This House would permit the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports

At least as far back as Ben Johnson's steroid scandal at the 1988 Olympics, the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports had entered the public psyche. Johnson's world record sprint, his win, and then, the stripping of his gold medal made news around the world. However, performance-enhancing drugs in sports do not begin with Johnson.  A quick overview of drugs in sports reveals the earlier use of questionable substances; some even argue that drugs in sports date back to the earliest Olympic games.

An alarming number of sports today, baseball, football, track and field, and especially cycling, have been shaken by doping scandals in recent years. Several Olympic champions were stripped of their medals as a result of positive drugs tests. Although attention is often focused upon athletics, almost all sports have a “drug problem” and devote considerable energy to testing competitors regularly, banning those who fail them. An anonymous survey conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping agency revealed that about one tenth of all athletes admit to having used drugs, even though illegal (2). Nonetheless, doubts remain as to the effectiveness of these tests and the fairness of some of the resulting bans, and some argue the whole approach is deeply flawed.

Performance-enhancing drugs include steroids (the male hormone testosterone), Human-growth hormone (HGH), recombinant erythropoietin (r-EPO), an artificial hormone and other drugs taken to build muscle-bulk during training, and stimulants or blood-doping taken to improve performance in competition. Authorities tend to deal with this problem in different ways, for example, for the Tour de France cycling competition all sportsmen were deemed suspicious and ranked on a list from 1 to 10 (1), others impose random tests on athletes. The market for performance enhancing drugs, such as EPO (erythropoietin) is big, in 2001 alone, EPO--generated more than $5 billion for inventor Amgen (2). Question is what is the appropriate measure to deal with performance enhancing drugs – is there a way to control them and is there any sense in controlling them at all.

Most such drugs have some medical uses and are prescribed legally in certain non-athletic contexts; it is unlikely that a Proposition would also wish to legalize “recreational” drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, although all of these could be regarded as performance-enhancing in certain sporting contexts.

 

  1. Velonews.com, L’Equipe publishes list of UCI’s doping suspicions from 2010 Tour de France, 05/13/2011, http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/05/news/lequipe-publishes-list-of-ucis-doping-suspicions-from-2010-tour-de-france_172784, accessed 05/17/2011  
  2. Matthew Herper, Performance Drugs Outrun Olympics, Forbes 02/15/02, http://www.forbes.com/2002/02/15/0215ped.html, accessed 05/20/2011  
Title 
Athletes should be free to take risks when training and competing
Point 

Freedom of choice: If athletes wish to take drugs in search of improved performances, let them do so. They harm nobody but themselves and should be treated as adults, capable of making rational decisions upon the basis of widely-available information.

Even if there are adverse health effects in the long-term, this is also true of tobacco, alcohol and boxing, which remain legal. We allow world class athletes to train for 23 hours a week (on average), adjust their diets and endanger themselves by pushing the boundaries of their body. We let them do it, because it is what they chose which is best for them. According to the NFL Player Association the average life expectancy of an NFL player is 58 years of age (1). Thus already we allow athletes to endanger their lives, give them the choice of a lifestyle. Why not also extend this moral precedent to drugs?

 

  1. Judd Bissiotto, 15 Surprising facts about world athletes,

http://strengthplanet.com/other/15-surprising-facts-about-world-class-athletes.htm, accessed 05/18/2011

Counterpoint 

Simple analogy: If a person were to kill himself for the sake of entertaining the crowd, this act would still be considered illegal by the government and efforts to hinder and discourage it would be created.

An appropriate example is the one of dangers of alcohol and tobacco, which were not known until after they had become normalized in society. Once the dangers were known, the public were so used to it, that they wouldn’t condone a ban by the State. If alcohol were introduced tomorrow it would be banned, as shown by the attitude towards narcotics and steroid use has shown. Governments have tried to reduce sales by having high levels of tax on tobacco and alcohol anyway. Moreover many states are restricting choice in tobacco and alcohol by introducing limited bans, such as on smoking in public places. The proposition cannot use the fact that tobacco and alcohol are legal as a defense of the use of drugs. This should be seen as an equally detrimental act and thus illegal.

Title 
There is no distinction between "natural" and synthetic methods of performance enhancement
Point 

The natural/unnatural distinction is untenable. Already athletes use all sorts of dietary supplements, exercises, equipment, clothing, training regimes, medical treatments, etc. to enhance their performance. There is nothing ‘natural’ about taking vitamin pills, wearing whole-body Lycra suits, having surgery on ligaments, spending every day in a gym pumping weights or running in shoes with spikes on the bottom. Diet, medicine, technology, and even just coaching already give an artificial advantage to those athletes who can afford the best of all these aids. Since there is no clear way to distinguish from legitimate and illegitimate artificial aids to performance, they should all be allowed. So taking these drugs is no more unnatural than what happens today.

 

A practical example of an unnatural aid is the Speedo worn in 2008 at the Beijing Olympics. FINA, the world governing body of swimming was concerned about the extraordinary statistics in Beijing where swimmers wearing the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit won 90 per cent of all available medals and broke 23 world records. Since Speedo launched the suit in 2008, 108 world records have fallen (until February 2009) (1).

 

  1. Simon Hart, Swimwear giant Speedo hit back at 'unfair advantage' claims, 02/19/2009,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/swimming/4699498/Swimwear-giant-Speedo-hit-back-at-unfair-advantage-claims.html,accessed 15/05/2011 

Counterpoint 

It is true that it is difficult to decide where to draw the line between legitimate and illegitimate performance enhancement. However we should continue to draw a line nonetheless. This line should be drawn at protecting athletes from harmful drugs and preserving the spirit of fair play and unaided competition between human beings in their peak of natural fitness.

The special diet and sport training equipment, which may seem very hard and exeptional, have been designed based on serious scientific research proved and tested to fit with long-term training of athletes. Hard practice to achieve the best performance with help of these professional methods is completely a different from taking steroids and growth hormones for immediate result.

Title 
Controlling, rather than ignoring, performance enhancing substances will improve competitive standards in sport
Point 

The use of performance enhancing drugs is based on advances in science. When new drugs and therapies are found, athletes turn to them and as a result are much of the time ahead of the anti-doping organizations, which need to develop methods of athlete testing whenever a new drug that is meant to be untraceable is created. In 2008 it was a big shock when Riccardo Ricco (a cyclist) was caught using the performance-enhancing drug Mircera, which had been considered undetectable for a number of years.

The fact is that a ban of performance enhancing drugs enables mainly athletes from wealthy countries and teams that can afford the newest technology to go undetected, whilst others are disadvantaged (1). So because it gives an unfair advantage to the wealthy one who can pay for the undetectable drugs, we should legalize it.

 

  1. Millard Baker, Riccardo Ricco Tests Positive

for Undetectable New Drug Mircera at 2008 Tour de France, 07/18/2008, http://steroidreport.com/2008/07/18/riccardo-ricco-and-mircera-pegylated-epo/, accessed 05/20/2011

Counterpoint 

Rich athletes from wealthier countries will always have access to the latest, highest quality performance enhancers. On the other side, athletes from poorer countries which do not have the same medical and scientific advances will not be able to keep up. They will always be at a disadvantage regardless of whether performance enhancing drugs are legal or not. 

Title 
Improving safety standards in sport
Point 

It does not take a lot for chemists to produce performance enhancing drugs, the Scientific American reports: “Rogue scientists start with testosterone or its commercially available analogues and then make minor structural modifications to yield similarly active derivatives.” The underground chemists make no effort to test their creations for effectiveness or safety, of course. Production of a simple new steroid compound would require "lab equipment costing maybe $50,000 to $100,000,". Depending on the number of chemical reactions needed for synthesis, "some of them could be made in a week or two. Others might take six months to a year."(1) As a result of legalizing performance-enhancing drugs a backstreet industry can become regulated as a result there will be much more control and testing to ensure the health and safety of the athletes who take the drugs.   

  1. Steven Ashley, Doping by Design, Scientific American 01/12/2004, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=doping-by-design, accessed 05/19/2011 
Counterpoint 

There will always be a black market for cheaper or for new untested drugs that will give an athlete an edge before others have a chance to try it. Legalization is therefore unlikely to result in large health benefits as the competitiveness of sport will always result in athletes being willing to take a risk.

Title 
Drugs will undermine the central philosophy of sport
Point 

The show and the celebration of human physical achievement is what makes sport enjoyable to the public. The reason people enjoy sport is because it is a demonstration of what other fellow human beings can achieve and what humans can achieve collectively, as a species.

A spectacle is designed to amaze. It doesn’t need to be human achievement to be amazing (no one would call monster truck driving a sport). So, when humans start taking drugs to improve performance, it is no longer a sport, it is a spectacle, because there is no human physical achievement, but instead a chemical achievement.

 

It also becomes a celebration not of human physical achievement, but of human intellectual achievement, of who can design the best drugs. Even with fancy running shoes, we are still celebrating human achievement, which will not happen once you take it to the extreme of allowing drug use.

This doesn’t benefit athletes in the long run. Athletes won’t be celebrated but scientists will!

Counterpoint 

Sport is also about the spectacle for spectators.

Sport has become a branch of the entertainment business and the public demands “higher, faster, stronger” from athletes. If drug-use allows world records to be continually broken, and makes American Football players bigger and more exciting to watch, why deny the public what they want, especially if the athletes want to give it to them?

The criterion that athletes should only be applying their ‘natural abilities’ runs into trouble. The highly advanced training technologies, health programs, sports drinks, use of such things as caffeine pills, and other energy boosters seem to defeat the notion that athletes are currently applying only their 'natural abilities'. Performance enhancing drugs would not go too far beyond the current circumstances for athletes.

Title 
Permitting the use of performace enhancers would have a coercive effect on athletes who would otherwise avoid drug use
Point 

Once some people choose to use drugs to enhance their performance, other athletes have their freedom of choice infringed upon: if they want to succeed they have to take drugs too. Athletes are very driven individuals, who would go to great lengths to achieve their goals. The chance of a gold medal in two years’ time may out-weigh the risks of serious health problems for the rest of their life. We should protect athletes from themselves and not allow anyone to take performance-enhancing drugs. An example of the pressure is cycling. The American Scientific magazine explains: “Game theory highlights why it is rational for professional cyclists to dope: the drugs are extremely effective as well as difficult or impossible to detect; the payoffs for success are high; and as more riders use them, a “clean” rider may become so noncompetitive that he or she risks being cut from the team.” (1)

 

Michael Shermer, The Dopping Dillema, 03/31/2008, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-doping-dilemma accessed 05/15/2011

Counterpoint 

There is no such thing as a forced decision. Everyone has complete control over their own body and their own decisions. Everyone has an absolute right to possession of one’s own body. If you own your body then you can choose what to do with it, and any exchange, such as money to an employer in exchange for use of your body (labour) is justified, because it was a voluntary exchange and you still possess yourself.  If you choose to take drugs, you have not been forced into it no matter the peer pressure you may be under or that other having taken the drugs may make you uncompetitive.

Title 
Protecting the health of athletes
Point 

Laws should in general protect people from making uninformed decisions. Due to the potential severe consequences the ban has to be upheld. An analogy with the seatbelt can be used: the government forces people to use them, because of the possibility of severe injury in case we do not use it.   

The use of performance-enhancing drugs is the opposite – use can lead to severe health problems.  

Thus, if all people are treated as equals under law, then the law should equally protect athletes as the law does other would- be drug users.

Equality before law also means athletes can’t be exempt from the moral standards we have for others. Firstly due to value of life and secondly because many times athletes themselves are not aware of the severe consequences of performance enhancing drugs.

 

BBC Drugs and Sports (GCSE Bitesize):  http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/pe/performance/1_performance_drugsinsport_rev1.shtml , accessed 05/15/2011

Counterpoint 

Sport is dangerous. Today’s athletes decide to endanger their lives by participating in sports all the time. They decide to participate in sports with the informed decision that they might get hurt as it is part of the sport. Performance enhancing drugs are no different.

In the USA every year there are nearly 300,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Athletes involved in sports such as football, hockey and boxing are at significant risk of TBI due to the high level of contact inherent in these sports. Head injuries are also extremely common in sports such as cycling, baseball, basketball and skateboarding. Many head injuries acquired, playing these sports, lead to permanent brain damage or worse. Yet we do not impose a law to ban athletes from participating in those sports. We trust their assessment of risk (1).

 

All about Traumatic Brain Injuries: http://www.allabouttbi.com/sports-related-traumatic-brain-injury/, accessed 05/15/2011     

Title 
Protecting young and vulnerable athletes
Point 

Even if performance-enhancing drugs were only legalized for adults, the definition of this varies from country to country, something which would be problematic for sports that are global. Teenage athletes train alongside adult ones and share the same coaches, so many would succumb to the temptation and pressures to use drugs, if these were widely available and effectively endorsed by legalization. Not only are such young athletes unable to make a fully rational, informed choice about drug-taking, the health impacts upon growing bodies would be even worse than for adult users. It would also send a positive message about drug culture in general, making the use of “recreational drugs” with all their accompanying evils more widespread.

Counterpoint 

The temptation of youth to try illegal substances is not just a problem in sports. In all environments you will have age restrictions.

To say that we should uphold the ban for the sake of children is as if we would advocate a ban of alcohol for everyone, because some teenagers like to socialize with adults who are legally able to drink alcohol. There is always going to be an age restriction and it is the duty of institutions, trainers and athletes to uphold it, so that later in life as adults, athletes can make an informed decision.

Bibliography 

By author:

 

  1. Judd Bissiotto, 15 Surprising facts about world athletes, http://strengthplanet.com/other/15-surprising-facts-about-world-class-athletes.htm, accessed 05/18/2011

 

  1. Michael Shermer, The Dopping Dillema, 03/31/2008, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-doping-dilemma accessed 05/15/2011

 

  1. Simon Hart, Swimwear giant Speedo hit back at 'unfair advantage' claims, 02/19/2009,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/swimming/4699498/Swimwear-giant-Speedo-hit-back-at-unfair-advantage-claims.html,accessed 15/05/2011

 

  1. Matthew Herper, Performance Drugs Outrun Olympics, Forbes 02/15/02, http://www.forbes.com/2002/02/15/0215ped.html, accessed 05/20/2011 

 

  1. Millard Baker, Riccardo Ricco Tests Positive

for Undetectable New Drug Mircera at 2008 Tour de France, 07/18/2008, http://steroidreport.com/2008/07/18/riccardo-ricco-and-mircera-pegylated-epo/, accessed 05/20/2011

 

  1. Steven Ashley, Doping by Design, Scientific American 01/12/2004, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=doping-by-design, accessed 05/19/2011

 

 

Multiple authors / organization publications:

 

  1. Velonews.com, L’Equipe publishes list of UCI’s doping suspicions from 2010 Tour de France, 05/13/2011, http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/05/news/lequipe-publishes-list-of-ucis-doping-suspicions-from-2010-tour-de-france_172784, accessed 05/17/2011

 

  1. BBC Drugs and Sports (GCSE Bitesize): http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/pe/performance/1_performance_drugsinsport_rev1.shtml , accessed 05/15/2011

 

  1. All about Traumatic Brain Injuries: http://www.allabouttbi.com/sports-related-traumatic-brain-injury/, accessed 05/15/2011   

 

  1. U.S. National library of Medicine, Should performance-enhancing drugs in sport be legalized under medical supervision?, 02/01/2011, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21244107, accessed 05/20/2011 

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