This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty. Our subject this week
is sports doping.
have long been part of popular culture. In the United States, some players are as famous as movie stars or rock
musicians. The lives of famous athletes are
described not only in the news media, but in films and literature.
Sports also have found
their way into everyday sayings. One
such example says: "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the
game." That expression has been used for
many years to define honor in sports. But today, many people question the honor of some athletes.
week, a star of North American baseball announced he had used a banned
substance to improve his performance. Alex Rodriguez apologized for using the substance during a three-year
period beginning in two thousand one.
Rodriguez is the highest-paid player in Major League
Baseball. His comments came two days
after a magazine reported that he failed a test for performance-improving
drugs, also known as anabolic steroids. Sports Illustrated reported that Rodriguez failed the test in two
thousand three. That same year, he won
the first of his three most valuable player awards. The report said more than one hundred other
players also failed the test.
Major League Baseball did
not begin punishing its players for using steroids until two thousand
Most sports organizations have banned the non-medical
use of steroids. But some athletes continue
to take them. They believe these
substances help them in competition.
are used to increase muscle strength. But steroids can damage the liver and halt the production of
testosterone. They can also cause
who take steroids may become increasingly angry. Some become dependent on steroids and feel
they cannot live without them. Users can
become depressed and, in some cases, even want to kill themselves.
What does it mean to have high
levels of testosterone? Testosterone is
a steroid hormone. Hormones are
chemicals that help keep the body working normally.
effects of testosterone can be seen in boys when they become young men. They develop muscle power and become
stronger. Testosterone is also important
for other changes, like a deeper voice and the growth of hair.
is produced in the adrenal glands and reproductive organs. Both men and women produce testosterone. Men produce much more of it than women
do. But not all males produce the same
amounts. Some naturally have higher
levels than others.
Some people take testosterone supplements. Such products are manufactured in a
laboratory for medical purposes. But
some athletes use testosterone to strengthen their muscles and improve their
performance. These products are banned
in many sports.
Researchers who have studied testosterone generally
agree that long-term use may increase athletic performance. But they disagree about the short-term
value. Also, testosterone supplements
have risks. Most doctors agree that
taking large amounts of testosterone can cause harmful effects. These include an increased risk of heart
Athletes from around the world gathered
in China last year for the Beijing Olympic Games. They competed for the honor of being the fastest,
strongest or most skilled performer in a sporting event. But did the athletes compete in fairness and
truth? Did those who received medals win
because of natural ability? Or did they get
help from the use of performance-improving drugs?
Recently, the International Olympic Committee
announced plans to re-test blood from more than five hundred Olympic competitors. First results are expected in March.
testing for continuous erythropoiesis receptor activator, or CERA. This is a new version of the endurance
improving hormone erythropoietin, also known as EPO. CERA has a longer lasting effect in improving
the transport of oxygen in the blood. We
will tell more about blood doping later in our program.
Ten years ago, the
International Olympic Committee held a conference that led to creation of the
World Anti-Doping Agency. This all
followed events at the Tour de France. In the summer of nineteen ninety-eight, police carried out a raid and
found banned medical substances.
that, the International Olympic Committee led efforts to create an independent
agency to set and enforce common anti-doping rules. The agency has representatives from the
Olympic movement and public officials from around the world. WADA, as the agency is known, has its
headquarters in Montreal, Canada.
is the general term for the use of banned substances or practices to improve
athletic performance. The World
Anti-Doping Agency says the term probably came from the Dutch word
"dop." That was the name for
an alcoholic drink used by Zulu fighters in Africa to improve their performance
The agency says the word doping began to be used for
athletes in the beginning of the twentieth century. At first, it meant the illegal drugging of
The agency notes that athletes
have used substances for centuries to improve their performance. Ancient Greeks used special foods and
drinks. Nineteenth century cyclists and
others used alcohol, caffeine, cocaine -- even strychnine, a strong poison. By the nineteen twenties, sports organizations
were attempting to stop the use of doping substances. But at the time they lacked scientific ways
to test for them.
of doping is called blood doping. This is
the use of substances like hormones or blood itself to increase the production
of red blood cells. That way the blood
moves more oxygen to the muscles, increasing their strength and performance.
such hormone is EPO. It is said to be
most useful to athletes in endurance sports such as cycling and distance
running. Doctors say hormones used for
blood doping thicken the blood and increase the chances of heart disease and
stroke. Also, the use of blood from
another person can spread viruses. But
doctors say even the use of a person's own blood to increase the level of red
blood cells in the body can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.
substance that can be used to increase performance is human growth
hormone. This hormone is produced
naturally by the pituitary gland in the brain. Athletes may take injections of human growth hormone, although that can
be found with blood tests. Experts say
such use of the hormone can cause diabetes, muscle and bone pain, high blood
pressure and other disorders.
dopers continually look for new substances and technologies. The World Anti-Doping Agency has already banned
gene doping, although it says it does not believe anyone is doing it yet.
say they want to be ready with a test to find genetic changes. For example, imagine an athlete whose body
contains genetic material from an animal. In theory, such a person could become a great athlete overnight.
what is wrong with doping? That is a
question some people ask, even some health experts. These people support the idea of medically
supervised doping. They say it would
reduce the dangers. They say
competitions would be fairer if all the competitors were openly permitted to
take part in doping.
Anti-Doping Agency published a statement from its medical director. Alain Garnier said doctors should have
nothing to do with doping. Doctor
Garnier said helping athletes perform better is not necessarily good for their
he called it wrong and irresponsible to say that permitting doping would create
an equal playing field. To accept
doping, he said, would permit economic resources and scientific expertise to decide
competition. And, he said, only those
with the resources and the expertise would win.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Lawan Davis. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Faith Lapidus.
I'm Bob Doughty. Read and listen to our
programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join
us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice