Say yes to drugs in sport

Jun 12, 2012
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Craig Fry is "a principal fellow at the Centre for Health & Society and Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Melbourne University". Yesterday, he published this opinion piece in Melbourne's daily broadsheet:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/bring-truth-into-play-by-saying-yes-to-drugs-in-sport-20120628-215cn.html

If you read the comments, you will see that most of the practical and ethical drawbacks of his proposal are identified and elucidated by his "lay" audience.

I think there is a more fundamental failing, and one that he, as an expert in Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, should be aware of.

Most people are intrinsically concerned about ethics & justice. Many people are at least as engaged in sports or other social games as they are engaged in law & politics. Our legal & political systems have high entry barriers, even to commentary. Sport functions as an important public arena in which real ethical problems (or analogs if you like) are debated by the polis at large. This deliberation certainly influences the ethical fabric of our societies. To remove consideration of cheating behaviour from the ethical problem set by legalising it dilutes this aspect. It may also set some very bad precedents.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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The whole problem with this argument is that there has to be a threshold somewhere, so no matter what it is, zero tolerance or some arbitrary level, you are still going to have to rely on testing to keep it in check.
 
Jun 12, 2012
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red_flanders said:
Great post, and I agree. I generally see the "let 'em dope" argument as an abdication of responsibility in the face of a depressingly difficult problem. Not compelling to me though I understand where it's coming from.
Thanks.

I've heard that argument many times, even considered it myself. But I was surprised to see it coming from someone in his position.
 
Bicycle tramp said:
Craig Fry is "a principal fellow at the Centre for Health & Society and Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Melbourne University". Yesterday, he published this opinion piece in Melbourne's daily broadsheet:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/bring-truth-into-play-by-saying-yes-to-drugs-in-sport-20120628-215cn.html

If you read the comments, you will see that most of the practical and ethical drawbacks of his proposal are identified and elucidated by his "lay" audience.

I think there is a more fundamental failing, and one that he, as an expert in Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, should be aware of.

Most people are intrinsically concerned about ethics & justice. Many people are at least as engaged in sports or other social games as they are engaged in law & politics. Our legal & political systems have high entry barriers, even to commentary. Sport functions as an important public arena in which real ethical problems (or analogs if you like) are debated by the polis at large. This deliberation certainly influences the ethical fabric of our societies. To remove consideration of cheating behaviour from the ethical problem set by legalising it dilutes this aspect. It may also set some very bad precedents.
I think, though, he presumes that the "ethical problem" is centered upon a notion of cheating through breaking the rules. If you eliminate the latter by liberalizing doping, then the former isn't cheating anymore and you thus resolve the dilemma.

That it may also set some very bad precedents is a certainty, for which we thus arrive at a contradiction: if the only way to eliminate cheating is to abandon an ethical problem, at the same time by not letting go of the latter we only sustain the former.
 
Jul 18, 2010
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Problem is with no controls it will quickly devolve to those whom are willing to risk their lives and health to win. With the regulation we have now the doping levels have been reduced to micro-dosing and to avoid getting busted you need expert advice and oversight of your doping program. So at least if doping has not been eliminated it has been made safer for the cyclists.
 
Jun 12, 2012
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rhubroma said:
I think, though, he presumes that the "ethical problem" is centered upon a notion of cheating through breaking the rules. If you eliminate the latter by liberalizing doping, then the former isn't cheating anymore and you thus resolve the dilemma.
True, as a purely academic exercise, but this is where I think he fails to see the bigger picture.

In "real life", do we simply legislate away all cheating that is difficult to detect?
 
henryg said:
Problem is with no controls it will quickly devolve to those whom are willing to risk their lives and health to win. With the regulation we have now the doping levels have been reduced to micro-dosing and to avoid getting busted you need expert advice and oversight of your doping program. So at least if doping has not been eliminated it has been made safer for the cyclists.
On the other hand by disbanding it, then it legitimizes practice, for which riders don't need to take risks a la Ricco.

Point is there will, legal or not, always be some who cross lines. Sport itself also promotes going to extremes. Doping shouldn't be made legal, but prohibition does come with its paradoxes and counter-productive effects.
 
Aug 10, 2010
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But then who is going to play?

If you liberalize doping, then the dopers are going to take over the sport.

The clean riders won't get a chance to play. If you want to shut the clean riders out (your children?), then go right ahead.
 
Aug 6, 2011
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In my opinion, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or unethical about doping, or, to put it in more neutral terms, the application of biological knowledge to enhance the performance of one's body. Sometimes, when I hear people talk about ethics, they seem to have some sort of magical list by which they can rule what is good or what is bad; what is ethical and what not.

To me, doping itself does not have the property of being unethical, the unethicality can only arise as a value in someone's personal set of opinions. Therefore, a call for the legalization of doping is not a call for allowing people to cheat or turning blind eye to unethical behavior, it is actually a call to change the way we value doping.

If we just see medical enhancement as just another way of preparing someone to ride optimally in a race, the whole problem, as mentioned before by rhubroma, of allowing cheats in an important place within society disappears. It vanishes because medical enhancement is not seen as unethical anymore, it is just as normal as, for example, optimizing bikes for performance, which also causes risks - watch Hincapie's steer breaking off at Paris-Roubaix.

Personally, I'm against the legalization of doping, but not on the basis of some fundamental ethical law. The problem I have with medical enhancement is that we do not know the long-term risks involved, even the short-term risks are often not that well documented for people who physically stress their bodies as professional cyclists do. Legalizing doping would mean that people either have to risk it or not be hired by pro teams, as I don't think they will want cyclists who don't want to go "all the way" professionally.

On the other hand, there's the absence of medical assistance problem in an illegal situation, which could lead to Ricco-like situations of cyclists doping themselves in a wrongful manner. The problem here is that, currently, we don't have enough data to estimate the risks involved in underground doping nor the risks of legalized medical enhancement. That's why, for now, I'm still on the ban the doping-bandwagon, but, if legalization will be proven to be less risky, my opinion may change very quickly.
 
Jan 10, 2012
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MarkvW said:
If you liberalize doping, then the dopers are going to take over the sport.

The clean riders won't get a chance to play. If you want to shut the clean riders out (your children?), then go right ahead.
I can understand this view, but elite sports is all about extremes and shutting everyone out (but the best). It's a sliding scale of idealism. At this moment we also exclude the guys who don't train right, don't sleep right and go to McDonalds every day. There were times training was not-done, because it diluted the pureness of the sport, etc.

Personally I believe that prohibiting 'doping', in the traditional way, is a bad rule in some aspects. The main focus should be the athletes health, responsibility (from athletes, management, authorities and doctors) and flexibility towards both the use of medical substances under supervision of doctors and punishing/sideline athletes for exceeding certain boundaries (like the OFF-scores in the bio passport). Boundaries that could be much tighter, and therefore more efficient, if you are willing step aside from the standard suspension of two years and have the possibility to (re)act 'hands-on' with efficient (blood)testing and flexible penalties...

I also believe that it would be better if all doctors were independent, and not working direcly for the teams anymore. The doctors should work together with the Athlete Passport Management Unit in a strong and hands-on Anti-doping committee, who are responsible for taking care of both the health of the athletes as well as guarding the boundaries of doping...
 
Aug 6, 2011
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Nilsson said:
I can understand this view, but elite sports is all about extremes and shutting everyone out (but the best). It's a sliding scale of idealism. At this moment we also exclude the guys who don't train right, don't sleep right and go to McDonalds every day. There were times training was not-done, because it diluted the pureness of the sport, etc.
I agree with you on all points, it's all about how you value the stuff.

Nilsson said:
Personally I believe that prohibiting 'doping', in the traditional way, is a bad rule in some aspects. The main focus should be the athletes health, responsibility (from athletes, management, authorities and doctors) and flexibility towards both the use of medical substances under supervision of doctors and punishing/sideline athletes for exceeding certain boundaries (like the OFF-scores in the bio passport). Boundaries that could be much tighter, and therefore more efficient, if you are willing step aside from the standard suspension of two years and have the possibility to (re)act 'hands-on' with efficient (blood)testing and flexible penalties...
The problem with the bolded part of your statement is that we just don't know, don't say we do, we don't. There have been numerous threads on this board about how we lack statistics about the long-term health effects of doping use and clearly, most medical research on drugs is not done on a population that stresses it's body the way cyclists do. Giving someone medical assistance will give a false sense of safety, but pulling someone out of the tour start list for abnormal blood values is only safeguarding the riders health here and now, not his health in 10 or 20 years time.
 
Mar 26, 2009
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One thing that bothers me about doping is that the more advanced "preparation" elite athletes undertake, the further removed they become from my own experience. The less I relate to their performance, the less interested I become. Bike manufacturers use this as a selling feature, and always emphasize when they are selling identical bikes as used by the pros. As other examples, I can ride hard, ride smart, eat right, sleep well, etc., just like the pros. I then see how much better they still are, and can both relate AND appreciate their abilities so much more. Once we get into "medical enhancements" that few of us have access to the gulf between pros and laymen becomes unbridgeable, and the pros performances meaningless to me. It's the difference between watching two robots fight each other versus watching two humans fight each other: I can relate to the latter, but doping makes pro cycling more like the former.
 
Jul 18, 2010
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rhubroma said:
On the other hand by disbanding it, then it legitimizes practice, for which riders don't need to take risks a la Ricco.

Point is there will, legal or not, always be some who cross lines. Sport itself also promotes going to extremes. Doping shouldn't be made legal, but prohibition does come with its paradoxes and counter-productive effects.
Riders who can't afford high tech help will do all sorts of self medicating -if they don't have to worry about a positive test getting them banned. You will have a lot more casualties.
 
henryg said:
Problem is with no controls it will quickly devolve to those whom are willing to risk their lives and health to win. With the regulation we have now the doping levels have been reduced to micro-dosing and to avoid getting busted you need expert advice and oversight of your doping program. So at least if doping has not been eliminated it has been made safer for the cyclists.
i think that has to be the most important factor. not is it doping, but, does this harm the athlete? people do crazy things to succeed, not always in their best interests.
 
Nov 11, 2011
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silverrocket said:
Once we get into "medical enhancements" that few of us have access to the gulf between pros and laymen becomes unbridgeable, and the pros performances meaningless to me. It's the difference between watching two robots fight each other versus watching two humans fight each other: I can relate to the latter, but doping makes pro cycling more like the former.
How far will medical enhancements go? Why stop at drugs? Maybe an athlete can have surgery to implant a device inside their body instead of the "motor" Cancellara had. Electrical impulses to work the muscles beyond capacity. Brain surgery to remove feelings of pain. How about transplants? The asthmatic can swap out his lungs or maybe just add to them and be the first 6 liter athlete.
In this way, we can devise any "sport" we like and build the athlete to fit.
Maybe gene splicing is the way to go, part horse, cheetah and human!
 
Mar 19, 2009
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It's an ethical question for doctors too. How many competent, ethical doctors would provide an athlete EPO or a transfusion so the athlete could be more competitive in a bike race? In addition to being theoretically unethical, it's also something that could probably cause a doctor to be disciplined or even lose his or her license to practice in many countries.
 
Jul 10, 2010
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WillemS said:
In my opinion, there is nothing intrinsically wrong or unethical about doping, or, to put it in more neutral terms, the application of biological knowledge to enhance the performance of one's body. . . .

If we just see medical enhancement as just another way of preparing someone to ride optimally in a race, the whole problem, as mentioned before by rhubroma, of allowing cheats in an important place within society disappears. It vanishes because medical enhancement is not seen as unethical anymore, it is just as normal as, for example, optimizing bikes for performance, which also causes risks - watch Hincapie's steer breaking off at Paris-Roubaix.

Personally, I'm against the legalization of doping, but not on the basis of some fundamental ethical law. The problem I have with medical enhancement is that we do not know the long-term risks involved, even the short-term risks are often not that well documented for people who physically stress their bodies as professional cyclists do. Legalizing doping would mean that people either have to risk it or not be hired by pro teams, as I don't think they will want cyclists who don't want to go "all the way" professionally.
. . .
-- my emphasis in bold.

What you have stated here is the very definition of ethical values and ethical objections to doping. Perhaps it is not the ethics of the situation that bother you - it is those who seem to want it done just because it is the rules? To object because of the medical risk IS to object for ethical reasons.

Or maybe you disagree with those who object on the basis that a human is not a machine - something to be infinitely refined? But the core of that line of ethical reasoning is also the risk it represents to society as a whole.

Doping definitely involves a risk. Frankly, I think the risks are actually much better known than this. The risks involved in steroids are certainly well known, and well documented. The risk in blood vector enhancements, to my knowledge, more closely fit your description. The risk in various vaso-dilators and asthma-type stuff I think is more in the steriod ballpark.

When the doping doesn't change the results - or does so with a risk so small that most reasonable people would not object - I really do not care if it is done. In the case of something like speed - the primary damage is done to the individual. Others can chose to do without, and still be competitive. In the case of steroids and the blood vector techniques, this is no longer true. To be competitive as a pro apparently required some application of the methods - and thus forced risk on those who would not otherwise have taken that risk. That is what gags me. Although, frankly, I also object when it has changed the results of the race, but that is a personal objection, yes?
 
Jul 10, 2010
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usedtobefast said:
i think that has to be the most important factor. not is it doping, but, does this harm the athlete? people do crazy things to succeed, not always in their best interests.
Yes. +1

One has only to examine the death records over the past decade or so for WWE contenders, eh?
 
Jul 19, 2010
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I wholeheartedly disagree with the whole "legalizing doping" notion. First of all, it's a lazy way to get away from a problem that we have now. Instead of doing our best to solve the problem, we are giving up and say, "if you can't beat them, might as well join them." What kind of message are we leaving to the kids who are trying to make a sporting career? We encourage hard work and training to make yourself stronger, then what's the point of training if clenbuterol can burn fat and increase muscle without any work? Are you ready to teach an 8-year-old the performance enhancing drugs needed to succeed in the pro ranks? Besides, if you are going to legalize doping, you can't limit it to just the pro level, the amateur and semi-pro levels will follow suit, then you have a whole sporting population all juiced up.

The purpose of medicine is to fix any health problem you may have, any doctor will tell you that, NOT to do it on regular basis for the purpose making yourself superhuman.
 
Mar 15, 2009
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I agree with this column entirely. But its not just biological enhancements that should be allowed, I was disgusted when I showed up for the Australian 100 metre olympics trials. They banned my Kawasaki claiming it was illegal equipment, and it's not just athletics.. I could ride off the mob doing the Tour De France this year on my Kawasaki but would they let me.. of course not.

Its about time they removed all rules about biological and mechanical enhancements in sport. Until then all sports will be a farce!
 
Aug 6, 2011
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hiero2 said:
What you have stated here is the very definition of ethical values and ethical objections to doping. Perhaps it is not the ethics of the situation that bother you - it is those who seem to want it done just because it is the rules? To object because of the medical risk IS to object for ethical reasons.
Agreed, I'm talking ethics here. What I actually meant was something else, which I stated earlier in my post. I don't view anything inherently good or bad, I don't even believe that there is something that is ultimately good or bad. Even the "avoiding risk for society" is a subjective value (which can held by someone), a value that is not worth more or less than the value "harm to society does not matter".*

Of course, we all have a list of values about how we like to see certain things, but there are no objective measures to judge whether, say, my values are better or worse than, say, your values. To be more extreme, if the world was destroyed tomorrow, there would be no objective measure to say whether that would be a good or bad thing, but we can all have an opinion about whether we would like such a thing (value it as good or bad; quite frankly, if the world and all its inhabitants were destroyed, there is a great chance there will not be anything around to have values about it.)

Thus, what I meant is that a lot of people seem to reason with the morality of doping as a given (as in doping is inherently a bad thing). For me, that value of doping is not automatic nor something objectively fixed. Today, I tend to have a slight negative value for doping, but it is not unlikely that it will change someday.

*) Of course, I can have a negative value for people who have a positive value for "harming society" (whatever that may be).

hiero2 said:
Doping definitely involves a risk. Frankly, I think the risks are actually much better known than this. The risks involved in steroids are certainly well known, and well documented. The risk in blood vector enhancements, to my knowledge, more closely fit your description. The risk in various vaso-dilators and asthma-type stuff I think is more in the steriod ballpark.

When the doping doesn't change the results - or does so with a risk so small that most reasonable people would not object - I really do not care if it is done. In the case of something like speed - the primary damage is done to the individual. Others can chose to do without, and still be competitive. In the case of steroids and the blood vector techniques, this is no longer true. To be competitive as a pro apparently required some application of the methods - and thus forced risk on those who would not otherwise have taken that risk. That is what gags me. Although, frankly, I also object when it has changed the results of the race, but that is a personal objection, yes?
I think that the risks of a lot of doping taken these days are unknown. This may not apply to all used substances, but dopers have never been shy to try out new substances, such as untested designer doping products or products still in experimental stages (quite possibly including AICAR). Regulating doping use by involving (independent) medical doctors does not solve this problem, as either those doctors will not allow these new and untested products, opening the gap for a new illegal doping scene, or they allow it, without actually knowing the risks involved.

About the bolded part:

Amphetamine changes someone's perception of fatigue and gives him a greater focus, that's why people take the drug as a performance enhancing substance. When we translate this into cycling terms it means that someone has to suffer less to go deep/to do that ultimate effort. It might not change the absolute limit of someone's body, but it will make it easier for him to approach that limit in physical effort. Automatically, this means that someone who didn't use the drug and has the same physical limits, has to be able to suffer more to reach the same level of competitiveness. Therefore, I feel that it does harm the ability of others to be as competitive as the drug user.

About your personal objection, that is something I agree on. Anybody can decide for himself what risks to take, but allowing doping will force someone to take risks if they ever want to be a competitive pro cyclist.
 
Aug 6, 2011
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Steve H. said:
How far will medical enhancements go? Why stop at drugs? Maybe an athlete can have surgery to implant a device inside their body instead of the "motor" Cancellara had. Electrical impulses to work the muscles beyond capacity. Brain surgery to remove feelings of pain. How about transplants? The asthmatic can swap out his lungs or maybe just add to them and be the first 6 liter athlete.
In this way, we can devise any "sport" we like and build the athlete to fit.
Maybe gene splicing is the way to go, part horse, cheetah and human!
I don't think there is an objective line somewhere here. It might one day be totally normal to alter one's body mechanically to enhance its function.

You don't give one good argument why the things you state are indeed bad or unwanted, you just take a point, and while sliding down a very slippery slope, you inflate it to the absurd to 'prove' that the original proposition, the legalization of drug use as performance enhancement, is bad. That's no real argument.
 
This is from another post of mine in a different thread, but it applies to this discussion.

One point to remember is that doping also has a "therapeutic" aspect (in the Italian lexicon this is emphatically clear, curarsi, literally to "take care of oneself" reflexive form of the verb curare , to cure (a disease) or look after yourself in the sense of helping the body heal, recover, feel healthy, etc. In fact an Italian cyclist doesn't go to his doctor to "dope," but to "look after himself" and "be cared for": curarsi. Here one encounters a physiological justification of doping, as an enshrined therapeutic precept. Indeed Fuentes said as much in his own defense, that he was not harming the athletes who sought his services at all, but actually taking care of their health. Ferrari et all would have felt the same way. The brutality of cycling at the professional level, according to them, requires such treatments, in order to replenish and maintain the rider's diminished bio-levels inflicted upon the body by the exhausting and agonizing training and racing regiment, during which the body is pushed to physiological extremes. So argues the doping specialists.

Given this philosophy, it is easy to comprehend how many a rider who may have gone into a doping program with uneasiness of mind and a guilty conscience, is easily persuaded by the medical experts that in fact what he does is not only ethically unproblematic, but even vital to his good health!
 
Nov 11, 2011
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I would argue it essentially diminishes the human element. It is no longer man against himself. As "doping" becomes more accepted, for whatever reason, the performances, which may or may not be more exciting to watch, become less attributed to the athlete(human) thereby trivializing any achievement. It would lower the value placed on human beings in general. I feel doping actually never lets you find and test your limits, but the effectiveness of the chosen method of doping.
 

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