mention that out of seven 100 meter races in the summer, Gatlin held six of the fasted times and he ran the fasted ever one-day sprint double consisting of the 100 meter race and then the 200 meter race an hour later. These results came after Gatlin served two suspensions for testing positive for doping – the most recent being for four years in 2006.

These extremely fast finishes were subject of great controversy for fellow athletes. Britain’s 2011 400 meter hurdles world champion, Dai Greene, told BBC that “He’s [Gatlin] over the hill as far as sprinting is concerned – he should never be running these times .…” Greene further went on to say that since Gatlin had to sit on the sidelines, unable to train or compete during his suspension, there has to be some other explanation for his incredibly fast times at his age. He suggests that either Gatlin is still doping or the drugs he did take are still hard at work.

As a previous positive doper, Gatlin’s recent success upon his return to the sport could arguably be a direct result of his past doping, as Greene suggested. If this is the case, this leads one to wonder whether the world of sport can truly ever be clean if previous dopers are still reaping the benefits of their previous drug use.

If the benefits of doping are life long, then whether WADA instills a four-year ban, or a 10-year ban for doping, is irrelevant. Sure, a four-year ban to an athlete may seen like a lifetime, but how can the fairness of sport be upheld if regardless of their punishment, athletes are returning from their doping bans with an advantage over those athletes who have never doped?

According to their website, WADA “…was founded with the aim of bringing consistency to anti-doping policies and regulations within sport organization and governments right across the world.” In order to uphold their mandate, future research needs to be conducted into the long lasting effects of doping to address the extent to which the drugs have an effect on the athlete in the future and the impact it will have on sport in general.

These athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are cheating and while they do receive penalties for this, as previously mentioned, their cheating should not allow them to later succeed as a clean athlete. It is possible that prior doping – for which they have already been sanctioned and suspended – could be contributing to current success due to the long-lasting effects of doping. In order to uphold the preventative measure of doping sanctions, the WADA Code needs to accommodate for any long-lasting effects of doping. Future research will hopefully help answer the difficult question of just how WADA is to do this.

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Questions concerning the World Cup in Qatar

October 24, 2014

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By Robert Mazzarolo – Thompson Rivers University 2L JD Student

December 2, 2010, a date that will live in infamy for soccer (football) fans around the world. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was set to announce the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. With the anticipated frontrunner being the United States of America (America) for 2022, the excitement in North America was palpable. The other hopefuls, which included Australia, South Korea, Japan, and Qatar, did not have a chance, or so it was thought. The World Cup would return to America to finish what it had started in 1994. What could be better? Inexplicably, this was not to be the case. As millions of soccer fans watched on their TV screens, FIFA President Sepp Blatter stepped up to the podium to announce the host nation for 2022. He opened the envelope and announced, “The winner, to organize the 2022 FIFA World Cup is, Qatar!” Yes! Wait … Qatar? Where is Qatar? This is where the tragedy of that evening begins.

How could Qatar surpass the United States for the right to host the 2022 World Cup? According to United Nations statistics, the population of Qatar in 2010 was 1.7 million people. Comparatively, the US’s population as of 2010 was 309 million. Less must be more in the eyes of FIFA. Of that 1.7 million people, three quarters are male. This bodes well for Qatar, as nothing says gender equality more than an extremely disproportionate amount of males compared to females. The US, on the other hand, is roughly evenly split at fifty percent male and femaler.

How about weather you ask? The average temperature in Qatar during the months of June and July is 42 degrees Celsius. Temperatures can reach as high as 50 degrees Celsius with continuous sunshine and no rainfall. These are the conditions to which FIFA agreed would be suitable for the World Cup. Qatar would argue that the heat will not be a problem as it will be countenanced by radical new cooling technologies capable of making 80,000 seat stadiums and the players on the pitch comfortable in the otherwise blazing heat. Comparatively, the average temperature in the US during June and July is a more reasonable 25 degrees Celsius.

What about labour force and working conditions? Surely, no matter what country is selected, infrastructure will need to be built to host the tournament. Qatar’s vast majority of trade’s workers are migrants from Pakistan, India, and Nepal. They have severe restrictions placed on their movement, including when they can exit the country. It is estimated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that at least 4,000 migrant workers will lose their lives in preparation for the World Cup in 2022. These facts along with others have led the ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, to classify Qatar as a “slave state.” Yikes! While America does have a history of slavery for its labour, at least they did the right thing and banned slavery almost 150 years ago. It would be interesting to hear FIFA’s defense of its decision in light of these facts.

Given these examples and others, it is clear that there are serious questions concerning Qatar being awarded the World Cup. Almost immediately after the results were announced, allegations of corruption within FIFA began to surface. Calls for an inquiry, an investigation became so loud and so widespread, even FIFA could no longer ignore them. FIFA hired former New York District Attorney, Michael Garcia, in 2012 to investigate the bid process and submit a report of what really happened behind the scenes. However, just to demonstrate FIFA’s arrogance, they will not release this report to the public. Furthermore, in the last few weeks, calls to strip Qatar from the right to host the 2022 World Cup have even come from within FIFA’s inner circle. Outspoken executive members of FIFA, such as Theo Zwanziger from Germany, remarked that he personally believes that the 2022 World Cup will not be held in Qatar. Even Sepp Blatter, the kingpin of them all, has stated that selecting Qatar to host a World Cup was a mistake. It may just be a matter of time before the right thing is done and the tournament is moved. Until then, FIFA should start to follow its own motto, “For the Good of the Game.”

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