“Doping.” It’s an emotionally-laden word in the sports world, most recently evinced on this side of the Atlantic during the Greek League championship series, where accusations flew, nothing was proven and nothing remained except a few fines and bad feelings. Contributor Melissa Hathaway takes a brief look at the complex issue…

An Issue
An ever-prevalent issue within modern sports, the subject of illicit chemically aided performance enhancement, is one sure to strike conversation among most followers of many of the world’s popular and relevant sporting fields. Whether briefing oneself on the recent fall from grace endured by superstar cyclist Lance Armstrong, an ordeal which reportedly saw him lose an estimated $75 million in just one day, or taking in the facts surrounding the cases of such European court figures as Karem Gonlum, Kaspars Kambala, Mario Kasun or Jose N’Sima, you’re likely to very quickly discover the sheer scope of the issue in question here.

Though the issue of doping has long been on the tongue tips of so many, it is all too often avoided- aside from in the wake of such aforementioned scandals of course.

In Relation to Basketball
In basketball, doping is as much of a problem as it is in just about any other prominent or widely followed sport, with cases of illegal performance enhancement dating almost as far back as the conception of the game itself. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) as I’m sure we are all aware, is the governing body responsible for mediating such cases, and their statistics would suggest that the amount of attention paid towards cases of doping, though somewhat fluctuant, are steadily on the rise.

While arguably far less protuberant than the world renowned NBA, European basketball leagues, and in-turn the players which act to constitute them, face as much scrutiny when it comes to drug testing. As well as the ballers mentioned earlier who hail from the continent, there have been many more cases of discrediting in the European game which are directly associated with doping and performance enhancement over the years.

A particularly noteworthy example of such an instance is the controversial failed drug test, not to mention its subsequent consequences, faced by Greek national centre Giannis Giannoulis around this time one decade ago.
Competing at the highest level of the European game for many seasons, Giannoulis was a fast rising star of the sport for the most part of the 1990s; however, at the culmination of the 2001-2002 season his career was brought to a standstill when he tested positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Marked with a two-year ban from all European continental competitions, Giannis’ case sent shockwaves throughout the international basketball community, being noted as a prime example of the perils which await sportspersons who may lapse in conduct or judgment under the watchful eye of the governing institutions at the head of major sports.

The Assumptions
While many, upon the mere mention of performance enhancement or ‘doping’ would immediately assume the chemicals in question to be anabolic steroids, or at least similar cell-protein creating substances- the truth is that the scope of drugs banned in sports incorporate a far wider range than this. Although anabolic agents are the first item on the list of prohibited substances issued earlier this year by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the likes of cannabinoids, stimulants and hormone modulators also rank very highly as illegitimate means of supplementation. With this, some light is shed on just how easy it can be for an athlete to fall victim to a positive drugs test without possessing any form of intent. In short, maintaining a healthy distance from grade-a anabolic steroids may now be just as important as an ability to learn to recognize signs of Ambien abuse, for instance, or to seek alternative and natural ailment remedies for world class athletes.

The issue of drug-use is one that is widely prevalent within many sects of modern society: with convention, stereotype, connotation and indeed implication constantly-evolving as more is learned about the nature and potential usage of each and every substance, illicit or otherwise.

An On-going Issue
Sport is the professional area with perhaps the most amount of legislation in relation to drug use; as a result the doping question is one unlikely to ever yield any solid results upon which everyone can agree. It is for this reason that the likes of the International Basketball Federation, along with the many other sports governing bodies- are necessary.
Opinion on this matter will always remain divided, as the restrictions laid out for athletes and sportspeople are manipulated in accordance with the sport itself, the agendas of the governing bodies in place and the opinion of experts.