Editorial: Athletes should take lead vs. doping competitors

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Using performance-enhancing drugs is an outrage against the very notion of competitive sports.

Until now, athletes have rarely spoken out against their doping competitors. But if what happened in recent days in swimming competitions at Rio de Janeiro is any indication, that may be changing. It’s an approach that’s longer overdue. If the fight against doping in sports is to be won, elite athletes must take the lead.

As reported in the New York Times Tuesday, American swimmer Lilly King freely criticized swimmer Yulia Efimova of Russia, who had served a 16-month doping suspension imposed by FINA, international swimming’s governing body, that ended last year. Efimova also failed a test earlier this year for meldonium, which boosts exercise capacity.


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Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who also served a doping suspension, similarly came in for a hefty dose of rebuke.

Many people, including athletes, have lost confidence that governing bodies in sports will ensure competition is not tainted by performance-enhancing drugs. Bob Bowman, the longtime coach of Michael Phelps, told the New York Times: “It’s very concerning to me that our governing bodies have dropped the ball in many ways on this. The system is broke, and it has to be fixed.”

Phelps said, “I think I can honestly say in my career I don’t know if I’ve ever competed in a clean sport. And it’s upsetting.”

We see story after story of athletes using banned substances, sometimes along with masking agents to hide them. An arms race of sorts has developed between athletes exploring new ways to improve performance and labs trying to devise more sophisticated tests to catch them.

But the best way to return sports to a healthy climate of fair competition would be for more athletes themselves to speak out against those caught doping.

Let’s hope Rio is a start.

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