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Last Updated: Tuesday February 17 2009 15:10 GMT

Drugs in sport

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Alcohol, drugs and tobacco

Overview

Dwain Chambers at the European Indoor Trials and UK Championships in Sheffield

Controversial British sprinter Dwain Chambers has hit the headlines again by equalling the world's fastest time for running 60m in just 6.51 seconds.

He's thought by many to be Britain's best sprinter, but Chambers hasn't always been a role model for athletics.

Explore why drug testing happens and why drug use is a problem in sport.

Learning aims

• Why there is drug use in sport

• What the consequences can be

Icebreaker

Read the story:

Ask the class:

• Why might a sportsperson take drugs?

• Why do drug tests have to be random?

• Could the problem ever be totally eradicated?

Main activity

1. Explain that most drugs that athletes would be tempted to take help to build muscle (see the Teachers' Background below for more information on their effects).

However, Beta blockers have a calming effect and diuretics help with weight loss. In which sports would these effects create an unfair advantage?

2. Ask the group: Could you live with your conscience if cheating helped you to win at something?

Christine Ohuruogu
Christine Ohuruogu was banned for a year after missing three drugs tests
Athletes and sportspeople are always looking for an edge. But are sport drug users cheating against the other competitors or themselves?

Students show they understand both sides of the problem by writing two diary entries for an athlete.

Diary entry one
Is from the day the athlete first took steroids to improve their performance.

Diary entry two
Is from two years after the first entry. The athlete was never caught and has now retired from sport. How might the decision to cheat still play on their mind.

Extension activity

When someone is caught enhancing their performance by taking drugs, what should the penalty be?

Should the penalty for not taking a test be the same as for failing it?

Plenary

Recap on the main teaching points and see if students can reach a consensus over what the penalties should be for drug cheats.

Teachers' Background

• In football, Jaap Stam, Frank de Boer, Edgar Davids, Fernando Couto and Josep Guardiola have all received bans after testing positive for nandrolone.

• Drugs at the 2002 Winter Olympics: British skier Alain Baxter tested positive for methamphetamine in Salt Lake 2002, an addictive stimulant which affects the central nervous system. The class B controlled drug is a synthetic substance closely related to amphetamine. He was stripped of his Olympic medal. Later it emerged that Alain had taken a banned drug by mistake (in a nasal inhaler). He was cleared of cheating, but didn't get his medal back.

• Two gold medal winners, cross-country skiers Larissa Lazutina and Johann Muehlegg, tested positive for the drug darbepoetin in Salt Lake 2002.

• Before the competition, tests were carried out on 3,639 athletes from all sports from more than 75 countries over the past 10 months.

Classes of drugs used:

• Stimulants - these act directly on the athlete's nervous system to speed up parts of their brain and body. This can improve reaction time and slow fatigue.

• Narcotic analgesics - these are very strong pain killers. Athletes take them to enable them to train and compete despite pain and injury.

• Anabolic agents - these are a natural or artificial version of substances such as the hormone testosterone, which makes the athlete's muscles grow larger, and can speed recovery from hard training.

• Beta blockers - A beta blocker will stop an athlete from trembling, reduce their blood pressure, slow their heart rate and have a calming effect.

• Diuretics - these will increase the amount of urine that athletes pass from their bodies causing dehydration. Therefore, they could be used by athletes in sports with weight divisions, who have difficulty keeping their weight down to qualify.

• Peptide hormones and analogues - these can help the body to grow muscle and determine height. Growth hormones can encourage muscle growth and develop speed and strength.