After Al Jazeera’s report and its investigation into the “secret world of sports doping” the debate is unfolding
The investigation has exposed the crucial role of pharmacists and doctors in creating and prescribing programs of performance-enhancing drugs designed to cheat the testing system. It also raises questions about some well-known athletes in American football and baseball who the medical professionals claim to work with.
The fallout of “The Dark Side,” Al Jazeera’s new documentary about drug use in sports, has focused on a few key figures:
- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos quarterback
- Texas pharmacist Charlie Sly, Al Jazeera’s main source, who has since backtracked on his story
- Lawsuits against Al Jazeera’s story filed by baseball’s Zimmerman, Howard
But both New York Times and Huffington Post are reporting on dimensions of the story that have been left untouched so far. We see the debate on doing in sports unfolding.
After Al Jazeera’s main source, Charlie Sly, appeared in a YouTube video just briefly after The Dark Side aired, insisting that everything he had said to an undercover Al Jazeera reporter about banned substances and professional athletes, including Peyton Manning and Ryan Howard, had been a fabulous lie, New York Times reporters where looking at disregarded aspects of the story.
Michael Powell writes:
As I turned over the possibility that Sly had lied to the undercover reporter, I kept coming back to the names. Why these specific athletes?
With the help of my New York Times colleagues Ken Belson and Doris Burke, I scrutinized the list of names, and it soon appeared less random than at first blush. Nearly all of the athletes Sly named are clients of Jason Riley, a fitness trainer based in Sarasota, Fla.
Sly is a business partner of Riley’s. When Sly applied for a pharmacist’s license in Florida, he used Riley’s home address.
Riley and Sly founded Elementz Nutrition, a nutritional supplement company whose website and Facebook page feature many of the athletes Sly mentioned on camera. Zimmerman was featured on the website; Howard, Neal and Keller (who is also featured on the website) appeared on the Facebook page.
Since the Al Jazeera story broke, Elements Nutrition has voluntarily dissolved and closed its doors only a few days ago.
Huffington Post sports reporter Travis Waldron sheds light on three issues that deserve further examination, writing that
‘The Dark Side’ points to at least three broader problems with the way professional sports leagues approach performance-enhancing drugs.
Waldron lists and examines these three problems in his article:
- The ease with which Al Jazeera’s undercover operative obtained PEDs.
- The doctors’ boasts that tests can’t detect their drugs.
- Do owners and leagues truly care about PED use in sports?
And Al Jazeera’s Bhaskar Sundara writes that capitalism is to blame for doping in sports. Sundara looks at the corrupting influence of money in major sports:
For example, from 1997 to 2006, the average value of an Major League Baseball team shot up 222 percent, and attendance and merchandise sales soared. The sport had been stale and boring, out of touch in an era of fast bucks, but smaller ballparks and drugs turned lazy fly balls into home runs and kept fans in the seats. In the National Football League, all 32 teams are among the 52 most valuable sports franchises in the world. The NFL’s rapid growth has been built on the backs of players who face an increasingly demanding schedule and the lowest salaries and weakest protections of any of the four major American sport leagues.
Media debate doping in sports:
Travis Waldron, Huffington Post: “3 Big Stories From Al Jazeera’s Doping Documentary That Don’t Involve Peyton Manning. ‘The Dark Side’ highlights serious questions about sports leagues’ testing policies.”
Michael Powell, New York Times: “Finding a Common Thread in the Al Jazeera Doping Report”
Al Jazeera original story and documentary on IOGT International Newsfeed
Bhaskar Sundara, Al Jazeera: “Blame capitalism for doping in sports. Players who take performance-enhancing drugs are only responding to the incentives of the free market”