Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Mysterious Russian soul to be declared as doping

What is doping? What are the principles for making the list of banned substances? Who determines the criteria for a "fair play" in sports? Why do modern anti-doping rules ignore the rights and interests of athletes? Pravda.Ru conducted an interview on the subject with specialist in sports medicine, Evgeny Kovalev.

"Sport has long been a mechanism of international policy, and we can now see how doping is used as an instrument of struggle. But what is doping?"

"They call it the use of prohibited drugs or methods in sport for higher achievements. There is the  Anti-Doping Code, approved by WADA. This code prohibits specific substances, such as a variety of hormones, peptide substance, and others. Some of them are prohibited at all times, but there are substances that are prohibited during non-competitive or competitive periods.

"There can be specific substances for specific types of sport. For shooters, for example, the use of beta-blockers that slow the heart rate is prohibited during the in-competition period. A number of techniques can also be regarded as doping. For the so-called blood doping, autotransfusion is used, when an athlete gives blood for control before this blood is transfused to the same athlete. The effectiveness of these techniques is questionable enough, and they are hardly ever used now."

"Why is it forbidden?"

"There is the fair play concept. One should play games in a fair, open, clear and appropriate way. Doping violates all these concepts. From the start of the Olympic Games in modern history, horrible substances were used for doping, such as strychnine. Runners used to take whiskey, etc. That is, athletes tried to use anything that they could to enhance their performance. Then, with the development of pharmacology, they switched to other medications."

"Were they more sophisticated?"

"Yes, more sophisticated and effective techniques and medications. One may remember such a notion as "Breakfast of Champions" when athletes used to take different pills in the mornings. Eventually, the society stopped perceiving such practices as a way of pharmacological support for athletes."

"How to strike a balance between issues of fair play and athletes' health?"

"Athlete's health is a priority. It is an open secret that such practices and techniques affect human state negatively. For example, German athletes even had to change their sex after using hormone drugs for too long. An athlete needs to understand that they risk their health if they take doping drugs."

"Is there a technique to determine which substances can be prohibited?"

"Experts submit these questions to the Presidium of the WADA. If they see that a person takes a certain medication that may improve certain qualities in a person, then this substance appears on the list of banned drugs.

"It should be understood that athlete are powerless here. For example, when an athlete requires  some sort of treatment, he or she can not simply take the medications that doctors prescribe them. At first, they need to know whether those drugs are included on the list of banned substances. Some have to prove that they need to use this specific drug for medical treatment - this is a whole procedure that no one wants to go through. An application for therapeutic exemption is considered within 21 days - this is a lot of time. One also needs to arrange the treatment properly and prepare a report about it. Professional athletes can not receive medical treatment like all other people."

"Is is possible to change a decision on the inclusion of certain products or methods on the prohibited list?"

"It can be possible, but they do not do it frequently. As a rule, a procedure to ban a substance takes a long time. WADA specialists need to monitor the period to understand the effect that substances produce. The emotional state of an athlete is also very important at this point. Many find it difficult to overcome the fear of competitions, so they take some drugs to feel more confident. Now such athletes receive assistance from psychologists.

"If Russian athletes continue to win no matter what, it is quite possible that they will introduce the concept of "psychological doping" - dependence on the coach or on the psychologist."

"Maybe they will declare the mysterious Russian soul doping too."

"Yes. By the way, there were incidents, when they tried to analyze the pre-start behavior of athletes - what mascots they were kissing and so on. Some international sports federations attempted to bring it to a standard."

Interviewed by Dmitry Nersesov

Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru