Doping in Sports - Making Sense of it All.
I ran into this opinion piece while checking out various sources online...
Is it time to consider this practice from a different angle? Maybe. What many people do not know is that using performance enhancing drugs in sports is incredibly widespread. The public practically demands it. We expect our sports figures to be super stars, super heroes. We expect them to perform at levels that are not humanly possible.
From the piece: "The Lance Armstrong case forces us to consider a philosophical problem that has tormented sport since 1988 when Ben Johnson was disqualified from the Olympics after testing positive for drugs.
Not 'How we can improve detection and make punishment serve as both deterrent and restitution,' but 'Should we allow athletes to use drugs?' My answer is yes.
Were we to treat athletes as mature adults capable of making informed decisions based on scientific information, we could permit the use of performance enhancing substances, monitor the results and make the whole process transparent.
Instead we continue to demonize those found guilty of doping violations, willing ourselves into ignorance."
And: "Athletes take unknown substances, procured from unknown sources and with uncertain results. Permitting the use of doping would rescue sport from this clandestine state, creating an environment that would be not only safer, but more congruent with the reality of professional sport in the 21st century.
Twenty-four years after the Johnson scandal, performance-enhancing drugs are as abundant as ever and, as the Armstrong experience reminds us, the testers remain embarrassingly behind the curve. Despite the major advances since 1988, several athletes have evaded detection not just for the odd competition, but for entire careers."
"The objections are predictable:
This is cheating. In a technical sense, perhaps; but that could be fixed by changing the rules. In a moral sense, it is unfair on those competitors who do not wish to use drugs. The evidence of the Armstrong investigation suggests that many other cyclists were habitual dopers, anyway. We can't say the same for other sports, though we can remind competitors that among the array of performance enhancing aids which are available to them, such as acupuncture, hypnotism, hypoxic tents (that simulate high altitude) and the countless other perfectly legal performance enhancements are some that are probably more dangerous than drugs.
Taking drugs is wrong. Maybe, but how many of us get through a day without taking a pharmaceutical product, such as statins, antidepressants, painkillers and so on? By an accident of language we use the same term for these products and performance enhancing materials as we do for illicit drugs like crack cocaine and heroin. This misleads us into imagining related objections.
There are too many dangers. Of course there are -- as the situation is now. By inviting athletes to declare with impunity what they are using, we encourage and open discourse and promote research so we'd be in a position to advise on the relative values and risks of different substances. This openness isn't possible while we continue to force drug-taking underground. Opening up sport in the way I'm advocating would render it a safer, more secure environment.
Sports stars are role models. Possibly. But they are not paragons of virtue, and even if they were, young people who follow them and organize their own naive ambitions around theirs will eventually run into the rock hard reality that drugs are to sport what Twitter is to celebrities -- not exactly essential, but a valuable resource when used strategically."
Fans would turn off sport. Ask yourself this: Did you feel a thrill when you saw the imperious Armstrong cross the line at the 2002 Tour de France seven minutes ahead of his nearest rival? Or when you watched Marion Jones surge to victory at the Olympic 100m final in 2000? At the time, we didn't realize they or, for that matter, any of their rivals had doped. And it didn't affect our enjoyment of their performances any more than if we'd known they were wearing aerodynamically designed clothing.
The argument in favour of permitting drugs in sport is not popular at a time when the world is busy annihilating Lance Armstrong. But it is rational, sound and in harmony with sport, not as it was in the days of "Chariots of Fire," but as it is in the twenty first century: Unrelenting, mercilessly competitive and unsparingly achievement-oriented."
Every competitive sport has its share of performance enhancing drug users. The sports and the fans practically demand it, even if unknowingly.
If so many athletes can use steroids and other drugs or procedures during training, then clean their systems for testing prior to competing, test clean before competition... how can we hold them culpable for those clean test results, based solely upon rumors or stories after the fact?
In a recent thread, we talked about this "witch hunt", stripping athletes of titles, compensation, sponsors, and their reputations... not based upon dirty test results, but upon stories told years after the fact. Is all that really fair, or necessary?
If the fans demand superhuman strength, above average performance, and the competition is so strong that the average athlete cannot make the cut, can't compete without an edge, wouldn't it be more advantageous to legalize and regulate performance enhancing substances? I'm starting to think so.
Instead of forcing our athletes to go underground, to hide their usage and obtain questionable product, or to use in an unsafe way, why not encourage transparency and bring a level of safety and better health to our sports and the players we all admire so much?
To me, punishment after the fact, when test results don't prove a thing, is a bit hypocritical.
Here is a link that might be useful: Should we allow athletes to use PED's?