Efforts to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs ahead of the 2016 Olympics could not have gone much worse.
In the months before the Rio de Janeiro Games, more than 1,900 athletes across 10 key sports — including track and field, weight lifting and cycling — were not tested, a failure that doping officials vowed would not be repeated in the next Olympic cycle.
Yet five years later, the world’s antidoping organizations are struggling to live up to that promise ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Games, in part because the coronavirus pandemic has made it extremely difficult to fix a problem that has persisted for decades: Testing is inconsistent across numerous countries.
Doping at the Olympic Games
In competitive sports, doping is the use of banned athletic performance-enhancing drugs by athletic competitors. The term doping is widely used by organizations that regulate sporting competitions. The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical, and therefore prohibited, by most international sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. Furthermore, athletes (or athletic programs) taking explicit measures to evade detection exacerbate the ethical violation with overt deception and cheating.
The origins of doping in sports go back to the very creation of sport itself. From ancient usage of substances in chariot racing to more recent controversies in baseball and cycling, popular views among athletes have varied widely from country to country over the years. The general trend among authorities and sporting organizations over the past several decades has been to strictly regulate the use of drugs in sport. The reasons for the ban are mainly the health risks of performance-enhancing drugs, the equality of opportunity for athletes, and the exemplary effect of drug-free sport for the public. Anti-doping authorities state that using performance-enhancing drugs goes against the “spirit of sport”.