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Should Performance Enhancing Drugs Be Banned?

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D'kian
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Naturally I speak of whether the governing bodies of the various sports should ban their athletes from using such drugs, emphatically not whether the government should keep them illegal.

On the one hand many of these drugs offer dramatic improvements. For example, using erythro poietin to increase the amount of red blood cells in bycicle racing allows a merelyc omeptent athlete to perform better than a champion. Greg Le Mond, who won the Tour de france several times, simply couldn't keep up with athletes whom, in the past, he'd left far behind; not after they started doping themselves.

Or consider the very dramatic demonstration offered by Ben Johnson in Seoul in 88. He shattered the 100 m dash record by a huge comparative margin, as a result of steroid use to increase muscle mass. The NFL is rife with stories like that, too.

So we can conclude these drugs work and they work very well. Simply put, those athletes who take them have an advantage over those who do not.

On the other hand, these drugs are risky. Too many red blood cells thicken the blood and thus create a higher risk for heart attacks and stroke. Steroids can cause a multitude of problems, from genital malformations to emotional instability. Other drugs used in other sports carry risks of their own as well. And all drugs put a heavier work load on the liver, which can lead to severe liver problems.

Risks aside, is it moral to take drugs to enhance performance? It can be argued that all athletes already do, but in many different forms. Nutrition, including mineral and vitamin supplements, are integral to an athletes regime. It can also be argued that athleticism in comeptitive sports is unhealthy as well, withness the many injuries that plague a pro sportsman's life throughout his career. Therefore anyone who's chosen to compete in sports has already chosen to risk his health.

But the risks are different. While many athletes experience injuries that end their careers, their lives are usually not that badly affected. there have been cases of athletes winding up quadraplegic or dead, yes, but such cases are minuscule. As death ggoes, there are more deaths as a result of performance enhancing drugs than from plain athletics.

In sports, however, all things come down mostly to fairness. Sports are fair, that is to say each side in a competition plays under the same rules and on the same playing field. The question then is: do the use of performance enhancing drugs give some athletes an unfair advantage over others?

Seen that way the answer is simple: it does over those who do not take them.

Well, what if all athletes took them? Then the advantage is erased, but the added risks remain. Therefore it makes better sense to ban such drugs.

The problem then is whether the ban can be enforced. If it can't be, then instituting it is worse than futile. If it can be enforced half-way it may be better than nothing, but it won't be satisfying. If it can be enforced effectively, then it should be (leaving questions of costs aside).

There was an article recently by Michael Shermer in Scientific American about this topic. He states that drug takers have more incentive to stay ahead of enforcement than drug testers have to catch up. I think he's right. after all, those testing athletes for drugs won't loose as much if they fail, while an athlete being tested can loose his career and considerable earnings derived from it (again, look up Ben Johnson).

So it comes down to: can a drug ban be enforced in sports? It depends on the sports, the drugs used and the leagues or associations governing the various sports. the technical part determines much else. After all, if a drug can't be detected at all, then no ban on that drug can be enforced.

What say you?

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Instead of going into a long answer I'll just say simply that instead of banning these things they should be encouraging their usage. Anything that gives an athlete more of an edge should be encouraged not banned. Why is it okay to eat right, take man-made vitamins, and use man-made training equiptment but not use other man-made athletic supplements such as steroids or HGH if one understands the risks. The short answer is there is NO logical reason not to allow these extremely useful technologies while allowing others such as special diets or training equiptment.

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Why is it okay to eat right, take man-made vitamins, and use man-made training equiptment but not use other man-made athletic supplements such as steroids or HGH if one understands the risks.

Pro sports are a business. It's not in the NFL's team owners' interest to risk their players. Good talent is hard enough to find, not to mention very expensive.

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Pro sports are a business.
The trouble is, the drug usage would begin at an early age; likely highschool and would continue through college. The pressure to take unhealthy mixtures would be significant. For me, I would rather watch the team that boasts the best talent, not the best pharmacist.
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The question that needs to be asked, is what do the governing bodies want to promote. Do they want to promote an industry that teaches the values of human achievement through rational means, that are consistant with living a happy prosperous life on this planet, or do they want to promote an industry that teaches the anti-values of disregarding reality and risk dying at age 40, so you can mindlessly beat the living sh*t out of your opponent for a couple of years while getting hooked on drugs in the process.

Im not saying that everything that is banned today, belongs in the latter category, but when you make a claim like "everything should be encouraged", it is not really consistant with Objectivism. To encourage people to take the risk of dying at 40 and becoming a junkie for the sake of "getting an edge" for the sake of competition, is undermining the rational basis for participating in sports in the first place. There is no value in simply being better at a physical activity than someone else, and to risk your life and your health for this is in no way rational.

It's comparable to using speed to study for school. Sure, you may get better grades, but that is undermining the reason why a rational person wants good grades in the first place. Not simply for the sake of getting good grades, but for what it means in "the long run" for achieving ones values.

But if you want to advocate that people should value a few good years of athletic "achievement" for the cost of becoming an impotent, suicidal drug-addict who is lucky to reach the age of 50, then so be it, but i don't know what the value in that is.....

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First, they don't use these drugs to get "high" or become "junkies"; they use them to gain an edge. Why is it proper to use certain forms of technology such as mechanical and computerized training equipment or scientifically specialized diets to this end but not certain other form of technology if one understands the risks versus the benefits? Why is one more "natural" while the other is not? In other words, why should simpler forms of technology be considered okay to use while others are not? If one can increase ones skill level using these products and they understand the risks why is it considered unfair?

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The trouble is, the drug usage would begin at an early age; likely highschool and would continue through college. The pressure to take unhealthy mixtures would be significant. For me, I would rather watch the team that boasts the best talent, not the best pharmacist.

Steroids don’t make you a superstar. They do protect you against injury and help in your training. Look at the athletes that are usually caught. There’re always mediocre and usually coming off of an injury. If you stink and take steroids your still going to stink but your just to look better doing it. The drugs are safe as long as they are part of a program and are subscribed and monitored by a doctor and trainers.

As for the kids influence that’s the parents responsibility. Why should an adult athlete have his rights taken away because of someone else’s kid? The “Wont somebody please think of the children!” line doesn’t work in Objectivism, your responsible for yourself and your own property including kids.

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First, they don't use these drugs to get "high" or become "junkies"; they use them to gain an edge. Why is it proper to use certain forms of technology such as mechanical and computerized training equipment or scientifically specialized diets to this end but not certain other form of technology if one understands the risks versus the benefits? Why is one more "natural" while the other is not? In other words, why should simpler forms of technology be considered okay to use while others are not? If one can increase ones skill level using these products and they understand the risks why is it considered unfair?

As i said, i dont think that everything that is banned today should be banned. However, the fact that someone gets an edge athletically out of it, should not be the basis of whether a person should take that drug or not. If a person understands the risks vs. the benefits, and still values the benefit of being really good at an athletic activity, more than he values his quality of life, then i wouldn't call that person rational. It's not just about "it's every athletes choice", even though legally that should be the case. We are now discussing what drugs governing bodies of different sports and leagues should allow their participants to take, rationally.

Also, the admiration of the athlete would become an admiration of the physician, and the reason for watching sports would disappear, at least for me. Because what are the rational reasons for 1) participating in sports, and 2) watching people participate in sports? The answer to question 1 is not to "win in the event at all costs", but to achieve your rational values. I wouldn't call becoming impotent and psychologically unstable for the sake of being competitive all that rational. Question 2, about why a rational man watches other people participate in sporting events, is the admiration of the achievements of the athletes. It's a bit like "loving the good, for being the good". It's not about watching some animal competitive drive, but watching the achievements, and the admiration of the achievements, of rational men. There is no, or little value watching person A be faster than person B in itself. If person A runs the 100m in 9,55 and dies two years later of a heart-attack instead of running the 100, instead of running the 100m in 9,83 and achieving his rational values, i choose admiring the latter.

Now you may say that i am oversimplyfying the topic, and that to make the connection between all currently banned substrances and dying of a heart attack two years later, is creating a straw man. But it is not a straw man, as you clearly said:

Anything that gives an athlete more of an edge should be encouraged not banned.

Now, if you meant something else with the word "edge", than "becoming better at his athletic activity", then i would like to hear it, but if not, then my point applies. If we take your statement as the guiding principle of how an athlete should act, then that principle includes taking drugs that have serious adverse effects, for the sake of becoming better at your sport for a few years. I don't think that is really a principle based on rationality, because first we have to deal with why a rational person would want to become an athlete in the first place.

Just like the guiding principle of college tests shouldnt be "anything that makes the student turn in a test with the more correct answers should be encouraged not banned", as that disregards the reason why a rational person attends college, and what the rational values are a person can achieve by attending a college. It is not for getting the correct letter on your tests and papers in itself that matters, so if i plagiarize someone elses essay and switch the words around a bit, there is no value in getting the possible A from that paper, no matter if i get caught or not. In the same vein, there is no value in simply being as fast as possible in running the 100m, and it depends heavily on why and how you achieved it. If you think that a rational person should sacrifice his future quality of life for the sake of being better at running against other similar people, then im surprised.

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First, they don't use these drugs to get "high" or become "junkies"; they use them to gain an edge.

Steroids do affect mood. Some athletes become addicted to that.

In any case, I did mention team owners wouldn't like to risk their players that way. I forgot to mention something else: with added muscle mass there is a greater chance that a drug-taking athlete will injure other players in contact sports. I don't know if there are any reliable studies about it (I suppose not), but the NFL has passed ever more rules to protect quarterbacks from defensive players.

If one can increase ones skill level using these products and they understand the risks why is it considered unfair?

Because they don't increase skills, they change the body to make it more adapted to a particular sport. Erythropoietin, for instance, increases endurance in long events by making more oxygen available for the muscles to use (a direct result of the higher density of oxygen-carrying red blood cells). There's no improvement in technique, no added skill.

As to fairness, it does depend on the rules. If the drugs are banned, then taking them is as much cheating as grabbing a player's face mask or spying on the other team's signals. If the rules allow such drugs, or make no mention of them, then it's not cheating. But if everyone takes the drugs, then the effect is the same as if no one took them, that is, all things remain equal,so why add risks if there is no edge?

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Also, the admiration of the athlete would become an admiration of the physician, and the reason for watching sports would disappear, at least for me.

There's something to that. I used to watch Formula 1 racing some years ago. At some point, though, I realized the sport was more a competition between car builders than between drivers. A given driver could be World Champion one year with, say, McLaren, then drop to the bottom the next year racing for a different team. Driving skills still matter, but only when the drivers are in cars of similar performance.

Now, I see nothing wrong in car builders competing against each other, but I just don't find it interesting enough to follow.

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There's something to that. I used to watch Formula 1 racing some years ago. At some point, though, I realized the sport was more a competition between car builders than between drivers. A given driver could be World Champion one year with, say, McLaren, then drop to the bottom the next year racing for a different team. Driving skills still matter, but only when the drivers are in cars of similar performance.

Now, I see nothing wrong in car builders competing against each other, but I just don't find it interesting enough to follow.

Yeah, i have grown out of watching racing as well, but I do understand if car enthusiasts and people interested in mechanics likes to watch that. I used to watch Formula 1 mainly for "patriotic" reasons, as im from Finland, and there are and historically have been some succesful drivers from Finland in F1. Once i grew out of rooting for idiots simply because they shared a passport with me, there was no longer any point in watching.

I do watch the Monte Carlo race though, because its so different from the other races, due to it's setting in the middle of such a beatiful city by the sea.

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Yeah, i have grown out of watching racing as well, but I do understand if car enthusiasts and people interested in mechanics likes to watch that.

Exactly. And from there follows an interesting thought.

Car racing has spawned many innovations like active suspensions, safety gear and such that, I assume, have made it into production cars. Drugs, on the other hand, are developed for medicinal uses and then used for enhancing performance. the drug that increases red blood cells was developed to treat anemia, for example. giving cyclists better endurance is an unforeseen consequence.

So what if drugs were developed specifically to enhance performance? I mean, what other modifications to body or body functions could athletes use for better performance, and would innovations then perhaps flow in the other direction?

Right now that's a side issue. In the current climate no reputable researcher would work on such things, nor would any pharmaceutical company support him (notice this also didn't happen in Soviet block countries, which had doping systems overseen by actual physicians). Not so much for the effect drugs ahve on sports, but because they are illegal and their use and distribution punished by incarceration.

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Instead of going into a long answer I'll just say simply that instead of banning these things they should be encouraging their usage. Anything that gives an athlete more of an edge should be encouraged not banned. Why is it okay to eat right, take man-made vitamins, and use man-made training equiptment but not use other man-made athletic supplements such as steroids or HGH if one understands the risks. The short answer is there is NO logical reason not to allow these extremely useful technologies while allowing others such as special diets or training equiptment.

What if we allowed sprinters to use bionic legs or even just let them ride motorbikes? Modern engine technology gives them the possibility of moving at 200+ mph so why limit them to their puny human legs?

The reason why steroids should be banned is that if they were legal, every athlete in certain sports would need to take them if they wanted to compete at the top level. It isnt a case of 'choice' - in certain sports, someone who isnt taking steroids/HGH will simply have no chance of beating people who are, no matter how hard they train. Body building is the obvious example - you arent going to get anywhere near the top level unless youre spending large sums of money on hormones, and the result is a ridiculous 'sport' full of grotesque freaks.

I agree that its difficult to draw a line between things which should be allowed and things which should be banned, but I think its possible to indicate the general area where the line should be, and its going to have protein supplements and HGH on opposite sides.

So it comes down to: can a drug ban be enforced in sports? It depends on the sports, the drugs used and the leagues or associations governing the various sports. the technical part determines much else. After all, if a drug can't be detected at all, then no ban on that drug can be enforced.

The question of whether a ban should exist is surely separate from whether it can be enforced. Copyright laws are unenforceable at the individual level, but many believe they should exist anyway. Realistically, sports which have long off-seasons are extremely difficult to enforce drug laws in - bodybuilding and American football being examples. So we end up with a situation where everyone knows that many of the top pros are taking them, but nothing can really be done about it. But I'm not convinced that just throwing open the doors and saying 'take whatever you like' is an acceptable answer.

Having said that, I dont think that drug use is really a problem in sports which are mainly about skill and technique rather than physical prowess. Steroid use in soccer is much less of an issue than steroid use in sprinting/weight-lifting for example, since muscularity isnt the primary factor in how good someone is at the game.

Edited by eriatarka
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What if we allowed sprinters to use bionic legs or even just let them ride motorbikes?

This was my thought exactly. If "technology" is the excuse, then why run at all? Just turn all races into supersonic fighter jet races since that's the fastest technology affords us within the atmosphere.

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What if we allowed sprinters to use bionic legs or even just let them ride motorbikes? Modern engine technology gives them the possibility of moving at 200+ mph so why limit them to their puny human legs?

Bionic legs--yes. Motorcycles--no. Whether or not something should or shouldn't be allowed should be based on whether it can be integrated with the human body or not. When it comes right down to it we are just extremely complex machines, why then should we not be allowed to upgrade ourselves whenever possible to gain better performance in any chosen endeavor? The problem is everyone wants to deny that humans and every other creature are just highly complex and self-evolved types of biological "machines" and instead try to put us into some supernatural class of entity. We possess life, not some sort of mystical properties that are only worth using when they are "un-enhanced" via other parts of nature rearranged via usage of man's volitional faculty. In other words why should "natural" ability be preferred over man-made ability enhancements? To state that only one's "natural" abilities should be valued is a form of intrinsicism.

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Bionic legs--yes. Motorcycles--no. Whether or not something should or shouldn't be allowed should be based on whether it can be integrated with the human body or not. When it comes right down to it we are just extremely complex machines, why then should we not be allowed to upgrade ourselves whenever possible to gain better performance in any chosen endeavor?
Because in many cases it would make the sport rubbish, and boring to watch. Most people would rather watch actual humans racing than some kind of bizarre man-machine hybrid (although I dont deny that robot sports are interesting in their own right, from an engineering/AI perspective). Its comparable to letting chess grandmasters use supercomputers while playing top level matches - it would take much of the purpose out of whats going on and I doubt many people would want to watch it after the novelty wore off.

The problem is everyone wants to deny that humans and every other creature are just highly complex and self-evolved types of biological "machines" and instead try to put us into some supernatural class of entity. We possess life, not some sort of mystical properties that are only worth using when they are "un-enhanced" via other parts of nature rearranged via usage of man's volitional faculty. In other words why should "natural" ability be preferred over man-made ability enhancements? To state that only one's "natural" abilities should be valued is a form of intrinsicism.

Noone is denying that humans are just machines, that isnt the issue. The ban on handling of the ball in soccer isnt a denial that humans have got arms, its a rule introduced to make an interesting and competitive sport.

Edited by eriatarka
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Noone is denying that humans are just machines, that isnt the issue. The ban on handling of the ball in soccer isnt a denial that humans have got arms, its a rule introduced to make an interesting and competitive sport.

I personally think it would make it MUCH more interesting and competitive--not less--if men could make themselves bigger, faster, and more agile, but I seem to be in the minority (like usual, lol) on this one. Imagine a wide-receiver in American football racing down the sideline at cheetah-like speeds while a defensive back is right on his hip pocket as the quarterback fires a 90-yard bullet-pass right where only the receiver can catch it if he makes a precisely timed 7-foot leap into the air to complete a TD pass. Now, this would be exciting! Imagine watching play after play made in this exciting manner or even greater. I suppose some would say it would get boring, but I doubt it because it would still involve humans having to make split-second decisions to make these type of plays. I mean one can have all the technology in the world, but it takes a completely focused mind to use it correctly. Sports would become even more a pure application of mind-body integration if these technologies were used, not less.

By the way I think Barry Bonds should still be playing and should also be in the Cooperstown when he retires, not sitting out the season awaiting trial as has been the case this year. :lol:

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The question of whether a ban should exist is surely separate from whether it can be enforced. Copyright laws are unenforceable at the individual level, but many believe they should exist anyway.

But if a drug can't be detected at all, then there's no use banning it because you can't possibly catch people using it. BTW Copyrigth laws ahve been enforced at the individual level here and there through lawsuits. How effective that is, I don't know.

Realistically, sports which have long off-seasons are extremely difficult to enforce drug laws in - bodybuilding and American football being examples.

I think the NFL can test players randomly all year long.

Steroid use in soccer is much less of an issue than steroid use in sprinting/weight-lifting for example, since muscularity isnt the primary factor in how good someone is at the game.

Well, that's so. Increased muscle mass has little to do with the ability of a player to bore the audience to death B)

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Imagine a wide-receiver in American football racing down the sideline at cheetah-like speeds while a defensive back is right on his hip pocket as the quarterback fires a 90-yard bullet-pass right where only the receiver can catch it if he makes a precisely timed 7-foot leap into the air to complete a TD pass. Now, this would be exciting!
It might be somewhat interesting, but I think I would find it cartoonish, unrealistic and nowhere near as exciting as a local high school football game. But taking your point, the only way a game filled with cheetah-men would be interesting is if they were facing a team of cheetah-men. In other words, there would have to be some parody of skill (or drug use). I say eliminate drugs and let the best man win.
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