Hot Taekes: Doping in sport – the conversation we must have

Jack Howes can’t avoid the doping in sport thing as it continues to permeate the Australian sporting landscape, but it’s not all bad in his weekly #HotTaekes


There needs to be a change in the way we address the doping in sport conversation. And it needs to happen on two fronts.

The problem, as it currently stands, is that doping – via the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs,) legal over-the-counter medication, blood transfusions, and similar – is rife throughout professional, semi-professional, and even junior-level sports of virtually all kinds.

Idealistically sport should be a pure contest between two opposing forces, matching intellectual and physical ability until one emerges triumphant. Now this has obviously been skewed by professionalism and the enormous resource gap between the developed and developing world. Arguably the greatest middle-distance runner of his generation, Mo Farrah, lives in a house pressurised in such a way that it mimics high altitude conditions thus increasing his red blood cell count and so his ability to carry oxygen around his body. Now this is obviously performance enhancing, in a way very few of his competitors can match. It’s legal though, in a way that blood transfusion – a treatment that results in a similar change to red blood cell count – is not.

What then, is our main objection to doping? Is it the results? If it’s the health of the participants, then where do we draw the line? Should painkillers be banned, how about caffeine pills?

The other front the conversation needs to be addressed on is how the media and the public react when an athlete is convicted of doping. The almost immediate reaction is to absolute savage the sport the athlete comes from. The most obvious example of this comes, over and over again, from professional cycling.

Cycling, which has the most rigorous and extensive tests for doping of virtually any sport you care to name, tends to catch dopers – year after year – from different teams and for different infringements. Instead of being congratulated on their successes and efforts, professional cycling is instead demonised, decried as a hotbed of cheats and criminals.

So what is the motivation for other sports to do the same? Why would tennis, a notoriously lax sporting body, go after its top players? If they managed to catch them doping, there would be an international outcry, complete uproar, sponsors would leave, crowd numbers would drop, and there would be tears and tantrums and apologies.

What would football do if it turned out the World Cup winning Spanish team were all on the gear? An idea which is nowhere near as far-fetched as it sounds by the way.

The conversation needs to shift to congratulating codes for catching the cheats within their ranks, and then wondering why there are certain others that are still unable to find the dopers. Because make no mistake, they’re there.

On the lighter side of life, Netball Australia is ticking along just nicely. They’ve recently signed a deeply clever deal to keep netball on both free-to-air and Pay TV over the next two years, a deal beyond the likes of rugby – a code that desperately needs the exposure. After three rounds of the ANZ Championship the Melbourne Vixens and West Coast Fever are leading the Australian conference with three wins apiece, while in the New Zealand conference the Northern Mystics are leading the way.

The Cricket World Cup is slowly grinding towards it’s conclusion. Quarterfinals time now, with two disappointing matches to date with India demolishing Bangladesh and South Africa doing the same to Sri Lanka. At the time of writing, Australia were evenly poised against Pakistan. Pakistan batting first and stabilising after losing two early wickets.

And one last thing before I go.

We finally have a date for the decision regarding the potential sanctions for the AFL’s Essendon Bombers. A two-year long saga regarding potential doping is finally coming to an end. It’s been a long, stressful, and ridiculously drawn out process for both the players and fans.

One way or another everyone just wants it to be over, and as of the 31st it will be.


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