From the time of the origins of the Olympic Games, world sports events have been viewed as among the most thrilling of human endeavors - competitions not so much with others as efforts by each individual contestant to better those skills of thought and body that break down limitations and achieve new heights of performance. Furthermore, over the centuries these forums - such as the Pan American Games now under way in Caracas - have often become international bonds transcending political differences and linking nations and peoples together in a shared recognition of excellence.
Because of the symbolic importance of such world competitions, international sporting officials are to be praised for taking a no-nonsense stand against the use of drugs by contestants at the Pan American Games. The fact that a group of Americans - over a dozen at this writing - have seen fit to leave Caracas rather than submit to drug testing is cause for concern. That is not to say that all the young people involved were using drugs, such as anabolic steroids which are supposed to help build up muscles. But at least one American was found to be using drugs. And the suspicion is strong that the use of drugs by Americans in international forums may be more widespread than thought.
Ironically, US sports officials have in past years been especially critical of Soviet-bloc nations, where the use of drugs is believed to be officially encouraged in order to help athletes garner trophies.
The tough action by the Pan American Games officials comes at an opportune time, with the Olympic Games set for next summer at Los Angeles and next winter at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. The Olympic Committee has a list of drugs that are banned in international sports competition, and athletes are now served notice that they may be in for more stringent testing.
It is a travesty of true sportsmanship to
believe that using a drug can be an aid to the development of that agility, speed, en-durance, and acumen constituting genuine athletic ability. Beyond the hazards which many drugs pose to their users, what genuine pride or sense of worth can there be for a contestant who wins a medal through the use of drugs? What kind of example does that set for young people, who look upon world athletes as role models?
It is splendid that new technology makes for better testing of drug use. But the real victory is won when athletes themselves insist on integrity in sports. Then - win or lose in competition - they emerge the victors.