Dr. Francis Faduyile
Chairman of Lagos State Medical Association, Dr. Francis Faduyile, tells KUNLE ADEWALE how athletes’ natural abilities are bolstered by drugs
In spite of series of campaigns against the use of performance enhancing drugs by different international sporting bodies, supposedly great sports men and women have been guilty of splicing their system with drugs. The question is why would an athlete take to doping despite the risk of being caught – and shamed ultimately?
“Since we are human beings we have a lot of restraints in doing some things. There are some things we cannot do both on a short term and on a long term. You may be expected to do a particular event on a long term basis when you are supposed to be tired and you want to make sure you don’t get tired so that your body can continue to work. These are some of the reasons why most athletes take to drug. The drugs are either the ones that will make the muscle or the cells not to get tired easily or those that will make the cell to be able to function in the position in which low oxygen can still satisfy them but all these are really abnormal,” Dr. Faduyile said.
Reacting to the question of some athletes who take performance enhancing drugs and yet do not get to the height of their careerS, Faduyile replied: “You must first of all have the ability to do some things before you could enhance yourself with drugs. It’s just like giving question papers to a student that is naturally dull before an examination. He or she will still go into the examination hall and fumble. When you want to run a short distance for example, it means you want the muscle to contract and relax within a short time which naturally will take some time to contract and relax. But to help an athlete have that sprint energy there are some drugs that enhances it. The same way for a long distant runner; he or she wants to make sure that the muscles are working in such a way that the normal oxygen capacity needed for the muscle to work will be very low and when he is supposed to be tired over time he is not tired. These are some of the reason why athletes still enhance themselves with drugs.
“However, those drugs have very terrible side effects that are very destructive within the body and if an athlete does not discontinue it one will not be able to understand what the human capacity can take naturally. Secondly, such athlete may later in life be hit by a terrible disease that might hitherto not have happened to him if he had not resorted to taking enhancing drugs.”
On why it takes such a long time to uncover athletes that enhance their performance with drugs in the advanced world unlike in this part of the world where they are easily caught, the NMA chairman said: “We have different generation of drugs. There are some drugs that have formed what they use to test them. For example, if you take paracetamol, the active ingredient in it is acetaminophen and sometimes if acetaminophen is being produced as paracetamol it goes through some form of breakdown within the body.
“So if an athlete takes paracetamol for instance and you don’t test such athlete for acetaminophen you will not detect anything. There are first, second and third generations of drugs and most of the drugs we use in this part of the world are first generation and they have all the things that can be used to test and detect them. Just as the International Olympics Committee is trying to detect banned drugs, so too are sophisticated drugs being produced. And by the time they are using those drugs it will be very difficult to detect them because some of the drugs can be excreted through sweat. So if you are testing the urine you might not detect anything because they have been excreted through sweat and some can even be excreted through breathing and you will just be wasting your time if you are testing it through some other sources. So to catch up with athletes using these modern drugs will depend on how fast the IOC and other sporting bodies are able to come out with the latest technology to carry out tests that can detect these modern drugs,” he opined.
It is always baffling that Nigerian athletes may triumph against top tier athletes few weeks before major competitions but literarily melt away when the big day arrives. Some contend that the answer lies in the strong possibility that many western athletes take banned substances during major competitions.
But the NMA chairman has a different opinion. “It all depends on the athletes’ priority. Sometimes you may have a race that is coming up in three or four months time and you don’t want to exhaust yourself before a major competition like the Olympics, so you cave-in in smaller circuits. It is only in Nigeria that our athletes record victories one or two weeks to big competitions. By the time they get to the main event they have exhausted themselves. Moreover, our fire brigade approach to major competitions has also not helped us. Schools’ sports are now dead, so where do we get young boys and girls that will compete favourably against athletes from the developed countries? Most of our athletes are very old when compared to their foreign counterparts where they have well structured programmes of catching-them-young.
“At age 37, some of our sports men are just getting to the limelight when boys of 17 and 18 years that can actually have hyper reflection and could actually be trained as against a man that is 25 going to 30 and is just emerging. Definitely he cannot compete for more than three to five years before he fades away. He cannot compete favourably with his younger colleagues and that is why Nigeria is not doing well in sports again.
“You can see how long the 1985 Under-17 set of Nduka Ugbade lasted. Subsequent ones did not last long because most of them were old, with some already fathers. How long can such people stay in sports? They were just flashes in the pan and therefore faded away as quickly as they came,” the University of Lagos graduate said.
Faduyile said the improvement in technology is the reason why Lance Armstong could stay on for several years without being caught.
“He has been able to know the process in which the drug is metabolised, know when to use it and the active ingredients,” he said.
He however, advised athletes to stay off drugs, saying that human beings is bound to have both strength and weaknesses and should therefore do what is within their strength naturally.