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Enhancement of human capacity has become possible following technological advancement in the field of health. Currently, scientists have the capacity to manipulate physical and physiological mechanism of the body to perform unusually. In sports, performance-enhancing drugs benefit sport professionals by improving the strength of the muscles, increasing degree of endurance, and efficiency in sporting. Despite these benefits, the uses of performance-enhancing drugs have serious ethical issues regarding health and sports.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs threatens physical and physiological health of sport professionals and distorts the sporting spirit. The spirit of sports emphasizes on the biological potential, fairness, and justice to the competitors; nevertheless, the use of performance enhancing-drugs undermines the same. The escalating cases of doping among sport professionals, casts great doubt on the preservation of health and ethical values in sports
With the advancing technology in health, scientists are now able to manipulate physiological mechanism of the body through various ways of human enhancement. Scientists have found out that human enhancement is possible in areas such as physical enhancement, life extension, cognitive enhancement and, personality enhancement amidst other emerging enhancements.
Physical enhancement is one of the ways of human enhancement that has found extensive application in professional sports. The use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports has elicited a lot of debate and controversy concerning ethical, social, and legal implications in the society. The alarming increase in the use of performance-enhancing drugs pushed the former United States president, George Bush to voice his concerns on the same.
He said, “the use of performance enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and others sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character” (Schieffelin, 2007, p. 966). The escalating cases due to performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports have unforeseen negative effects to the society, hence ethical issues and concerns.
Although performance-enhancing drugs have health benefits of increasing muscle strength, endurance, and efficiency in sports, the use of performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids has serious health repercussions. The Controlled Substance Act of the United States classifies anabolic steroids as illegal class of drugs that are very harmful to the health.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that, “steroids threaten the physical and physiological health of anyone who uses them for non-medical purposes … and pose even greater danger to adolescent individuals causing reproductive disorders, fluid retention, depression, and long-term physiological damage” (Schieffelin, 2008, p. 968).
In spite of the physical health benefits associated with performance enhancing drugs, the negative side effects of continued use of the drugs outweigh its benefits, thus generates ethical issues. Due to health concerns, it is not ethical to encourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs in or outside the sports.
Proponents who encourage the use of performance enhancing drugs cry foul that their critics have exaggerated the health risks posed by the drugs. The proponents argue that the harmful effects of these drugs “…have been overstated, that health risks are an athlete’s decision to make, that using drugs is part of the evolution of sports … and that efforts to keep athletes from using drugs are overzealous, unproductive, unfairly administered, and bound to fail” (Wyler, 2008, p. 3).
From their argument, the proponents of performance-enhancing drugs imply that they are not concerned about the health of the sport professionals; all they need is to enhance performance in sports. To argue that it is an individual’s decision to decide whether to use performance-enhancing drugs or not, contravenes the very core ethical values of the society. It is ethical to protect and advocate for preservation of the health conditions of sport professionals rather than leaving them at the mercy of their winning desires.
The exponential trend on the use of performance enhancing-drugs among youths is quite shocking. The statistical estimates released by The National Institute on Drug Abuse reveal that, “more than a half million eighth- and tenth-grade students are using steroids, and University of Michigan study showed that between 2000 and 2004, the Nation’s eighth-, tenth-, and twelfth-grade students experienced peak rates in annual anabolic steroid use” (Schieffelin, 2008, p. 970). This trend is setting a bad precedent to the young children who are aspiring to attain unrealistic achievements of their elders who are using performance-enhancing drugs.
The most important thing in the current society is to preserve and maintain ethical issues that will stand the test of time for the sake of physical and social health. Hence, if the use of performance-enhancing drugs is encouraged or goes unchecked in the light of the current trends, the physical and social health of the sport professionals would be irreparably damaged due to the bad culture of enhancing human performance.
The Spirit of Sports
According to World Anti-Doping Agency, its mandate is to ensure that sport professionals adhere to the sporting ethics that provide a level ground for healthy and fair competition in order to protect the sporting spirit.
Bostrom and Roache argue that, “athletes who use performance enhancing drugs are cheaters who gain an unfair advantage, violate the spirit of competition, send the wrong message to children, and unfairly diminish the historic achievements of clean athletes (2007, p. 8). It is unfair to rank sport professionals who use performance-enhancing drugs equally with those who do not use the same drugs.
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Sport professionals who use performance-enhancing drugs have obvious advantage over the rest who do not use them thus negating the vital spirit of competition. For the spirit of competition to thrive well in sports, a level ground is prerequisite for just and fair competition, which is ethical; otherwise, unfair competition attributed to the use of performance-enhancing perverts sports.
Although it is plausible to level the ground of competition by encouraging all sport professionals to use performance-enhancing drugs, the spirit of sports measures sporting potential based on biological potential and not enhanced potential.
The spirit of sports is about preserving sporting ethics and values of ancient times, by testing biological strengths, and skills of the sport professionals. Bostrom and Roache assert that, “if biological potential is what the spirit of sport is about, then performance-enhancing drugs certainly go against it, since athletes can achieve things with the aid of drugs that they would be unable to achieve based on their natural potential alone” (2007, p. 9).
Therefore, the test of biological potential provides a level ground for competition, unlike the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which complicates the parameters of competition, since varied dose concentration, would give concomitant enhanced performance. Therefore, in performance enhancement, unequal dose of a given drug would result into unfair competition among competitors.
Since professional sports ultimately aim at making economical achievements, then the means of attaining economic gains matters. Despite the efforts of World Anti-Doping Agency to protect the spirit of competition, many sport professionals still use performance-enhancing drugs in order to edge their competitors and unfairly claim the prize. It is unethical for sport professionals to use unfair means to deny their competitors a chance of winning prizes they really deserve.
According to ethical theories of sports, “no person or group must be favored over another … not just whether to commit a strategic foul in terms of good consequences for one team, but the opposition and the good of the game” (Culbertson, McNamee, & Ryall, 2008, p. 6). Consequently, allowing or conspiring to win sport prizes by using performance-enhancing drugs is fraud and unethical for it robs of other competitors excellent opportunities of winning fairly.
Permitting the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports would distort the true spirit of sports. The main objective of the sport professionals is to win; no matter whether there is an improved performance or not.
Bostrom and Roache argue that, if people desire to see sport professionals perform superbly, “we can make humans using whatever means become available, then, we should actively promote performance-enhancing drugs, and expect to see competitors striving to become the first to discover the latest enhancements in order to beat their rivals” (2007, p. 10).
The use of performance-enhancing drugs would shift the focus of the sport professionals from winning the game into discovering the most effective performance-enhancing drug in the market. Eventually, sporting spirit of fairness and biological potential fades away and unfair spirit of competition in terms of money and effective drugs ensues.
The alarming trend in the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports is raising great deal of ethical, social, and legal concerns.
Research studies claim that performance-enhancing drugs impair physiological and physical health of the sport professionals who indulge in their use. Adverse effects associated with performance-enhancing drugs pose critical issues of health. Moreover, doping is unethical in sports, and thus the World Anti-Doping Agency is putting up measures to ensure thorough screening of all sport professionals.
The aim of the World Anti-Doping Agency is to provide a level ground to all competitors, which will enhance the spirit of competition. Predictably, the continued use of performance enhancement drugs will lead into distortion of the sports’ spirit, as competitors will shift their focus from winning the game, into discovering a new performance-enhancing drug in the market. Ultimately, the loss of ethical issues regarding sports leads to the distortion of sports obliterating the sporting spirit; a core element within sporting circles.
Bostrom, N., & Roache, R. (2007). Ethical Issues in Human Enhancement. New Waves In Applied Ethics Journal, 12, 1-27. Print.
Culbertson, L., McNamee, M., & Ryall, E. (2008). Resource Guide to the Philosophy of Sport and Ethics of Sport. Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Network, 1-43. Web.
Schieffelin, N. (2007). Maintaining Educational and Athletic Integrity: How Will Schools Combat Performance Enhancing Drug Use? Suffolk University Law Review, 40(4): 959-979. Web.
Wyler, L. (2008). International Convention against Doping in Sport: Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service, 1-6.