The Olympic rings are seen at Yokohama Baseball Stadium as the field is prepared for softball competition at the Summer Olympics in Japan.

A tall hurdle for these Olympics

The pandemic is only one of the Games’ problems. Strong suspicions of doping by athletes continue to demand solutions for fair competition.

The Summer Olympics, which open July 23 in Japan, promise to be one of the most unusual Games in modern history. For one, they will be performed before very few in-person spectators. They also are a year late, a result of the pandemic. They are officially still the 2020 Olympic Games. But one thing won’t be new: the suspicion that a sizable percentage of athletes will have broken the rules of fair play and used banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Just how many athletes will cheat in this way is difficult to know, but some estimate it could be thousands of the 11,000 or so who will compete. Australian swimmer Kyle Chalmers, who won the 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympics, has said, “I can probably not trust half the guys I’m competing against.”

Testing to detect doping has improved. But in an ongoing “arms race,” new drugs and new ways to fool tests are always emerging.

In one of the biggest moves against doping in Olympic history, the Russian Federation has been banned from officially appearing at these Games after doping violations that involved hundreds of athletes. However, some 330 Russian athletes will still be allowed to compete under special rules: They will not officially represent Russia but rather the “Russian Olympic Committee.” The word “Russia” will not appear on their uniforms. The Russian national anthem will not be played nor the Russian flag displayed.

Other countries have seen a number of athletes barred, some of them medal contenders. Brazil’s top hope in heavyweight weightlifting, Fernando Reis, has been suspended for doping. Kenya was forced to remove two runners from its team because they failed to take all the required doping tests. And U.S. hurdler Brianna McNeal, who won a gold medal in 2016, has received a five-year ban on competing for numerous doping rules violations.

The rewards from doping for athletes and the prestige for their home countries from Olympic victories can be enticing. During the heyday of doping in the last half of the 20th century, East Germany became the poster child for drug-aided success. Olympic records set in the 1980s that remain unbroken today carry a suspicion of drug-enhanced performances.

Despite the ongoing battle against doping in 2021, there’s reason to believe the situation has improved markedly since the 1980s. But as long as the drugging threatens to create an uneven playing field, the Olympics will never fully become the ultimate showcase of athletic achievement they are meant to be.

“If the point of sport is to test the natural limits of human nature then, by artificially extending those limits, doping is at odds with the essence of sport,” writes Heather Dyke, a fellow in the department of philosophy, logic, and scientific method at the London School of Economics.

The Olympic Charter, set out in 1908, calls for “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” where “the spirit of fair play prevails.” Athletes should compete under mutually agreed rules so that honest winners may be determined.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A tall hurdle for these Olympics
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today