Every time an Olympic Games comes around, the focus of the entire world automatically shifts to a range of aspects – the build-up of the star athletes in different disciplines, the last-minute preparations of the hosts and sadly, positive dope tests.
And when it comes to doping, there is no bigger case than that of disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening cancer when he was 25, Armstrong not only won over the challenge of the disease but returned to the cycling arena when many thought he would be lucky to survive, let alone resume his career.
The Texan lad went on to win a jaw-dropping seven Tour de France titles and in the intervening years, became an inspiration to millions across the globe. His yellow wristband “Livestrong”, championing the cause of cancer victims throughout the world even today, became an instant hit among thousands, mainly the young generation.
However, the whole world came crushing down on Armstrong and his legion of fans as he was accused of systematic doping by a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation. He was later slapped with a lifetime ban but the damage had already been done by then.
Rightly stripped of all his cycling titles, Armstrong betrayed his followers, family, friends, but most importantly, his ethics.
But as far as doping in Olympics is concerned, the Russian contingent prior to the upcoming 2016 Rio Games have surpassed all the previous controversies.
Accused of state-sponsored and systematic doping in recent times, namely the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, 108 Russian athletes including cyclists, rowers, swimmers, canoeists and weightlifters have so far been banned from participating in the most prestigious sporting event of the world. The most shocking omission is perhaps that of decorated Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic gold medallist.
While hundreds of clean and honest Russian Olympians are expected in Rio, the majority of the 387-strong contingent still face an uncertain future with just a few days left till the opening ceremony.
In order to curb doping, the concerned authorities – be it regulatory bodies or anti-doping agencies – must be more ruthless and pro-active. But what happens when the people in power themselves are involved in wrongdoing? For instance, the previous president of IAAF, Senegalese Lamine Diack was recently accused of receiving bribes in 2011 to cover up positive doping tests of Russian athletes.
Doping in sports however, is not a lost case by any stretch of the imagination. When sincere athletes like US champion swimmer Michael Phelps (notwithstanding his few laughing gas controversies), Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt, British track and field athlete Jessica-Ennis Hill, Ethiopian legend Haile Gebrselassie and Moroccan middle-distance runner Hicham El Guerrouj inspire millions of kids and supporters alike with their heroics, the power of sport becomes clearly visible.
So, all is not doom and gloom. All that needs to be done is for the ruling body to place the utmost emphasis on fair-play and the athletes to be more responsible with their actions. When both of these factors are taken care of, everything else will fall into place.