Athletics and drugs do not share the spotlight often, but when the two combine, it usually turns heads. At the center of this spectrum is the omnipresent controversy of performance-enhancing drugs. An issue that was once conveniently covered up in order to pack ballparks and, thus, maximize profits (e.g., the inflated power numbers in Major League Baseball in the late 1990s and early 2000s) is now the subject of hyper-scrutiny by professional sports leagues, athletic committees, and even the US federal government—courtesy of taxpayer-funded revenue.
In 2012, this issue takes center stage on the international level leading up to the 30th Olympiad in London, which opens today. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the global Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have announced the launch of the 2 FIELDS 1 GOAL: Protecting the Integrity of Science and Sport campaign, a program that aims to achieve the goals of the Joint Declaration on Cooperation in the Fight against Doping in Sport.
In 1988, while the US was in the midst of gaining the upper hand on the Soviet Union in the Cold War, other foreign entanglements were taking place in other global locales—below the 38th parallel in Seoul, South Korea. Carl Lewis of the US was one of the world’s renowned sprinters of the day—and would seemingly meet his match in the Olympics. A Jamaican-born Canadian runner named Ben Johnson shocked the world and bested Lewis in the 100-m dash, and thus, secured a gold medal for Canada—or did he?
Fast forward several days later. Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and disqualified from competition after failing a drug test—traces of the anabolic steroid, stanozol, had been detected in his system. Lewis—the previous silver medalist—was awarded gold shortly thereafter.
Back to 2012. Chemical performance enhancements are now one of the largest regulated areas in sports—especially in the Olympics. “The 2 FIELDS 1 GOAL campaign aims to accomplish the goals that were laid out in the Joint Declaration that IFPMA and BIO signed with WADA,” said Eduardo Pisani, IFPMA director general, in a press release. “Doping is a public health issue and undermines the integrity of scientific innovation and competitive sports. We are pleased to provide support that will help companies determine if they have products in their pipelines that could be abused by athletes, even before they come to market.”
BIO initially announced its support for this measure in a June 28, 2012, press release. “It is of high importance to BIO’s members that their medicines are used for what they were intended—to save lives and improve the quality of life of patients suffering from serious disease,” said BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. “Our members have continually demonstrated their commitment to the anti-doping cause. Our endorsement of this joint declaration is a natural step in this long-standing tradition and enables us to further reach the goal of eradicating doping in sports.”
As we enter the 2012 summer games, we are reminded that sport, competition, and respect—in their purist forms—are what inspire us as the captivated audience in the world’s athletic theater (not artificial advantages). So let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy the friendly athletic competition that we have grown to appreciate about the Olympics. Let’s also hope that the aforementioned athletic regulatory bodies can ensure that honest participation takes center stage as a central theme, enabling the outcomes that reward the tireless determination of years of training on the part of the athletes. To help ensure fair participation, BIO will encourage its member organizations to collaborate with WADA and the IFPMA as outlined in the aforementioned joint declaration.