Athletes who dope should be banned from the sport for life
For over a decade, Lance Armstrong was revered as the epitome of the undying spirit of human beings. He recovered from cancer and returned to cycling in dominant form sweeping aside opponents year after year. Unbeknown to his global fan base, sponsors, cycling sports governing authorities and other stakeholders, he had used performance enhancing drugs for many years in a subtle and intricate scheme that went undetected for many years. When his teammates blew the whistle and he finally admitted, it came as a shocker and turned into a pantomime villain overnight. Armstrong became a symbol of what is wrong with our sports and anti-doping systems. He joined an ever growing list of great athletes who crossed over to the dark side of winning in sports. He joined the likes of Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell. Most importantly, it further fueled the debate on whether such athletes should be banned for life. While lifetime ban would be the best determent, the current doping methods are not foolproof while a positive test does not necessarily equate to cheating. Therefore, athletes should only be banned for life if the burden of proof threshold is attained.
Most athletes depend of the various sports they participate in their as their source of livelihood; it is their profession. In most cases, they do not have a fallback career plan and are usually young. A positive doping test and a lifetime usually spell doom for these athletes as in most cases they even lose the prize money. However, the current doping tests are not foolproof and not catchall. They do not guarantee a 100 percent absolute result. False positive tests have been recorded in various cases due to various extenuating circumstances. There are inadvertent users such as those who use them unknowingly or for medication purposes. Such complication increases the burden of proof for sports governing bodies. Banning such individuals without meeting the burden of proof threshold could ruin careers and lives. The kick-back effect would be long and expensive court cases with ever fewer convictions. Ultimately, it will lead to controversies and high cost operations that may end crippling the whole anti-doping system.
Moreover, there are drugs which are undetectable by the current system. Some drugs are also untested by the anti-doping agencies and hence have not been classified as illegal yet they enhance performance. This is because such drugs might have metabolites which are naturally occurring in the body in varying levels in different individuals. The advancement of technology has also lead to development of variants of banned drugs by individuals with nefarious intentions. Testing positive for such drugs is almost impossible as the current systems are customized to detect specific metabolites not their variants.
In conclusion, doping for purposes of influencing the outcome of a sporting event raises questions of morality, ethicality and fair. It gives unfair advantage to individuals. A life-time would a proportionate punishment and would act as an effective deterrent. However, the efficacy of the testing methods is questionable; they are not foolproof and therefore cannot catch all offenders. Essentially, they work against their intended purpose and bequeath a sanctioned unfair advantage to those who slip through the net. The unreliability of these methods will set a precedent of protracted and expensive litigations, destruction of careers and lives. In order for life ban to fair, there is need to put in place safeguards that will guarantee reliability.