Janice Forsyth, the director of the university's International Centre for Olympic Studies, said it's more likely the case that athletes and coaches are finding “newer and more effective ways to work around the system.”
She said it's always been the case that doping methods are about 10 years ahead of authorities' ability to develop tests to detect them.
That's why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) keeps athletes' blood and urine samples for eight years, just in case there's an advance in testing, Forsyth said.
“So maybe four years from now, something will crop up in the news, but by then the drama is over,” she said. “People tend not to focus on it so much.”
Luiza Galiulina, a gymnast from Uzbekistan, and Hysen Pulaku, a weightlifter from Albania, were both expelled from the London 2012 games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, much of the doping talk at these Olympics has focused on an athlete who hasn't actually tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs — Ye Shiwen, a 16-year-old Chinese swimmer.
Shiwen won the women's 400 individual medley in world record time, covering the final length faster than the men's champion, Ryan Lochte. She's also the gold medallist in the 200 individual medley.
Many have suspicions Shiwen is using drugs because she not only posted a faster time than Lochte, but because she's very young.
She's also from China, where another young swimming prodigy recently tested positive for drugs, Forsyth said.
While Shiwen has passed drug tests, “there's some really good discussions going on in different media about how we still need to be cautious about assuming that there is nothing going on here,” she said.
“Doping is a highly scientific process,” Forsyth said. “Just because someone turns out clean right now, it doesn't mean that in the future that person won't be caught for doping.”
It's hard to know exactly what is going on in the world of performance-enhancing drugs, as by definition it's a “clandestine” industry, she said.
To be caught cheating by WADA, an athlete has to have a certain level of a substance in their body. According to some reports, drugs are being administered in smaller doses so they're undetectable.
“The effectiveness might not be as great, but over the long haul, you might still derive some benefits from it, right?” Forsyth said. “That's one way of getting around the system.”
A process called “gene doping” seems to be the wave of the future, she said.
“That technology is mind-boggling, really. That's where geneticists get involved and are basically altering biology in order to enhance performance.”
For many years, doping was an accepted practice, Forsyth said.
It wasn't until the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, when a Danish cyclist later revealed to have been using performance-enhancing drugs collapsed and died in the middle of a race, that the issue was brought to light.
“Doping didn't even exist as a word back then,” she said. “It wasn't defined as a problem.”
The first extensive drug-testing program didn't begin until the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Forsyth said.
She isn't too hard on athletes who are caught using performance-enhancing drugs, though.
They're only a product of a highly commercial, multi-billion dollar industry where athletes are under tremendous pressure to give super-human performances, Forsyth said.
Given these factors, it's no wonder that athletes are doping, she said.
“It's very convenient to blame the athlete for engaging in doping,” Forsyth said. “But really, I think it's more important to look at the system they're operating in.”
If sporting authorities are really interested in stopping the practice of doping, the whole system needs to be changed to put less pressure on athletes, Forsyth said.
Even the inquiry into the 1988 doping scandal involving Canadian track athlete Ben Johnson came to this conclusion, she said.
“Pick any event in sporting history where doping is involved, and people will talk about the pressures they're under that led them to make the decisions they do.”
Posted by Arron Pickard