AirTalk for July 27, 2012

Winning the ‘war on doping’ in athletics

Oli Scarff/Getty Images

An analyst works in the Olympic anti-doping laboratory in January. The lab in Harlow, England will test 5,000 of the 10,490 athletes' samples from the London 2012 Games.

All eyes are on London with the opening of the Olympics, but where there are high profile athletes, the conversation soon turns to performance enhancing drugs.

The World Anti-Doping Agency says the London games will be the most dope-tested in history, and has already spent roughly $30 million on drug testing and enforcement. Wealthier countries usually have a competitive advantage when it comes to athletics. More money to spend on sports means better training facilities and coaches, and more money for equipment like expensive aerodynamic swim suits.

But are wealthier countries better equipped to cheat, both within and outside of the rules, as well?

The Olympics and other athletic competitions strive for a level playing field between all competitors, and are spending up to roughly $30 million on tests and enforcement of anti-doping in the 2012 Olympic games to maintain balance ? but gray areas still remain. Several athletes train and sleep in hypoxic chambers that mimic high altitude, which boosts an athlete's red blood cell count, increasing endurance and recovery time. Such a chamber runs from $7,000 for a small tent, to $25,000 for a room, according to the Huffington Post. In 2008, medal winners in swimming were dominated by athletes who wore aerodynamic swimsuits that ran over $500, and needed to be replaced after five uses.

It may or may not be ethical, but as of now, it’s allowed. Those price tags are simply unaffordable for poorer countries.

Guests:

Daniel M. Rosen, author of Dope: A History of Performance Enhancement in Sport from the Nineteenth Century to Today (Praeger)

Michele Verroken, Founding Director of Sporting Integrity and former Director of Ethics and Doping at UK Sport


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