On The Popularity And Ease Of Use of Doping In Professional Sports
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Icarus is the story of the prominence and ease of doping in professional sports, told through the eyes of American cyclist, Bryan Fogel. After consulting several doctors in his quest to successfully dope undetected, Fogel discovers Grigory Rodchenkov, a scientist who, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, is responsible for drug testing Russia’s Olympic athletes. Rodchenkov eventually turns against Russia and accuses Russian Olympic athletes of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, with Putin’s full knowledge and encouragement. Rodchenkov’s insights and information were invaluable since he was in charge of the key laboratory executing this doping, for every Olympic Games since 2010. The film culminates with Rodchenkov releasing his evidence of doping to the public, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and the United States judicial system.
Russia is initially partially banned from the 2016 Olympics, but WADA lifts the ban. Rodchenkov, fearing for his life, went into witness protection. The rule is simple and straightforward. Olympic athletes cannot take Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs); they can’t “dope”. Not only does doping violate the rules; it is seen as morally and ethically wrong. The essence of sports is true competition. Doping is looked at by most as cheating, as lying; it’s dishonest. In the realm of deontological ethics, the tenets are simple: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat. Russia violated all three. The Russian science team stole doped urine and replaced it with clean urine during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Russian administration and Vladimir Putin lied about all of it.
As a result, Russia’s athletes were stripped of their medals and were banned for cheating. As such, on its face, it seems there would be no dilemma in a deontological ethics sense that Russia is plainly wrong, no analysis necessary. I do not see it that clear-cut. From Russia’s viewpoint, it was only doing what many other countries were doing in the Olympics, and professional athletes in many sports had acknowledged doing. It is difficult if not impossible to maintain the essence of true competition when, according to Rodchenkov, dozens of other countries are doping. Therefore, is the fault solely with Rodchenkov and Russia, or does it also fall on the organizations monitoring the doping? A legitimate deontological ethical issue is created here when organizations like the IOC and WADA aren’t doing enough to stop doping.
Countries are more focused now on methods to sneak doping past these agencies rather than on true competition. The organizations are aware of these doping methods, and are ethically culpable for not doing enough about it. Doping has begun to take on a “follow-the-leader but don’t-get-caught” dynamic, encouraged by the fact that only Russia has been caught and significantly punished at the Olympic level. The same dynamic exists in, for instance, Major League Baseball, with its substantial PED problem. The IOC and WADA, like Russia and other countries, have to begin to abide by the tenets of Deontological ethics. Don’t dope, and then lie about the problem of doping. Don’t cheat the system by selectively enforcing the rules, against only certain athletes and countries. Don’t steal the true essence of sports—the competition.