Integrity is key to success, not prescription drugs

By Yu Jincui Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-22 1:10:06


Illustrations: Peter C.Espina
Illustrations: Peter C.Espina

Loaded down with heavy stress, Chinese students compete with each other fiercely on various exams and competitions, their parents often anxious to offer help. When exams are approaching, some Chinese parents meticulously prepare balanced diets, a variety of health care products and even prescription drugs that are believed to help supplement the exam-takers' energy and improve their memory. It seems they never think that their devotion to their children may in fact be poisonous.

Recent media reports on China's first known case of a teenage athlete taking performance-enhancing drugs have aroused public attention over the issue of teenagers abusing drugs. According to China's anti-doping agency, Liu Yuxiu, an athlete from a high school in Longkou, Shandong Province, tested positive on a drug test during the national track and field sports meet in August.

If you are shocked at this, thinking that doping scandals, often emerging during major international sports events, could never plague young students and see it merely as an isolated case, think again. A worrying trend here in China is that stimulant drug abuse is gradually becoming a common practice on the nation's campuses. Not only teenage athletes, but also ordinary students, from primary school to college, are following the trend out of pressure to perform on exams and competitions. In most cases, parents are the drug providers.

In February, an anonymous doctor at a clinic in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province boasted to the media that he knew a secret medication which could help students concentrate and have more energy during exams. He reportedly treated 10 to 20 children per day on average in preparation for exams. Ritalin, a medication used to treat attention disorders, is becoming popular among some Chinese parents as "smart pills." Parents believe that the pills can help children focus during exams, allowing them to achieve above their normal performance and gain points significantly over their competence. Thanks to the Internet, it is not hard for parents to get the drug for their children, despite warnings from healthcare authorities that these pills come from unverified sources and are very likely to be counterfeit.

This drug is not a mild one, and many stimulant drugs in circulation are even not safe for clinical use. In June, photos of high school students in Hubei Province getting injected with compound amino acids while studying for the gaokao, the national college entrance examination, widely circulated online. The injections were administered to supplement students' energy. However, there is a risk of allergic reaction, shock and even death in some patients. When parents generously open their pocketbooks to get such questionable drugs for their children merely for higher marks on an exam, their love has become poisonous.    

I wouldn't be surprised if some of these parents understand the potential dangers of these drugs. But as an extraordinary score means a better school and a better future for their children, it may be tempting enough to take a risk. A doping scandal could taint an athlete's reputation and honor, even ruin his or her future. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is loathed for sullying the fair and just spirit of sports competitions. The same is true in academics. Abusing drugs in the name of test scores is in essence cheating.

Many parents are criticizing China's exam-oriented education system and its uneven resources, mourning the great pressures children suffer. But they themselves fuel the pain when they seek drugs for their children to further distort the already fierce competition.

Let's hope the authorities will adopt a proper means to curb the spread of stimulant drugs on campus and give students an environment of fair competition.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

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