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Drug Testing Athletes

Serious debates and controversies have emerged as a result of drug abuse by sport participants. People tend to use illegal drugs so as to gain more power that affect their performance in the event of sporting activities such as football and athletics. In order to prevent athletes and other sports personalities from using drugs, many authorities have introduced drug testing programs which are mandatory and must be undertaken by all the sports men and women. Researches carried out over past showed that drug use by athletes were common as compared to the current statistics.

The origin of drug testing can be backdated to Summer World Olympic Games in1988.There were two main competitors, Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, to whom the public wanted to know who the fastest man was. When the awaited hour came, Ben Johnson mysteriously emerged victorious within a bracket of ten seconds. Johnson had set the best record in the world which has never been beaten up to date. Many people were eager to see what inspired Johnson and made him faster than his counterpart. Tests were carried out, and the sport authorities found out that Johnson was under the influence of drugs, more precisely the effect of steroids. According to the sport associations, the use of drugs was illegal thus the gold medal was withdrawn from him and awarded to Carl Lewis. Since then, drug testing has been made mandatory amongst the athletes to enhance fairness (Sexton & Zilz 1988).

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There are three categories of prohibited drugs in sports. They cover temporary or immediate acting stimulants; anabolic agents and masking agents. Stimulants tend to affect performance if taken before the kick off of the event. Stimulants are easy to identify thus making the drug testing highly reliable. Anabolic agents may take a whole week to achieve desired effect on the user’s body. They are quite difficult to detect compared to the stimulants. Masking agents prevent the detection of other drugs in the body. This implies that masking agents are useful only at the time of testing. They are, however, easily recognized by medical specialists at the time of test (Harrelson & Houglum, 2005).

Authorities carrying out drug tests have got a lot of work throughout the year. Research reports shows that over 100,000 drug tests are carried out annually. This, therefore, means rather a lump some amount of money is required to make the entire business a success. An estimate of 30 million US dollars is set aside to carry out drug tests across all continents in the world. The procedures of drug testing are always meticulous and require much transparency. Athletes may view this process as unfair, but all in all, the process must be carried out. Competitors are thereby recommended avoiding drug use due to the severe consequences laid by the drug testing authorities and various sport authorities. In order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency, authorities have laid down measures such as giving short notice testing to the athletes or carrying out a no- notice program. This deprives the drug abusers time to acquire drug neutralizing substances such as the masking agents. Though expensive, sport administrations carry out such testing so as to enhance equity and fairness for all. For example, the IAAF gives short notice of testing to the athletes. The same applies to the federations such as swimming, football clubs, and boxing associations among others. In the United States, Olympic committees use no- notice programs in carrying out tests. In the long run, the measures laid down calls for genuine participants who are talented in athletics.

Drug testing procedure usually begins with taking urine samples. Though this may seem an easy task, care should be taken while collecting samples from the athletes. Identification of samples should be handled with care so as to ensure that the urine collected and taken to the laboratory are genuinely from the person in question. There should be zero probability of alteration. Once the urine sample is collected, the athlete signs upon proof that his or her urine is bottled in appropriate bottle. After, the samples are forwarded to the laboratories that are accredited by IOC.

Urine samples are preferred to blood samples. This is because taking blood samples require medical personnel thus increasing expenses. Once a person is approved for testing, he or she is informed by an agent and is supposed to sign a form acknowledging the notification. The testing process should be private and confidential. This means that the results obtained are known by only two entities, that is, the organization carrying out the tests and the person being tested. Places of drug testing should be comfortable, and plenty of drinks should be readily available. Laboratory officers should be in a possession of valid identification cards that connect them to the drug testing authorities. Before testing urine samples of an athlete, he or she is asked if had been under medication for the past week. If a person is tested and positive results obtained, a notification is sent to the governing body of the sport. Upon receipt of results, the authority concerned channels the lab results to the athlete. It is necessary to note that different governing bodies of sport activities have got different rules and regulations. Usually, when positive results are obtained, an athlete is suspended while the results are being scrutinized.

Procedures of testing must be strictly followed so as to ensure that the athletes receive the same treatment. Urine samples collected must be closely observed since drug users may be tempted to give false samples for testing. Urine volume, the PH, and temperatures are tested immediately upon collection. In so doing, chances of an athlete cheating on samples given are narrowed (Taylor, 1997).

Laboratories have a role in maintaining high standards of performance in the practice of testing. This allows them to be respected and retain excellent reputations from the sports fraternity. To date, the IOC has accredited a total number of 25 laboratories in the world to carry out drug testing. The NCAA policies and procedures for drug testing are executed with a tough set of guidelines. In significant events such as the national game championships, rigorous testing is carried out on athletes for steroids detection. Further, tests of other drug categories such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, among others are tested. Various levels with NCAA included have identified the drug substances that are inappropriate for use by the athletes and declared them illegal. 

To implement the law, massive anti drug use campaigns have been launched with a triumph of enlightening the athletes on the effects of such drugs. Athletes who give deaf ears to the restrictions by the relevant authorities face severe consequences such as being banned from the athletics competition. Other users who emerge victorious in sporting events and are later discovered that they were propelled by the drugs used are deprived of their medals. This is true as in the case of Johnson and Lewis of 1988. As a way of managing drug testing process, the authorities certify competent laboratories only. Further, trained staffs that are also trustworthy are employed to carry out tests so as to avoid faking the results. Sampling officers are given time limited identity cards that allow them to work for a limited period before being moved to other sampling centers. The process of reshuffling officers prevents prejudice to some athletes (Wong, 2009).

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