|Chris Wardlaw leading a race in his prime.|
Asafa Powell and Tyson Gaye have just failed drug tests and won't be running in the upcoming World Championships.
Personally, I have been struggling with respiratory problems for a couple of years and had my latest medical appointment yesterday. I had been using a prescribed asthma medication, Symbicort, and have now been switched by my doctor to Seretide. Following a few recent respiratory issues, my doctor had also prescribed Prednisolone for a limited period. However, as is my habit, I Googled the medications prescribed for me before taking them and discovered that a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) is needed for Prednisolone if competing in sport. Symbicort and Seretide are permitted, though the former must not be used excessively (700% more than prescribed). I didn't bother filling the Prednisolone prescription.
Some argue that performance enhancing drugs should not be banned so that there is a level playing field for all athletes. I think this is a flawed argument. I believe there would be a race to the bottom and many vulnerable athletes would suffer permanent damage, and possibly death. There are already celebrated cases of cyclists and runners dying in mysterious circumstances, possibly associated with the use of performance enhancing drugs.
A related question is the appropriate definition of performance enhancing. An argument, made by a great Australian runner and coach, Chris Wardlaw, with whom I used to occasionally train and play golf in my younger days, was that anything that enabled an athlete to train harder, especially when injured, was a performance enhancing drug. His view was that an important determinant of an athlete's competitiveness was the amount of training they were able to absorb. If medical intervention was required to allow an athlete to continue to train or train harder, such as taking anti-inflammatories (even over-the-counter), because of a muscle tear, or similar, then Chris argued the anti-inflammatory was a performance enhancing drug. I always thought Chris had a valid point, though it might be hard to draw the line. For instance, what about knee surgery that ultimately gets an athlete running again, when otherwise, their career would be over?
I spent a lot of time mulling over Chris's argument, and agonising over my own occasional use of prescribed anti-inflammatory medications as I became a more serious runner. I wanted to be ethically squeaky clean, but also thought the line Chris wanted to draw was too draconian and perhaps too blurry. Ultimately, I came to the view that any drug or medical procedure that would make no difference to the performance of a healthy fully-trained athlete, was not performance enhancing. This seems to be the principle underlying the WADA prohibited list as well.
I walked another 5km this morning, and will do the same tomorrow and start jogging a little on Friday. There is still some minor discomfort in my right arch and I'm certainly not confident that I'm over the injury. Fingers crossed!