This is a comment I left in the Science of Sport blog yesterday. I thought I'd post it here and I might make a few other posts about doping too.
I've been thinking for some time about doping and its normalisation. It all comes down to perspective (or loss of it). Whilst it is quite correct to say that doping is wrong and not normal, when you look at it as part of a spectrum of practices that are employed in elite sport, it is quite easy to see how it becomes normal. For the everyday amateur athlete and/or general population, practices such as altitude training, altitude tents, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, extreme use of painkillers, extreme dietary restriction and supplementation, laboratory testing, the high training loads and all the other legal practices that professional athletes endure to get an edge would seem bizarre (colostrum anyone?) and unnecessary. Also, I don't think most people realise the workload and pain that elite athletes go through to reach their peak. So to most people, elite training and high performance practices are not normal, but they are quite happy to sit back a marvel at the end product. To the elite athlete, all the above performance enhancing practices become normal and I think that it is a pretty small step from the legal to the illegal.
The general public might think something like taking your own blood out and storing it for use later to increase performance is extreme (although this is a common surgical procedure). But take the athlete who is training all day every day, being continually tested, is on a regime of legal drugs and vitamins, they spend time at altitude and they've been doing this for years. Their lifestyle has been manipulated in every respect to achieve maximum performance. When your whole life has been shaped to gain maximal performance, it defies logic not to use a practice that increases performance.
Many of the illegal doping practices for athletes are in one form or another legal and commonly used medical procedures. Steroids are legally used to treat a multitude of conditions, blood transfusions are standard practice, stimulants are also used to treat a multitude of conditions. So for an athlete who is subjected to a range of extreme and often bizarre performance enhancing practices, not using "normal" medical procedures might feel like they are missing out on their full potential.
I suppose this all sounds like a justification for cheating. It's not, but it does indicate how a fairly warped mindset (to us) could develop.
Anyway, that's my musings about it.