Scientist supports legalising steroids

Drugs in sport
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A leading South African sports scientist has said drugs should be legalised in sport to end the "does he, doesn't he?" debate once and for all.

Dr John Hawley, director of the High Performance laboratory at the South African Sports Science Institute in Cape Town, was quoted in the September issue of SA Sports Illustrated as saying it was no longer possible to tell who was "clean" and who was not.

He said many athletes at last month's Atlanta Olympics have had to make a choice of whether they are going to take performance-enhancing drugs. "Whenever anyone stands up there on the podium I don't know whether it's them or the drugs," Hawley said.

"You can't ignore it. There's no question that drugs are a big part of today's superior performances.

"I'm not going to mention any names but you look at the physiques of those guys... you just don't get pectoral muscles like that from huge bench presses.

"In the strength and power events I would say that as many as 50 per cent of competitors at the Olympics have used performance-enhancing drugs, maybe more."

He said the only way to recreate a level playing field was to consider legalising the use of steroids and other enhancers.

"Maybe we should just make steroids legal. As unethical and as morally wrong as it sounds I actually think that's the way to go.

"It's an ethical problem. There's no question where I or anyone else at this institute stand medically - steroids are illegal and performance- enhancing."

He claimed Atlanta's highly publicised doping laboratory had been a public relations exercise. "The public has been whitewashed into thinking that drugs enhance athletes the week before competition - they don't. Steroids help in training in the winter months long before the competitions." Hawley said.

"If an athlete stops using steroids three months before competition they won't be detected."

Hawley had been asked to theorise on how low world records would ultimately fall.

"If you are asking me what are the limits to human performance, we have already surpassed them. Most of these are drug records."