The doping phenomenon is reflective of a ruthless desire to win at any cost. As exposed in the new documentary The Dark Side, this scandal encompasses more than just athletes. Doping is a full-fledged underground industry involving quack doctors, highly organized and crooked international networks and a regulatory system that can't catch up.
Produced with probing and harrowing insight by Al Jazeera's skillful investigative team, the film calls upon the expertise of world championship runner Liam Collins as he attempts to infiltrate the secret society in which illegal doping is allowed to thrive. Armed with hidden cameras and assuming the undercover identity of a prospective buyer, he travels to the Bahamas, where a series of connections lead him to Chad Robertson, a licensed pharmacist who offers a laundry list of growth hormones and other restricted substances.
According to the dealers, these drugs have the potency to transform mediocre athletes into sporting superstars. They boast about the number of high-profile athletes they claim have benefited from their services, including internationally renowned National Football League quarterback Peyton Manning.
Whether or not these claims are valid, the doping epidemic has become a major thorn in the side of professional sports as more and more athletes find themselves on the receiving end of failed substance abuse tests. But more concerning to the sports industry than the athletes who fail these tests are the ones who don't. Chemical masterminds have continued to find ever more ingenious methods for averting current testing sensitivities.
For the fallen athletes themselves, the shame of their misdeeds far outweighs any of the performance enhancement benefits they enjoyed during their careers. But some of them are trying to teach others from their mistakes. The film introduces us to one such athlete - Tim Montgomery - whose doping activities took him from the enviable title of fastest runner in the world to that of disgraced icon.
Stripped of his past accomplishments, he now coaches the next generation of young athletes and molds them on the virtues of clean sportsmanship. The valuable work he performs, and the exposure provided by films such as The Dark Side, are important steps in restoring honor to an embattled but much beloved industry.