Nike, as a large well known sportswear brand doesn’t appear to be mindful of the example it is setting in the world.
With sport once again in the spotlight over drug use to enhance performance and the governing bodies doing their utmost to clamp down on the cheats and make sport clean, it is a time for those with influence to make a stand.
Young people are influenced by what they see going on in the sports world, as a result the question has to be asked, what example is Nike setting?
The sportswear giant sponsors some of the world’s biggest names and teams, so are bound to have influence towards youngsters as they hope to break onto the world stage. Or those who do not take part in sport but purchase the clothing worn by their favourite stars.
As such Nike should be aware of how their actions can be perceived by children.
What example is Nike setting?
Justin Gatlin is one of the USA’s best known sprinters; he has been banned twice from athletics for taking a substance on the WADA (World Anti Doping Association) list.
In 2001 the American was banned for two years after testing positive for amphetamines. Gatlin appealed on the grounds the positive test had been due to the medication he had been taking since he was a child, when he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
The appeal was successful and the ban was reduced to one year, after which Gatlin was free to compete again.
Five years later Gatlin again tested positive for a banned substance, this time it was “Testosterone or its precursor.”
The American protested his innocence saying
I cannot account for these results, because I have never knowingly used any banned substance, or authorised anyone to administer such a substance to me.
This offence led to an eight year ban being imposed, although this was reduced to four years on appeal. Once the American was allowed to compete again after the second ban, he returned to competition and was again signed by Nike.
This will not send out a good image to children. They are likely to look at this situation, whilst WADA and the rest are trying to promote clean sport, that they can cheat, take drugs, get a ban, come back to the sport and still earn money through sponsorship.
WADA and the governing bodies are working hard to promote clean sport of every variety. Cycling had its own major problems in the past with Lance Armstrong being the most prominent offender.
Team Sky have introduced a no tolerance policy to drug use amongst their riders. One of their riders Sergio Henao has been suspended from the team over reported blood manipulation results.
The team is standing by its rider and is seeking to prove that he has done nothing wrong, as it published his and other team members blood results in an attempt to show that their riders are clean. Whilst suspended Henao cannot ride for Sky or wear their clothing, effectively withdrawing his sponsorship until proven innocent.
Tennis has had its fair share of banned players for drug use. Players like Marin Cilic, Richard Gasquet and Martina Hingis have all been banned from the sport over “doping”. They have either
- Been suspended by a sporting body (an international governing body, a national federation, or a professional league) for illegal performance-enhancing drug, and/or banned drug, use
- Publicly admitted such use
- Been found to have taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs by a court of law
- Been suspended by a sporting body for failure to submit to mandatory drug testing
These are the most recent players to have fallen foul, however they are by no means the most well known current player to have been caught out under one of the above rules.
The most high profile current player to be banned for drug abuse is Maria Sharapova. The Russian announced publicly in March that she had failed a drugs test during the Australian Open, she described this as an oversight. It was a substance she had been taking for a heart condition, but was added to the WADA list in January
I received a letter from the ITF that I failed a drugs test at the Australian Open. I take full responsibility for it. For the past ten years I have been given a medicine called mildronate by my family doctor and a few days ago after I received the ITF letter I found out that it also has another name of meldonium which I did not know. It is very important for you to understand that for ten years this medicine was not on WADA’s banned list and I had legally been taking the medicine for the past ten years. But on January 1st  the rules had changed and meldonium became a prohibited substance which I had not known. I was given this medicine by my doctor for several health issues that I was having in 2006
The Russian was immediately dropped by Nike, although her racquet sponsor HEAD did not take any action. However, as soon as the result of the ITF (International Tennis Federation) hearing was announced, with Sharapova being handed a two year ban, the sportswear company announced that they would once more be sponsoring the Russian player.
Sharapova is appealing the length of the ban, on the grounds that the hearing found she had not intentionally taken the banned substance.
This article is not discussing the Russian star’s actions or the outcome of that hearing, what this article is trying to address is the actions of a large corporation who do not appear to care what actions such as sponsoring Gatlin and Sharapova who have been banned from their sport, and the message that this will send out to the children who are the future of all sports.
Surely someone within Nike must have questioned this before they decided to once again just care about money and not any influence they hold over impressionable young people. This author, a mother to sport-interested children will be continuing to boycott the sportswear company.
Main Photo: Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles, on March 7, 2016. The former world number one announced she failed a doping test at the Australian Open, saying a change in the World-Anti-Doping Agency banned list led to the violation. Sharapova said she tested positive for Meldonium, a substance she had been taking since 2006 but one that was added to the banned list this year. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)