One of the greatest problems in professional sports has been repeatedly brought in the spotlight with the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games: doping. It began with the ban of the Russian track and field team resulting from a government-sponsored doping scheme which nearly resulted in the disqualification of the entire Russian Olympic team. Recently, seven additional Russian swimmers have been banned, and many reports have surfaced of failed drug tests from previous Olympic games, many of which came from eventual medal winners. This cheating has to stop.
I would have to disagree with the International Olympic Committee’s decision to not completely ban Russia from participating in the Olympic games. The Russian government decided to intentionally deceive the world in trying to gain an unfair advantage in the Olympics- the largest athletic competition on the face of the Earth, and should be punished by a complete ban from the 2016 Summer Games. I do agree, however, with the committee’s decision to allow the committee for each individual sport to ban any athletes who have failed drug tests or were part of doping schemes. I believe the Russian athletes not involved in the doping schemes should be allowed to compete under a neutral flag at the games, while athletes who knowingly participated in doping should not be banned from just the 2016 Olympic Games, but every Olympics in the future.
Unfortunately, cheating is not a problem in just the Olympics, but one that plagues many major sports in the world. One of the most infamous cheaters of all-time, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, described international cycling as a sport where athletes who don’t cheat are in the minority and at a severe disadvantage to the point where it is extremely difficult to achieve success. In fact, according to at least one investigation, 90% of the world’s best cyclists still participate in doping to this day, even in the aftermath of the Armstrong scandal.
We must change the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy and the definitive way to do that is by placing harsher punishments on offenders. Athletes need to know that cheating is taken seriously and that if they are caught, it will be the end of their careers. Period. One league that would really benefit from this system is the MLB, which has an entire period of its history labeled as “The Steroid Era” where steroid use was so rampant that it has brought up controversy over whether or not players from that era should be inducted into the Hall of Fame and discussions on how much we can read into statistics from that time. Even recently several MLB players have received steroid suspension this year, and just a few years ago we had the Biogenesis scandal. Obviously, players still believe that the potential rewards of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs outweigh the risks of getting caught, which typically result in a suspension of between 1/2 and one full season.
Many other sports such as NFL and UFC regularly deal with suspensions relating to performance-enhancing drugs, but still suffer from the problem of being too lenient. In the NFL, first offenders can get away easy with suspensions of just a few games, where in the MMA it seems so many big fighters have to drop out of bouts or have wins erased for failed drug tests. With so much potential for profit being lost due to cancellations and rescheduling, it doesn’t make sense that the use of these steroids continues to be tolerated.
Honestly, if athletes are using steroids in order to enhance their performance, what’s even the point of these sports? Athletic competitions exist to determine who is the most skilled in a certain discipline, but if everyone competing is juiced up, who knows who’s actually the best based on natural ability and hard work? It ruins the entire experience to know that people aren’t playing by the rules. Anyone attempting to cheat is simply a coward who believes they need an extra advantage in order to win, effectively undermining the integrity of sports as a whole.
Sports leagues, fans, and media have to collectively send a strong message to athletes that cheating in whatever form is not okay, and set harsher penalties for athletes who knowingly decide to use steroids or doping to gain an unfair advantage. Cheating is a greatly important moral issue that is frequently brought up by not criticized enough, and it’s time to change that.