Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
Over the last few decades, there has been a plethora of academic, policy and public debate about the use of drugs in sports. Numerous instances abound about athletes failing drug tests and getting banned from their sport. Almost every sport seems to have been affected by this so-called abuse.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs in the modern Olympics can be traced back to the games of the third Olympiad when Thomas Hicks won the marathon after receiving an injection of strychnine in the middle of the race.1 In a similar vein, the first official ban by a sporting organisation was introduced by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1928
While using drugs to cheat in sport is not new, it is becoming more effective in that it is becoming more difficult to detect. Though athletes know the health risks involved and are aware of the regulating bodies’ attempts to eliminate drugs from sport, the use of illegal substances does not stop.
The dictionary defines Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) as “a substance (such as an anabolic steroid, human growth hormone, or erythropoietin) that is used illicitly to improve athletic performance”. This is also known as doping.
Much of the writing on the use of PEDs in sport is based on anecdotal evidence. There is very little rigorous, objective evidence because the athletes are doing something illegal and sometimes highly dangerous. This only tells us that our attempts to eliminate drugs from sport have failed. In the absence of good evidence, we need an analytical argument to determine what we should do. So why performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed in sports?
While the use of PEDs has received a lot of attention, there is significant disagreement on how to address this problem. There is an urgent need to understand this complex issue because of the contrasting opinions about it. Most public discussions on the use of PEDs usually fail either because of the way we argue about such issues or more often due to inconsistent reasoning. There is also the danger of erroneous conclusions being drawn based on limited data.
Therefore, greater clarity is needed on how people think and argue about the use of PEDs in sports. One such approach that has come up often is to legalize the use of PEDs. In this article, I will attempt to look at the common positions people take on the legalization of the use of PEDs. Through the views of experts from the field of medicine and sports, we try to understand what the possible consequences are, as well as the challenges in implementing it. The whole approach has been to take an unbiased and objective view of both perspectives, for and against the legalization of PEDs in sports.
The main argument of this source is that performance-enhancing drugs should be legalized in sports. In this resource, the authors make multiple claims that support the topic.
For instance, they claim that choosing to use a drug does not violate the spirit of the sport. As authentic proof, they refer to the World Anti-Doping Agency code which declares ‘a drug illegal if it is performance-enhancing, if it is a health risk, or if it violates the ‘spirit of sport’.
They argue that since we choose what kind of training to use and how to run our race, we exercise our judgement on the diet, training and whether or not to take drugs. Based on this argument, they conclude that the result will be that the winner is not the person who was born with the best genetic potential but the person with a combination of the genetic potential, training, psychology, and judgment.
Their arguments include scientific facts and statistical reports from leading Sports and Medical organizations such as the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, etc; on how the human body responds to performance enhancement drugs. This makes their arguments stronger and more credible.
Most of the information in the document is relevant to the context of the topic in discussion and enhances the credibility of the document. The authors provide a wide range of authentic examples from across the sporting world to support their contentions. References are made to various sporting events to highlight and emphasise the points they are making. Also, due to the rhetorical questions used in the document, it makes the reader feel more involved and question oneself. For instance, ‘Would legal and freely available drugs violate this’ ‘spirit “? Would such a permissive rule be good for sport?’
Furthermore, the authors themselves are renowned experts in their respective domains Ethics and Sports. They are J Savulescu whose is Uehiro Chair of Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, B Foddy, and M Clayton from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. This lends credence to their arguments in the document.
However, in some sections of the document, the authors seem to be biased with the choice of evidence which makes the argument one-sided and therefore lacks a balanced perspective about legalizing performance-enhancing drugs. ‘By allowing everyone to take performance-enhancing drugs, we level the playing ﬁeld. We remove the eﬀects of genetic inequality.’ They do not take into account the demand and supply aspect once it is legalized. On the demand side – no sport will be interesting to fans if all teams are equally balanced and there is no strong competition and hence no probability of predicting the stronger and weaker teams. On the supply side, parents will be unwilling to send kids to sports once they realize that they will be subjected to PEDs.
One of the authors’ conclusions based on other writers’ articles has been questioned by the writer which amounts to misrepresentation. This kind of distortion of another’s perspectives does not reflect well on the authenticity of this writer. There could have been more use of statistical data to strengthen their case.
Some of the information is irrelevant because it doesn’t apply to the situation – “Classical musicians commonly use β blockers to control their stage fright. These drugs lower heart rate and blood pressure, reducing the physical effects of stress, and it has been shown that the quality of a musical performance is improved if the musician takes these drugs.” This doesn’t apply to the context because it’s not related to sports.
Overall, the document presents various perspectives on why PEDs can be allowed in sports. While some of the views are practicable, some others will continue to face the challenge of implementation by enforcing bodies as well as adherence by athletes/sportspeople.
The main argument of this source is that performance-enhancing drugs should not be legalized in sports. In this resource, the author puts forth various arguments that support this view.
He starts by accepting that the debate on this topic is not new but does not agree that we can control the use of PEDs through supervision. His opinion is that the system needs to be fixed and not discarded. So, there should be efforts at restructuring the means but not eliminating the effort at preventing the use of PEDs. Secondly, everyone does not respond equally to the use of enhancement drugs. So, the outcome might not be as expected. He also feels that it’s an open invitation to sportspersons to take drugs without killing themselves.
To drive home the grave implications, the author cites reports from various sporting nations from Eastern Europe that are facing these health issues. Sportspeople who ‘are already using PEDs would only increase their intake leading to severe health conditions’.
One visible strength of the document is that while there is no concrete statistical data to show the prevalence of the use of PEDs in any sport, the author does manage to share statistical evidence of what percentage are found positive during testing, what percentage confessed to using them, as well as data on sample percentages that were taken. This gives a fair picture of the extent of such PED usage.
Strong arguments are given along with examples to support the arguments. “Imagine you’d travelled to Rio on vacation, suffering from heart and thyroid conditions. You leave your medication behind by accident. No problem, you just wander over to the athlete village in Rio because one of those young, fit, Olympic hopefuls will have some you can borrow! “. Such examples make the reader feel more involved and agree with the author.
The frequent use of rhetorical questions triggers new lines of thought and makes the reader question himself on his views. ‘At some point, however, a line must be drawn because the extension of that mind-set of innovation and technological advancement is towards doping. Now, why must a line be drawn? Why must we say ‘this is OK, that is not’?’. He then proceeds to give his clear conclusions.
A very strong view expressed is the perceived inability and unwillingness of leaders of regulatory bodies like WADA, IOC and IAAF to enforce norms. He quotes an expert Jack Robertson – “When I started (investigating doping in Russia), I didn’t think there was any chance whatsoever we’d come to prove these things, but by the grace of God everything fell into place. And then it was put in the hands of people with self-interest, who are compromised. The anti-doping code is now just suggestions to follow or not.”
The whole document uses an easy conversational approach which catches the readers’ attention and makes it more interesting. Many of the views of the opposition are intelligently addressed in a personal vein.
On the flip side, this very approach can put off some types of readers and create an unnecessary bias against the writer. Some of the views expressed are based on personal opinions rather than facts, making such statements both biased and controversial. The author could have used more statistical evidence to support his arguments which look weak in their absence.
While the author has attempted to present a balanced view, he fails in it because of his emotive approach in convincing the reader. This makes the argument look biased, especially against specific organisations and people. ‘The reality is that anti-doping is currently a top-down failure because some excellent people who have great intentions are unable to effect change because of leadership. So, the first step in fixing it is to get rid of the people who have demonstrated a lack of will, and instead replace them with those who do have a will. “
While the author himself is a distinguished athlete with many laurels, he could have made more use of credible and authentic resources to present a more balanced view. The current document reflects the view of a sports journalist without the rigour of statistical reports which could have strengthened it. The result is a well-written sports column on relevant issues with PED’s, but with lots of personal views bordering on bias minus strong evidence.
Before this research, I held two strong opinions against the use of PEDs. One, that the use of PEDs was unfair to athletes who did not use them. Two, it could have damaging effects on the human body. But after intensive research, my views have changed and based on the evidence available, I now feel that it is okay to use PEDs with severe restrictions related to duration and health.
One could conclude with these views. First, only those PEDs that have no proven side-effects is to be allowed. Only certified PEDs prescribed by relevant medical authorities should be administered. Second, to ensure fairness, all participants in a sport should be administered the PED. This should not be provided just a few days before the event, but months before the event is conducted. It has to be administered in the same dosage to all participants for a sustained period and the impact studied. Only when the performance enhancements are proven with no bodily harm should the athletes be allowed to participate in the events.