A Japanese kayaker’s act of spiking a rival’s water bottle with a banned substance is outrageous conduct that tramples on the spirit of fair play underlying the foundation of sports.

The 32-year-old top-level kayaker laced a competitor’s drink with a banned anabolic steroid at the 2017 Canoe Sprint Japan Championships last autumn, causing the victim to fail a doping test and be disqualified.

Yasuhiro Suzuki carried out the unprecedented plot to remove a rival from competition for a berth on the national team in desperation to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

When Seiji Komatsu, the victim of the plot, came up positive in the doping test after the event, he was temporarily disqualified despite denying he had taken a banned drug.

Suzuki confessed his wrongdoing to the Japan Canoe Federation during the organization’s investigation into Komatsu’s claim of innocence. He also admitted other kinds of misconduct, including stealing or destroying other rivals’ training gear.

All these offenses are despicable acts that leave no room for pity.

The only solace is that the perpetrator has come forward with a confession out of regret for what he did.

The episode has shed new light on the reality of the sports community of today.

The affair should not be treated as a case of an individual moral lapse. It should instead be taken by the community as an opportunity to inspect the factors and background behind the scandal and share the findings among its members to work together to come up with effective measures to prevent a recurrence.

Athletes who have tested positive for doping are required to prove their innocence on their own.

To avoid being suspected of doping, elite athletes report in advance the prescribed medications they are taking for treatment.

It is also customary for such athletes to take precautions against being “set up,” as Komatsu was, such as avoiding drinking again from bottles that have been opened.

Public interest in the Olympics and other major international sports events has surged around the world in recent years, creating a situation where successful sports careers promise huge incomes and higher social standing. The situation has led to endemic cheating and caused some athletes to go astray under strong pressure.

As this is the unfortunate reality of the world of sports, both athletes and coaches need to make more serious efforts to prevent themselves from deviating from the right path. Sports organizations, for their part, need to provide the best support they can offer to them through measures concerning the venues for competition and the deployments of security guards.

These should be seen as the obligations people and organizations involved in competitive sports have to fulfill.

It is also important to develop education and training programs including lessons on sports ethics for every stage of athletic development to ensure that athletes are given occasional opportunities to learn about the subject from childhood.

Other vital steps that should be taken include training more qualified mental trainers who can provide effective counseling and spiritual support for athletes and ensuring convincing selection processes for national teams.

Since they are also only human, elite athletes could be susceptible to envy and overanxiousness.

A desire for fame could be a driving force of advancement in athletic capabilities and achievements.

But no sports can be viable if players lack respect for competitors and sincerity about competition.

“Good losers” can, in a sense, do even more to boost the dignity of sports than winners.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 11