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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Anti-doping rules don’t leave any room for error

Christian Mesiano/Wikimedia Commons
Simona Halep, pictured at the 2014 BNP Paribas Open in March 2014, was recently banned from playing professional tennis after testing positive for an anti-anemia drug.

Doping, or using substances to gain a competitive advantage in sports, has been around since the ancient Olympic games. As of late, athletic organizations have strict rules against the practice. And with strict rules come strict consequences.

Recently, former No. 1 women’s tennis player Simona Halep received a four-year ban from professional play just two weeks ago, due to “substantial evidence” of “intentional” doping.

The fact is, the International Tennis Integrity Agency can’t really prove whether she took anything on purpose or whether she was administered something contaminated. In these cases, it all comes down to judgment calls.

The 31-year-old tested positive for roxadustat, which is an anti-anemia medication used to treat kidney disease. It promotes the formation of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which increases oxygen going into the lungs, making it easier to  breathe during high-intensity activities.

Consuming it is considered doping.

Halep stated that before August 2022 –when the test was conducted – she adjusted her nutritional supplements, one of which was contaminated with roxadustat. The amount found in her test serves as evidence of this.

The decision came after a year-long battle to even get a hearing with the ITIA. Despite her best defense, this decision basically ended the Romanian’s career.

Halep is just one of the names on a very long list of athletes that were unreasonably punished by a broken system.

Listen, I do not condone any form of doping in the sports industry. It’s immoral, results in unfair advantages and creates unnecessary drama that the media loves to prey upon.

There is a huge difference, however, between doping à la Lance Armstrong and simply coming into contact with a contaminated substance.

The World Anti-Doping Code is a 24-page-long list of prohibited substances.The World Anti-Doping Agency updates the list annually. For a substance to get onto said list, it must satisfy at least two of the three criteria: it has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance, it represents an actual or potential health risk to the athlete or it violates the spirit of sport.

However, certain substances that make it onto the list can be regarded as only slightly controversial.

Clomifene is listed as a banned anti-estrogenic substance, prohibited at all times. It also happens to be used as a common treatment for women with polycystic ovary syndrome who are trying to get pregnant.

In men, however, it can lead to an increase of testosterone levels. That’s why it landed on the list.

Now comes the ethical question. Should this substance be banned across all mediums because it can potentially enhance physical performance in male athletes, even though it is a very common Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for females?

This brings up a bigger topic of gender in sports that does not need to be discussed right now. The point here is that the prohibited list is full of flaws.

Professional sports isn’t the only industry affected by this. The NCAA recently decided to ban the popular energy drink, Celsius. Its reasoning? Apparently a study revealed that the caffeine in just one Celsius is equal to drinking five cups of coffee. And, because coffee is a central nervous system stimulant, it can have benefits for one’s mental and physical performance.

The NCAA Sports Science Institute stated it takes the caffeine equivalent of six to eight cups of coffee, two to three hours prior to a competition for the substance to show up on a drug test.

Yet this year, an NCAA panel is calling to have cannabis removed from its banned list. The panel has not yet reached a decision on the matter, as the final hearing is expected to be sometime this fall. However, the panel’s reasoning entails the simple fact that cannabis does not enhance performance.

So, hypothetically, if I was an NCAA athlete, I could have a quick smoke before my game, but I can’t have an energy drink? Brilliant.

Serious cases, like the Russian doping scandal of 2016 for example, should not be mixed with the likes of others. Most of the time, the investigations are nothing more than a witch hunt.

It is way easier to come into contact with a contaminated substance than you would think. According to the Global Sports Advocates, there are many ways it can happen without anyone’s knowledge.

The first way is by eating meat. Cows all over the world are legally fed sport-banned steroids to promote growth. These can then easily show up on drug tests.

Strangely enough, intimacy is on the list as well. Just kissing someone who is on a banned medication or engaging in unprotected sex with that individual could result in a positive drug test later on.

The more obvious way to come into contact with contaminated supplements and prescriptions is through dietary supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore there isn’t anything preventing an athlete from accidentally ingesting something they shouldn’t.

And yet that simple accident has the potential to destroy an athlete’s entire career. Most of the time, the athletes are either too old by the time their punishment comes to an end or they have been on the sidelines for far too long to be able to come back to action.

The World Anti-Doping Code is black and white. The world isn’t. Something has to give.

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Alexandra Martinakova, News Editor

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