Are we really shocked by drugs in sports?

LINDEN, NEW JERSEY—The New York Times recently ran a story stating the International Olympic Committee said drug testing in many sports has been very lax and the same appears to be true for the upcoming Olympic Games. The Williams Eye View

LINDEN, NEW JERSEY—The New York Times recently ran a story stating the International Olympic Committee said drug testing in many sports has been very lax and the same appears to be true for the upcoming Olympic Games. The article also stated that record breaking performances in any sport involving strength and speed would be suspect. Steve Holman, one of the United States' premier milers, was quoted as saying that the report's conclusions on the efficiency of drug testing reiterated what he and others had been saying for years.

Before the 1980s drugs were associated only with strength and gaining weight and were not believed to offer any benefit to runners. Thus shot putters, hammer throwers, discus, and javelin throwers were the ones who were observed with an occasional raised eyebrow and skeptical eye. Now, especially since the Ben Johnson debacle in 1988 and the years later suspension and reinstatement of 400 meter runner Butch Reynolds, sprinter Merlene Ottey's suspension last year and the similar plight of other athletes, track and field has become a sport where mental asterisks accompany many performances. How did all this start?

Drugs were first used in the 1950s among Soviet Union weightlifters. Dianabol was the name of the principal (and perhaps only) drug then and it quickly became popular among strength athletes. There were also (as today) numerous, often unpredictable side effects: A basketball player at the college I attended used Dianabol to gain strength and weight but promptly stopped when he began to urinate blood. Soon, other drugs were developed and they were found to be effective in aiding runners as well.

About the same time food supplements were becoming popular among athletes and some people put them in the same category as drugs. But that is incorrect. A drug changes the way the body functions, period. It offers no nourishment. It does not replace something the body has used in the performance of exercise or other stress. Ironically, it may be possible that some over the counter food supplements, unknown to the buyer, contain ingredients that are not only natural but are also "laced" with muscle building and performance enhancing drugs.

Ottey and others have claimed this is what happened to them and Craig Masback, the director of US Track and Field noted that such a thing is possible.

Yet, as society cringes about the proliferation of drugs in neighborhoods and on the playing fields, society has also failed to honestly look itself in the mirror. There have been numerous debates and discussions about athletes damaging their body with drugs for fame, glory, and monetary gain. The irony is that most of the people who criticize athletes and others who take drugs are addicts themselves.

Most people in the United States are addicts, but they are unaware of it or in a state of denial. Many of those who are not in a state of denial believe that caffeine and nicotine are the most common drugs to which people are addicted. Not true. It is white sugar. White sugar is a drug because it offers no nourishment to the body, only carbohydrates, which are used as fuel. And for the body to metabolize any sugar it requires nutrients that are with most sugars in their natural state. All fruits contain sugars and they bring with them an assortment of vitamins and minerals. White sugar has been stripped of these things, so in order for it to be metabolized the body has to "steal" from whatever vitamins and minerals it has within it. That is why there is often a decrease in energy after the initial upsurge in energy after eating candy or other sweets.

If you think that white sugar is not addictive or that you not addicted to white sugar or caffeine, try a simple test: for one week drink nothing but water to quench your thirst. No fruit drinks, fruit juice

September 6, 2003
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