Doping in Sports
Interview with Mark Fainaru-Wada

Mark Fainaru-Wada, an investigative reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, broke the story of BALCO, a California company that according to sworn testimony was providing banned drugs to famous athletes. On 26 June, he participated at a debate on "The Doping Crisis in Sport" at UNESCO Headquarters.
Interview conducted by Edna Yahil from UNESCO's Bureau of Public Information.

Question: We’d like to talk to you briefly about the issue of sports and values. Where exactly does doping fit in?
Answer: Doping falls in hand in the whole issue of values. There are some people who argue, “why not let athletes do their drugs and whatever else it takes to win?” To me, there are two critical reasons why doping is a problem. First, there’s a problem for athletes who compete at the highest level. They shouldn’t be forced to make the choice of using these drugs that may be harmful to them physically in order to level the field just because they think someone else might be. The other issue is that whether these athletes want to admit it or not, they are role models. All that they do trickles down to colleges and high schools. If the message is that it is ok to use performance-enhancing drugs at the elite level of sports, then high-school kids, we have seen, will believe that it’s ok for them to use the drugs too. This is an inherent abuse of our values.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about the BALCO scandal?
Answer: BALCO begins, at least publicly in 2003. There was a raid by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States on a little laboratory out of San Francisco known as BALCO. My colleague Lance Williams and I were assigned to go and try to find out what was going on and if there was a story there. We quickly figured out the story was not about taxes, but rather this was a steroids case. And some very famous athletes were told that they were going to be implicated for using these drugs.

Question: What role do organizations and governments play in the fight against doping?
Answer: Certainly within the olympic movement there is the governing body of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). In general, as the BALCO case illustrates, it seems as though we are seeing more and more interest by governments in tackling this issue.

Question: Are some sports more susceptible to doping?
Answer: I think you can find a drug to help in any sport.

Question: How does doping affect children?
Answer: In the United States there have been statistics that anywhere from 4-11% of high school football players have used performance-enhancing drugs. This is a pretty startling number. There is no question that these drugs have vast physical and psychological effects on young people. This level is where the battle needs to be waged, and now more than ever there is an effort to educate about this issue. Currently, there is a national dialogue going on in the United States as well as internationally about the use of these substances at the high school level.

Mark Fainaru-Wada is the co-author with Lance Williams of Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports.

UNESCO and Anti-Doping
Doping does irreparable harm to sport and all its participants.

International Convention against Doping in Sport

Photo: © Penni Gladstone - San Francisco Chronicle
Mark Fainaru-Wada
Publication Date 27-06-2006 10:35 am
Publication Date 27-06-2006 10:35 am
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