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We're winning the fight against doping in sports

Despite sensational scandals, antidoping efforts – and a shift in values – are restoring integrity.

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Meanwhile, headlines and dismal revelations about doping shouldn't discourage us. After all, that means cheaters are being caught. It remains much easier to cheat than to catch cheaters, because testers respect rules and cheaters don't.

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Some critics say that antidoping efforts up to now, which have mostly been to enforce rules, have not worked well enough. They say it's time to try something different. The good news is, we are.

Since the best way to detect progress is to look decades into the past, the best way to look ahead is to look far into the future – for generational change.

This is being catalyzed by programs such as the World Antidoping Agency's Play True Generation Program, which promotes value-based decision-making, the US Antidoping Agency and Discovery Education collaboration to fund creative school programs, and the Youth Olympic Games for athletes ages 14-18.

The inaugural Youth Olympics gathered some 3,600 athletes from more than 200 countries in Singapore in August 2010. The games had cultural and educational dimensions, allowing young athletes the time and opportunity to share something beyond sport. This is what sport can do to help make the world a better place: Make it clear that winning in life is more important than winning a gold medal.

The International Olympic Committee's track record since the 1960s shows that organizations can go from years of being criticized for not doing enough against doping to leading the way into the future by reaffirming fundamental values and redefining goals. Why couldn't any and all other sports organizations do that, too?

If we can list the forces for and against doping, then we can tip the balance to minimize doping – if that's what we want.

Deemphasize fame and fortune

We should deemphasize fame and fortune as goals and values. Parents should make sure they encourage kids to perform well in sports to teach them about mental discipline and self-improvement, not to fulfill a selfish quest for fame and pride.

Parents should also realize how influential they are as role models. They must watch out for the messages they send to their children, and the values they embody, through their own choices, including as consumers.

We should stop expecting records to keep falling and stop expecting athletes to be superhuman. We can eliminate the perceived need to be on drugs to remain competitive by resetting our expectations of athletic performance. And we should prepare athletes to be contributing members of society when their sports careers end, while rewarding athletes who are role models of health and fitness.

Related opinion: Drugs in sports: No outrage?

Such changes may seem unimaginable today. But they are within our grasp.

The temptation to use drugs in sports reflects the larger temptation to cut corners in life. Perhaps the most powerful antidote ultimately arises from a single value: respect. We can cultivate respect for ourselves by living a simpler life, aligned with our most important priorities. Doing that leads to an inner peace that may be the truest form of happiness, and makes us all winners.

Caroline K. Hatton is a sports antidoping scientist and the author of "The Night Olympic Team – Fighting to Keep Drugs Out of the Games."


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