Editor's Musings: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Please excuse the terribly lame title, but if you can go beyond the justified judgment, you’ll find a poignant life truism. You might think to yourself that sport scientists don’t have much power, but consider the knowledge you possess (Brace yourself for another lame saying). “Knowledge is power”, and sport scientists should be in possession of an expansive knowledge and understanding. The long and the short of it is that we carry a lot of responsibility.
I’d like to bring attention to the recent incidents concerning the widespread misuse of Meldonium at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan. The drug apparently has cardioprotective and anti-ischaemic properties. It is reported that of 762 tested athletes, 66 came back positive for use of the substance (23 had declared usage)1. Subsequently, Meldonium has moved off the monitoring program list and onto the prohibited list. This is not a space to condemn athletes who use banned or dodgy substances, but rather we should be asking certain questions. Who gave the athletes access? If the athlete was sourcing it themselves, then who should have been monitoring this? Is the athlete responsible? Is the support staff responsible? Truthfully, it’s beyond my ken to talk about any legal or liability implications.
However, I think that there are 3 points of responsibility for sport scientists to remember in light of all these Meldonium misadventures.
1) Responsibility to the athlete:
We have knowledge about the human body and how it functions that the athlete might not. We should be sure not to use the knowledge to manipulate athletes to their detriment.
2) Responsibility to yourself:
Short of being a sociopath, you will have to deal with the knowledge that you succeeded by cheating the system. Never mind the repercussions if you get caught out. You are responsible for the decisions you make.
3) Responsibility to the profession:
Turning to underhanded or downright illegal practices could bring sport science into disrepute. As much as people like to think themselves above generalisations, a few too many unethical decisions by a few individuals and all of a sudden sport scientists become seen as dodgy drug-pedalling pseudo-scientists.
If you’re interested in reading an interesting opinion on WADA’s practices, Prof. Roger Pielke Jr wrote a thought-provoking article on Newsweek. I’m not sure I agree with it all myself, but it is interesting nonetheless.
I don’t mean for this to come across as dealing with substances exclusively. It actually applies to various practices, from instructing athletes to make dangerous moves on the field to pushing athletes too far in training.
Stepping off the soapbox for a moment… We have a healthy mix of topics in the contributions for this issue of SPORT SCIENCE COLLECTIVE. I’m confident that there’s a little something for everyone in this issue. We even have our first proper guest contributor, who brings an Irish flavour. Hopefully we get lucky and this is the signal for others to contact me for future guest contributions (email@example.com).
Don’t forget to tweet any interesting links, comments, or questions to our individual Twitter handles or use #sportscicollective.
1. Stuart, M., Schneider, C. & Steinbach, K. (2016) Meldonium use by athletes at the Baku 2015 European Games: Table 1. Br. J. Sports Med. bjsports–2015–095906.