Drugs and Sports – What’s the Problem?

Here we go again – drugs and sports. What’s the problem? No really, what exactly is the problem?

Some say those who’ve used cocaine should be banned from the Olympics because it’s illegal. Well, there are many things that are illegal – shouldn’t we therefore ban every athlete who’s ever done something illegal?

But why? Haven’t they already paid the penalty determined by whatever country they live in? The IOC is not a criminal justice system.

Then some call upon the moral character point: athletes are expected to be of high moral character – or at least of higher moral character than the rest of us. Why? Well, they’re expected to be role models. Why? Why shouldn’t we put the same expectations on, say, artists? Or CEOs? Or you and me?

And if we’re going to call drug use immoral, well, let’s consider reckless driving, negligent parenting, and a whole bunch of other questionable behaviours as well.

All of which is completely separate from the performance enhancement argument. But, like marijuana, cocaine is hardly performance enhancing.

So let’s consider steroids. And vitamin C. And spinach. All of which enhance performance. Is it a question of natural/artificial? But vitamin C tablets don’t exactly grow on trees either.

Is it a question of degree? Okay, have we figured out exactly how much is too much? (Consider here flu medication and allergy puffers.) And too much for what?

For fair competition? Is that it – it’s a question of fairness? Okay, what’s fair? Equal access to enhancements? Well then it’s hardly fair for American athletes to compete with Ethiopian athletes.

Equal physical capacities? Well size 17 flipper-feet in the pool are hardly fair when others have only size 10. (Maybe there should be different classes of swimmer, according to foot size, just as there are different classes of wrestler, according to weight.)

Yeah, but that’s hardly his fault, he was just born that way. Hm. Would it matter if his parents had intentionally chosen the big feet gene? What if he intentionally chose to grow bigger feet? Or – um – to grow bigger muscles?

But merely by working out every day, one makes that choice. So are we back to the arbitrary line of artificialness? Or the very grey line of degree?

It makes one think that the whole idea of basing the win/lose decision on hundredths of a second and tenths of a centimetre may be just a little bit – silly.


1 comment

    • jsb on February 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm
    • Reply

    I would also consider the risk to one’s health. Steriods are not good for your health, as they put undue stress on the heart (flo jo died of a heart attack). Doctors are in almost complete agreement in regards such risks. If all athletes care more about winning than their health, then fine, no problem. It only takes one to disagree however. So, perhaps those who value their health above victory should be excluded, or except they cannot win. If that is not fair, maybe certain drugs should be limited/banned.

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