The use of enhancement drugs and other performance enhancement substances in sports is not a new phenomenon. However, as Murray (11) notes, the means used by sports persons to achieve this enhancement are increasing. This is especially so given the increasing competitiveness in sports in contemporary society. The prospect of winning a gold medal in a period of two years will make a sports man do anything that they consider likely to enhance their performance.
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A case in point is the 2007 Mitchell Report that looked into this practice in American sports. According to this report, Major League base ball sports personalities in this country confessed or were found to have engaged in this practice at one point or another in their career (Murray 11). Similar reports have found that use of performance enhancement drugs in sports is prevalent in other sports such as cycling, football and others.
There are other forms of performance enhancement apart from the use of drugs. This is for example the use of sports equipment that increases the performance of the athlete. An example is the use of special swim suits to reduce water resistance in swimming, use of special waxes and fluids in skiing and such others (Katz 113).
In the light of these developments, stakeholders in the sporting industry, including the public, have continued to argue whether performance enhancement drugs should be legalized or not. The debate surrounds the use of drugs, given that the equipments used for the same purpose do not raise equal controversy. On one end of the continuum, there are those who are of the view that these drugs should be legalized, arguing that the basis on which the same are banned is insufficient.
On the extreme end of the continuum, there are those who advocate for a total ban of these substances, arguing that the status quo as it is should be maintained. This school of thought cites several reasons for this, raging from negative effects on individual health and unfairness in sport.
This paper is going to highlight the beliefs of the author as far as this debate is concerned. This author is of the view that the performance enhancement drugs in sports should be banned, and severe disciplinary actions should be meted to those who violate the same. In this paper, the author is going to state and support the reasons why they believe this should be so. Opposing arguments will be identified and refuted.
Performance Enhancement Drugs: Total Ban is the Way to Go
The performance enhancement drugs should have no place in the world of sports. The drugs are not only harmful to the athletes as individuals, but they also affect those around them, including fellow competitors, future athletes and the public in general. This is the reason why the justifications by the opponents of the total ban, that segment of the society advocating for the use of these drugs, appears so unconvincing.
Performance Enhancement Drugs: Freedom of Choice?
Those who argue for the legalization of performance enhancement drugs in sports are of the view that the athletes are just enjoying and practicing their freedom of choice, something they are entitled to under the constitution (Endersby 15). They are of the view that if the sports persons wish to ingest the drugs, they should be allowed to do so. After all, it is their body that will be affected in case of negative health consequences. The athletes should be taken as adults, individuals able to make rational choices and decisions in life.
The decision to take performance enhancement drugs, as opposed to undertaking in sports without the benefit of the drugs, is a rational one (Schermer 86). This is given the fact that there is a lot of information out there, information that can be accessed by the athletes, regarding the benefits and effects of the drugs.
By using the performance enhancement drugs, the athletes are in effect infringing on the freedom of other athletes in the field (Schermer 86). This is despite the fact that they are enjoying their freedom of choice. If the competing athletes want to succeed against those who have taken performance enhancement drugs, then they have no option but to ingest the same drugs. In this light, it is obvious that these athletes have been coerced to use these drugs.
It is obvious that the freedom of choice for these athletes have been violated by the virtue of leaving them with no alternatives to select from (Endersby 6). The rights of these athletes who do not wish to take these drugs should be protected by banning those taking them and banishing them from sporting.
Natural and Unnatural Distinction
Those advocating for the use of these drugs are of the view that the distinction between that which is natural and that which is not, as argued by the opponents of drug use, is untenable and unviable (Maguire 8). They are of the view that sports persons already take supplements and such other stuff that are anything but natural. Exercises in simulated environments, specially made sports’ apparels and dietary supplements used by athletes are not natural. These things give the athletes who access them undue advantage over those who can not.
It is a fact beyond doubt that the line between legal and illegal performance enhancement is fluid and blurred. However, it is important to note that the line should be maintained nonetheless.
The first reason for this is to protect those using drugs from adverse health effects. If the athletes can not protect themselves, then they should be protected from themselves. The other reason why this line should be maintained, as blurred as it is, is to safeguard the tradition of natural competition between athletes using their natural talents and versatility.
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It is notable that a distinction, albeit blurred, exists between the consumption of a balanced diet by the athlete and using steroids and other drugs that increase performance of the athlete. If a genuine and distinct natural competition is to be maintained, then use of drugs should be shunned.
Performance Enhancement Drugs: Leveling the Playing Field?
There are those who are convinced that legalization of performance enhancement drugs such as steroids will ensure a level playing field for all the athletes (Maguire 11). This is especially so given the fact that, despite their illegal status, these drugs continue to be used by athletes in the field.
A case in point is the Olympic Games of the year 2000, which was marred by allegations of doping among the athletes (Murray 15). The fact that these drugs were already banned did not deter the athletes from using them, which led to stripping off medals from those athletes suspected and confirmed to have engaged in doping.
In light of this, according to proponents of these drugs, those athletes who do not engage in this practice have the playing field steeped against them. According to this school of thought, legalization will ensure that all the players have equal access to these drugs.
Currently, they argue, only those athletes who have the means and the muscle to access these drugs are assured of stunning performance in the field. Those without the means, especially those from developing and economically emaciated countries, are obviously disadvantaged.
However, this argument by the proponents does not hold water, and it is not enough to justify legalization of these drugs. By legalizing these drugs, the authorities will be in effect unleashing terror on the athletes. Currently, the adverse health effects on athletes, including hormonal imbalances and such others, is limited to those few and daring athletes.
Try to imagine what will happen when the entire stable in China Olympics is filled with athletes riding high on drugs. It is a fact that the performance for the spectators will be a thing to behold. But it is important to try and think what will happen to these athletes when they are through with performing for the spectators.
The damage to their bodies will be extensive, especially given the fact that legalization will encourage experimentation with new and untested drug combinations. Female athletes will turn into women with characteristics of men, given the amount of steroids pumped into their system. This, the author believes, is not worth two hours of glory under the lights of cameras.
Katz (121) is of the view that legalization of steroids and other drugs, ostensibly to level the playing ground, will have more adverse effects than benefits. This author compares the scenario after legalization to what they refer to as a “race for arms” (Katz 122). This is whereby each athlete will want to access better and powerful drugs than their competitor.
As such, they will make sure that they access these drugs through any means, even if they are regulated under the envisaged legalized system. Legalization will be like letting loose a run away juggernaut, letting it destroy anything on its path.
Use of Performance Enhancement Drugs: Spectacular Performance?
Entertainment has become an indispensable feature of contemporary society. This is especially so given the fact that after spending time in the fast paced lane that is urban life, individuals need to wind down during their leisure time. Entertainment has become a means to achieving this relaxation. It is no doubt sports is a major form of entertainment used by humans in contemporary society to escape, albeit momentarily, from the vagaries of life.
This being the case, it is important to make this form of entertainment as interesting as possible. According to proponents of drugs in sports, this practice makes the activity more interesting. The increased action on the pitch, according to these proponents, is more entertaining than the lackluster performance displayed by the so-called natural athletes.
Again, this argument as propounded by this school of thought is not convincing enough. Fans and the public in general are more attracted to competition between individual sports men. Solo performances, no matter how stunning they are, do not arouse the same level of excitement as a close race between two performers.
It is also important to note that fans are not attracted to the raw power displayed by the athletes on these drugs. Rather, they are more attracted to the skills displayed, skills that are better displayed when the performer is natural.
Endersby, Alastair. Drugs in Sport. International Debate Education Association. 06 November 2010 https://idebate.org/debatabase/topic_details.php?topicID=28#discussion
Katz, Grace. Why Prohibit Performance Enhancers? American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2008, 12(7); 9-12.
Maguire, Joseph. Drugs and Sports: What does it mean to be Human? Journal of Medical Ethics, 2008 34(9); 7-11.
Murray, Thomas H. Sports Enhancement. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 2008, 2(8); 34-36.
Schermer, Maurice. On the Argument that Enhancement is “Cheating”. Journal of Medical Ethics, 2006 33(3); 34-39.