Bruce Svare, psychology professor, explains why anti-doping efforts are seemingly going nowhere, and why we should care.
ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 13, 2018) – There seems to be a global epidemic when it comes to cheating and high-level sports: FIFA, NCAA men’s basketball, the Tour de France and, most recently, the 2018 Olympics, doping and the Russians.
Sports internationally are in crisis. Why, and what can be done to identify and address the causes?
The Office of Communications and Marketing called Bruce Svare, a psychology professor at UAlbany and the director of the National Institute for Sports Reform, for some answers.
Q: Is it in fact a trend, an epidemic? Why are we seeing this pattern?
A: Money. The rewards for athletes these days is enormous. If you can improve your performance by shaving off some time for example, or getting bigger and stronger, faster, you’re going to do it. It’s as simple as that.
Q:Earlier this month, 28 Russian athletes had their bans overturned. What does this outcome mean or suggest for the future of anti-doping efforts?
A: Well, it drives another nail into the credibility coffin. It’s just not credible that these individuals would be banned because of positive tests and then for them to reverse it.
I think the most important thing to recognize in all of this is that testing is absolutely a monumental failure. It catches a very small number of people, and it understates a much larger problem.
It tends to catch individuals who are stupid or careless. The athletes are 20 steps ahead of the testers. They know what to take, when to take it, how to hide it, how to mask it, and they’re professionals at gaming the system. All testing is doing is perpetuating the myth that sports are clean, and at the highest levels, but they’re not. It’s all who has the best pharmacist.
Q:What, then, has to happen for public faith in the Olympics as athletic competition to be restored?
A: Get serious about it. I’m not going to watch one second; I don’t know what I’m watching. I don’t know how much of it is drug-aided and how much of it is not drug-aided. I truly believe that world-class athletes and professional athletes are an absolute lost cause. I don’t really care about them anymore.
What I care about is the younger kids who sees this as a way of potentially getting better at their sport. They don’t understand what the risks are that are involved, and they see their heroes accomplishing these great feats, and then essentially getting slapped on the wrist when something does happen in terms of the few that are actually detected.