Is doping by athletes a new phenomenon? Most people would be surprised with the answer, which is no. There is a history of taking performance enhancing drugs which dates back to the first days of Olympics, almost 2000 years ago. Let’s discover this behaviour in detail.

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Who does doping in sports?

Is it just one gender or one ethnicity? Not really. Players from all walks of life have been known to take drugs. Be it the German players in 1980s or Ben Johnson, the sprinter from Canada in 1988 Olympics. Even the Chinese swimming team in the last 15 years were known to have meddled with drugs. Committed athletes like Lance Armstrong and athletes who are the face of honest and hard play, like Maria Sharapova and Tyson Gay, have also been found guilty of doping.

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Various studies of American high school athletes estimate that 5.9 percent of boys and 4.6 percent of girls have used anabolic steroids to help them build muscle. We look towards sports psychology to help us understand the motivation to take performance enhancing drugs.

Short term gains

The most obvious answers to doping is for the greed of quick short-cut to fame and money. Athletics is highly competitive and players often do not have a large window to succeed in. The career span tends to be of 10 – 20 years, which is quite less when you compare to what needs to be achieved. Further, their lives are full of games, competitions and training sessions. For some, drugs are just a way to keep their performance at par despite such physical strains on their body. For some athletes, the short term gains may be the only ones that matter. However, that is not true for all.

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Pressure to succeed

The basic belief of athletics is constant competition. Mentally, that can lead to a lot of stress as constantly being on edge can lead to a mental burnout, which puts us in a state of mind where we may take shortcuts. The cultural pressure to succeed and be first all the time or a champion all the time does not help. Athletes know that only the best of them will be remembered and cared for, and so they try all paths to reach that spot. In our present culture, winning is everything. It may even become more important than the spirit of play. Further, fan reactions are very black and white. Either they love you, or they don’t. To stay up in fan’s eyes, the only way is to give a top notch performance.

Other supporting thoughts and beliefs

In addition to the above reasons, there are some other beliefs that actually lead to doping behaviour. These are “everyone’s doing it, I will miss out if I don’t” and “I won’t get caught, many others have not been caught”. Also, “what if I don’t do this, and some athlete who does gets an edge over me?” These thoughts come because of the human tendency to make thinking errors. These arise when taking a decision that may be rationally wrong and risky. These further aid the athlete in thinking it is okay to take the drug and they will not get caught.

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