Drug Testing in Athletics





From workplace to school, from professional sports to the armed forces, the
advent of drug-testing procedures has stirred debate and controversy. The
issue of drug testing in athletics seems to be the most prevalent debate. An
incident that really brought drug testing into the spotlight is the track and field
event in the 1988 Summer World Olympic Games. The two competitors in the
limelight were Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson, both excellent and very emulating
runners who have beaten each other in past competitions. This was the
opportunity for the whole world to see who the true champion was after the 100
meter dash. In a quick ten seconds, Ben Johnson crossed the finish line as a
champion, and from then on he was known as the fastest man alive. A week
later a drug test was administered to Ben Johnson, and he then confessed to
being a user of an illegal drug, anabolic steroids. Since the use of any kind of
illegal drugs, including steroids, was and still is against Olympic regulations, Ben
Johnson was stripped of his gold medal, that was then awarded to Carl Lewis
(Galas,1997). Due to this incident and many others, drug testing should be
enforced because it provides drug using athletes an unfair advantage, can
eliminate any potential drug related health problems, and so that children can
have worthy role-models to look up to and admire.
Although designed to protect and thereby curtail the use of illegal drugs,
the well-intended procedure of testing athletes involves many difficult issues,
such as the issue of privacy. Those against drug testing feel that it should be
banned because it violates the Fourth Amendment which defends and protects
the rights of the American citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The amendment states that “The right of the people to be secure in their
persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable
cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to
be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” (Cornell.edu). Many feel
that the act of testing a person for illegal drugs is an invasion of one’s privacy.
What an athlete wishes to do with his/her own body, whether being good or bad,
is that athlete’s prerogative and cannot be infringed. No matter how strenuous
the circumstances may be, every one deserves that right of privacy and no
individual should be permitted to partake in the invasion of it.
Another opposition to drug testing is that the results from drug tests are
not always 100 percent accurate due to non-certified laboratories, not carefully
watched specimens, and no follow up tests being administered. Opposers feel,
“a false-positive is the finding by a drug test of a drug that is not, in fact, present
in the tested sample” (Levine, 1998, p. 102). This can occur when specimens
get mixed up. Also tests can pick up substances that are contained in simple
over-the-counter products or food that can make the test come back positive
(Levine, 1998). “All some test show is a person came into contact with some
type of drug at one time. Tests may not give sufficient information to indicate the
way the drug got into a person’s body” (Levine, 1998, p.103). Due to these
uncertainties and suspicions, athletes can be wrongfully accused of being a drug
abuser and therefore might possibly be wrongfully punished.
In addition to not being 100 percent accurate the act of tampering with
samples can lead to falsified specimens. “There have also been accusations of
cheating, when urine samples are collected. Some athletes say that it is easy to
switch bottles or to bribe an official to swap the athlete’s ‘dirty’ sample of urine
for a ‘clean’ one before it is tested” (Goldma & Klatz, 1992, p. 41). Therefore,
drug testing can be highly ineffective and unproductive in ceasing drug usage
due to these dubieties.
Another opposition to drug testing is that some specimens that come back
positive are insulting and offensive to other athletes, whether being teammates
or rival players. Some teammates might possibly be embarrassed to be part of a
team where players are involved in illegal activities, such as the use of drugs
and steroids. When an athlete from a certain team or school has a test that
comes back positive, then those athletes who play by the rules and have
negative tests feel as though everyone from that particular organization has a
label as a drug abuser. For example, Lawrence Taylor, a football player for the
New York