Drugs in sport by Sharron Davies MBE


Sadly for me drugs have played a big part in my sporting history, having been beaten by East German swimmers to every major title, so it will come as no surprise that I am very anti any drug use and for strong deterrents or ideally a life time ban.

The ridiculous two year ban we have in many sports at the moment is pointless and means a cheating athlete may not even miss an Olympic Games. There has to be a big enough reason to make potential cheats think long and hard if it’s really worth it.

These days as a parent I also don’t want my children, like Grace my daughter who trains and makes huge sacrifices, to ever have to deal with being cheated out of medals or titles they deserve to win. Nor do I want any child being tempted into taking something illegal that might have horrendous long term side effects for sporting glory.

I often wonder when cheats stand on a rostrum…do they feel proud?

No medal is worth a life. We have seen many athletes who have been tempted, sadly die, particularly from blood that has become too thick to pass through the heart properly, as with EPO or as with many Eastern Europeans fertility issued, heart problems caused by steroid abuse, as well as in extreme cases even gendered confusion. Anyone that put a substance into their system that’s not supposed to be there it taking a huge gamble with their health.

When we are young we often feel infallible, don’t we, but when we are older and have children of our own, if we are lucky enough, we want to be there for them… our priorities change. We need to get that message over that there will be repercussions even if you don’t get caught and disgraced.

I often wonder when cheats stand on a rostrum do they feel proud? I can’t imagine you would if you knew you hadn’t won fairly, and wouldn’t have achieved that position without artificial help. But as we know many seem to do so and only show remorse when caught. So then we have to make sure that if the strong deterrents don’t work the penalty of being caught is lasting.

If an athlete has had the benefit of improved recovery from intensive training, or quicker recovery from injury, increased oxygen levels, or improved strength by cheating, we know that the improvement doesn’t disappear after two years, especially if they maintain training, so why do they get to compete? Once someone cheats they are never on a level playing field again.

Of course it’s imperative we catch the coaches, doctors or team managers that encourage or supply these drugs. If we ever find out who they are they should never be able to tempt young people again or be invited into any sporting arena.

Until we have a very hard line we will get nowhere in this battle…especially when there is now so much financially to be gained from winning major medals.

Medals are important, they can change lives…but they are never worth a life!

I’m pleased we are beginning to store samples and post test (for up to ten years soon) once we have new tests in place for the latest designer drug on the market. We are also looking to create athlete health passports so we can recognise unrealistic improvement. We need to strip titles and remove any monitory gain, as well as name and shame the supply line.

In history there has been many times athletes have quietly gone away rather than faced public humiliation for the sake of the country, event or associations. I hope we are past those days?

Sadly no matter how hard the penalties are you can never give back that moment a clean athlete is robbed of their special time in history.

I worry that my daughter who does track and field at junior international level may not be always competing on a level playing field but I know as her parent I would never knowingly let her take anything that would mean she either cheats others out of their success or risks her future health.

I’d like to think I have helped to grow her into a fair minded and responsible young person, who will always fight for that level playing field, and give her all there…

Medals are important, they can change lives…but they are never worth a life!

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