In sports, doping is generally the use of performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids or EPO, particularly those that are forbidden by the organizations that regulate competitions in a certain sport. Some doping substances, however, are permitted in low doses (alcohol and caffeine). Another form of doping is "blood doping," this can be described as a blood transfusion from one person to the other. Blood transfusions are reported to boost endurance by pumping oxygen-rich red blood cells to the muscles. Also considered "doping" by many is the use of substances that mask other forms of doping.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs is not a new phenomenon: athletes have been using various substances for centuries. Ancient Greeks, including Olympic champions, would use sheep's testicles.
The first modern incident of doping was in 1865, when Dutch swimmers used stimulants. In the late 19th century European cyclists were using substances like caffeine and ether-coated sugar cubes to reduce pain and delay fatigue.
In the 1904 Olympics, Thomas Hicks (USA) won the marathon at St Louis and collapsed. It took hours to revive him; he had taken brandy mixed with cocaine to help him win his gold medal.
In most sports, controls such as urine and blood tests are now being made to check for doping among top level athletes.
Doping is often considered a form of unfair competition; also, many forms of doping can be hazardous to the athlete's health, with symptoms sometimes not occurring until after their career. Doping may, in some jurisdictions, lead to criminal charges, especially if it involves the illegal usage or prescription of prescription drugs or even narcotics.
In 1998, a major doping scandal erupted on the Tour de France.
In the past couple of years a new form of doping has been reported, it's gene doping. This is starting to form a larger threat because of recent advances in gene therapy. This gene doping would be very difficult to detect and when used it will last for many years. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has already asked scientists to help find ways to prevent gene therapy from being used in the future, they want to precent that it becomes the newest mean of doping.
- Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a controversial sports nutrition center in California allegedly linked to doping of many high-profile athletes.
- World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Homepage (http://www.wada-ama.org/en/t1.asp)
- Olympic Movement Anti-doping Code (http://multimedia.olympic.org/pdf/en_report_21.pdf) (PDF)