This week the story of tennis star Maria Sharapova has dominated as many front pages as it has back pages of newspapers, after she announced she had tested positive for a banned substance. The substance was meldonium and was not banned until the 1st of January, which was shortly before the Australian Open.
At the top level of all sports so much is at stake that I think most are looking for any gains they can make, either through training methods, diets or what they can legally put in to their bodies to enhance what they can do. It’s like in motor racing where teams are doing whatever they can within the rules to make the cars as fast as possible: to athletes their vehicle is their body and many treat it in much the same way.
I sadly now sometimes look at sport and find myself asking if someone is naturally better than someone else or is it because something they are taking? The list of banned substances changes regularly in what is a cat and mouse game between the sporting governing bodies and the athletes themselves. It seems as soon as governing bodies find out athletes are using a substance, they then see if it should be made illegal and 9 out of 10 times it is. The question is can you blame an athlete for taking something that might get banned or eventually gets banned?
The problem is as soon as something is banned it normally just moves athletes on to something else until that is banned and as the list of banned substances gets bigger and bigger if an athlete has a legitimate health issue it can affect what they can take. Athletes have to be so careful about what they take and it must be hard to live in that way. On top of this you have athletes that put their trust in their team of coaches and trainers that they are giving them stuff to take that is legal, whereas in the end the responsibility always falls on them.
The pressure top-level athletes must feel to keep on winning and on top of their sports must be overwhelming. So I can understand why athletes must feel the need to make sure they are taking the substances that others are or to take ones that others aren’t, to get ahead and stay ahead. With sponsors, staff around them that depend on them doing well and the swell of public support, losing for some athletes is not an option.
Every edge that can be gained will be gained in any form of competition and I don’t see that changing or that it needs to. I will continue to enjoy sport and the competition it brings, as to me there is nothing like it.