In general…I am not one who supports absolutes. Too often we impose a black and white consequence that simply doesn’t take into account all that is encompassed in any given circumstance. The world simply contains more gray than some will admit.
In addition…we all make mistakes, bad choices, at times, and it is important to have some sort of “2nd chance” aspect built into a system…whether it be in sports or other areas of life. I believe it is important to give those in violation, depending on circumstance, an opportunity to improve or build back their character...allow them to become better people. After all….we are human…prone to making errors in judgment.
Now, I am not saying there is never a reason for rules that have an absolute as a consequence (first degree murder or acts of terrorism being likely candidates), or that consequences shouldn’t be pretty tough based on the act perpetrated (something continual illegal PED use by so many athletes certainly qualifies for). In the end, however…a consequence must deter or change the behavior; if not, it becomes useless…meaningless…a waste of time and energy.
And to that point above, two articles written by Tom Fordyce (Chief Sports Writer for the BBC), Drug cheats in sport could benefit 'for decades', scientists find and Justin Gatlin: Why US sprinter's success is bad for athletics do lean heavily toward the idea of a lifetime ban for athletes using illegal PEDs…certainly an absolute. In both pieces, Fordyce discuss the recent discovery that benefits from illegal PED use appear to last for many years beyond cessation of use…“decades” even.
Studies on female mice (mammals with musculature aspects similar to humans) indicate benefits far beyond current and possible future bans for said use. In Fordyce’s BBC piece, Drug cheats in sport could benefit 'for decades', scientists find, it states that “research by University of Oslo scientists has established that muscles can retain the advantages given by anabolic steroids decades after the point at which they were taken.”
Professor of Physiology at Oslo, Kristian Gundersen, said “it is likely that effects could be lifelong or at least lasting decades in humans.”
In addition, Gundersen indicated that he would be surprised “if there were any major differences between humans and mice in this context.
"The fundamental biology of muscle growth is similar in humans and in mice, and in principle any drug that builds muscle mass could trigger this mechanism.
"I was excited by the clarity of the findings. It's very rare, at least in my experience, that the data are so clear cut; there is usually some disturbing factor. But in this case it was extremely clear.
"If you exercise, or take anabolic steroids, you get more nuclei and you get bigger muscles. If you take away the steroids, you lose the muscle mass, but the nuclei remain inside the muscle fibres.
"They are like temporarily closed factories, ready to start producing protein again when you start exercising again."
These are powerful statements made by Professor Gundersen…points given much weight based on the science behind them. The kind of significance and clarity that lends credence to the very title of this piece…Lifetime Ban for PED Use in Sports Looking Like Only Option.
If using illegal PEDs gives athletes a “lifetime” advantage…well…then I am not sure there is any other alternative than a lifetime ban from sports for those who choose to use. It might be the only level of consequence that actually fits the crime.
I am sure WADA will weigh in on this at some point, however, expect them to only move forward with increase of suspension (as they have recently moved from a two to four year ban) when more substantial and unequivocal evidence is available. The kind of confirmation that indicates a cause and effect relationship between the use of PEDs and lifetime advantages…even with cessation.
Travis Tygart, United States Anti-Doping Agency's chief executive, stated his feeling that violators of the USADA drug policy, like Justin Gatlin (has served two bans for PED use) should be given another chance. In a BBC piece today, Justin Gatlin deserves chance after drug bans...,Tygart said:
"If somebody commits a violation, serves a ban and comes back to the sport, part of the rule is this idea of redemption..."
And with regard to the recent Oslo research he stated:
"There is some recent science on the effect of steroids on mice, but there is no proof yet it translates to humans"...
"We've looked at it and you have to be cautious about changing the goalposts in the middle of the game based on a few sound-bites in the press from one paper on mice.
"That's not fair. What's fair, and what athletes and the public rely on, is a set of rules that are enforced evenly."
I really, really like the way Mr. Tygart thinks. He is the RIGHT man for the job as he does seem to incorporate a global thought process in his dealings with the PED issue facing our current sports culture.