Amateur doping



Back to the subject of sport. A few days ago I wrote a post on the risks of young people taking sport too seriously and on the physical and psychological damage resulting from too much competitive activity.

In the days that followed, I continued to think this over and talk about it with sports enthusiast friends. What concerned me was another aspect that’s just as worrying and in some ways paradoxical: doping. We’ve all heard stories about athletes who’ve endangered their career and health through the use of illegal substances.

But, and here’s the paradox, few are aware that the percentage of athletes resorting to doping is much higher in amateur than in professional sports: in 2011, according to the Italian Ministry of Health, doping in cycling involved 9% of amateur cyclists, compared with 0.9% of professionals. That’s right! Regular people are prepared to risk their lives (and break the law) to be among the winners in their local cycling event.

In this way sport is corrupted, not once but twice. Firstly, because an activity that should be healthy ends up being harmful, very harmful. Secondly because sport means effort, sweat, gritting your teeth and challenging yourself; if performance enhancing drugs are used, any victory is a false one.

Once again, the key word is “moderation”. Sport for all, at all ages. But for every age, every living body, every level of fitness and every single person, there must be a boundary. In the absence of a scientific formula, perhaps that boundary could be ‘enjoyment’.