One big challenge that faces athletes today is the temptation to use illicit drugs. This is called doping. Doping is the term used in sports to refer to the use of prohibited performance-enhancing drugs or substances by sports persons to unfairly gain undue advantage over fellow athletes in competitions. Doping has come to become a virus trying to destroy the spirit, integrity, image and value of athletics, as well as athletes’ health. Consequently, doping is prohibited by all sports authorities. The sanction for doping is ban. It is not enough to identify and nurture talented athletes into professionals. They must be given vital information on the dangers of doping. Information is power. Information guides choice. Information counters ignorance. Information equips the mind.
In professional or elite athletics, there are pressures. This is applicable in other fields of human endeavour. From my experiences, observations, interactions and inferences, I have come to identify these pressures as the root causes of doping in sports especially among African sports men and women. I will attempt to look at how athletes can handle each pressure to avoid fallen into the dangerous and heavy hands of doping and the natural consequence of being banned. The pressures are:
1. ETHICS-DRIVEN PRESSURE – Ethics consists of the standards of behavior acceptable in a society or profession. Here members of the society or profession are expected to conform to certain standards. Being ethical is doing what the law requires. Any deviations come with sanctions.
As athletes you should know that you belong to a profession. Every profession has principles that guide its practice. It is designed to protect the integrity of the profession. Laws against doping and other acts of cheating are designed to ensure equal opportunity for all athletes in competitions.
How do you handle ethics-driven pressure?
a. If you must be an athlete, make effort to know what the ethics are. If you do, you will play by the rule which is good for your career.
b. Internalize the ethics and apply discipline.
b. As athletes, put it at the back of your mind that “Winning is something but it is not everything!” There is dignity in fair participation.
c. Sports administrators and coaches should make deliberate effort to mould the minds of young athletes from even primary schools. They should be taught very early in their career, the lifelong benefits of playing by the rule and consequence of cheating.
Expected Result – An ethics-compliant mind will easily resist doping. Hiring college athletes
2. EGO-DRIVEN PRESSURE – Ego is an inflated feeling of pride in the perceived or real superiority of one person to others. Here the athlete wants to always dominate. No dull moment. No off day!
Gifted people are naturally egotistic. Athletes are gifted people. It is no surprise if they are egotistic. However, being egotistic is an attitudinal problem that drives people to live on the edge. Ego can make you to refuse to accept your limitations and drive you to adopt unfair practices to excel.
How do you handle ego-driven pressure?
a. Coaches are very important here. It is their duty to tame the ego of young athletes while at the same motivating them to become the best. It is a tough job but it has to be done.
b. As athletes, you should know and recognize that there temporary phenomena called “off days” and “burnt-out” and permanent phenomenon called “aging” and “performance decline”. These things happen because you are human. Do not be ashamed to experience any of them.
Expected Result – Accepting temporary setbacks as motivation to do better next time rather than a disgrace will make doping unnecessary.
3. IGNORANCE-DRIVEN PRESSURE – Ignorance is lack of vital knowledge or education. Here the athlete lacks requisite information or does not know how to get information. She knows there are limitations but she is helpless. Consequently, people around her make certain decisions on her behalf with possibility of exploitation and abuse.