The word doping comes from “dope”, which is an alcoholic drink of African origin used as a stimulant in ceremonial dances. With the passage of time and referring fundamentally to the sports field, dope evolved into doping.
But when did doping start? Is it a modern practice? The truth is that there are records of the origins of doping on different continents. In Europe, the Vikings already used fly agaric as a hallucinogen to increase its value in combat. In Asia, it is known that 5,000 years ago ginseng and opium were already used. In America, the Incas used coca to travel long distances in a short time, mitigating fatigue. And in Africa “khat” leaves were used with effects similar to ephedrine, reducing the sensation of sleep, fatigue and hunger.
Although if we stick exclusively to the use of stimulant substances in sports, we know that already in the Olympic Games in Classical Greece in the 7th century BC. performance-enhancing concoctions, potions, and foods were used. But from the 19th century, with the appearance of modern sports, the use of pharmacological products to increase sports performance began. In 1896, the English cyclist Arthur Linton, winner of the Paris-Bordeaux, presumably died as a result of the use of doping substances. And in the 20th century, the use of amphetamines and anabolic steroids became common. The first documented case of doping is that of the marathon winner at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Thomas Hicks, who consumed alcohol and strychnine throughout the race and fainted after reaching the finish line.
In the 60s, the use of anabolics became common, and there were several deaths of athletes as a result. The International Olympic Committee then decided to establish mandatory anti-doping controls starting with the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Urinalysis was carried out during the games and substances used to produce only short-term effects were detected.
After the cases detected between 1988 with the positive Ben Johnson in the Seoul Olympics after winning in the final of the 100 meter sprint, and 1998 with the Festina case in the Tour de France that affected cyclists such as Richard Virenque and Alex Zulle, The IOC would decide to start performing doping controls sporadically and by surprise, thus creating the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999.
But anti-doping controls, although increasingly sophisticated, are always behind the cheats and despite the fact that it is increasingly difficult to deceive laboratories, the truth is that there are still a number of athletes who insist on wanting to play with an advantage . And during the 21st century doping cases have continued to occur. Without going any further, the WADA sanctioned all Russian athletes in 2019 for state doping, being excluded for two years from the main international competitions, including the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Many have been the athletes who have stained their name forever because of doping: Maradona in the 1994 World Cup in the USA, Lance Armstrong, fraudulent winner of 7 Tour de France, Marion Jones, sprinter and jumper who had to return the 3 gold medals and the two bronze ones that she won at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, or the tennis player Maria Sharapova in 2016.
It seems that the words of the Baron de Coubertin, “the most important thing in sport is not winning, but participating, because the essential thing in life is not success, but striving to achieve it”, many times fall on deaf ears, and that some put before win even with cheats.