I. Performance-enhancing substances legalization is impossible.
People always try to compete and prove that they can do something better than others. Interestingly, the word competition “derived from the Latin “come together” has obtained the English meaning of “a trial of skill or ability; a contest” (Bahrke v). Thus, sport is a trial of human abilities and professional skills. However, competitors seek for enhancing their natural abilities with the help of performance-enhancing substances.
Admittedly, this is not a new trend. For instance, ancient Greeks used “hallucinogenic mushrooms” to improve their performances; Africans used Cola to enhance their running performance (Bahrke vii). Moreover, athletes of the 19th century used cocaine and other heavy drugs, and the athletes of the 20th century excessively used various anabolics and stimulants (Bahrke 3-5).
It is necessary to add that only in the middle of the 20th strict performance-enhancing substances bans were issued. However, at the moment many claim that such ban should be abolished and it is necessary to legalize the use of “not dangerous” performance-enhancing substances (hereinafter also referred to as “drugs”). These people provide many arguments for such legalization stating that it could improve the control process over drugs use, save finance used on costly doping test.
They also refer to some ethic issues claiming that sport itself can cause various problems in athletes’ future lives (just like drugs), besides, drugs only improve performance but not presuppose unnatural physical strength, and, finally, it could be beneficial to make science and sport interrelated.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to legalize the use of performance-enhancing substances due to the number of incompatible arguments: these drugs lead to grave health problems; legalization cannot prevent the use of new more dangerous drugs, and, finally, the legalization contradicts the major principles of sports.
II. Arguments supporting the statement that performance-enhancing substances legalization is impossible.
A. Performance-enhancing substances cause long termed negative effects.
Drugs legalization advocates admit that performance-enhancing substances use causes various side effects and grave health problems in athlete’s future lives. However, they also state that sport injuries can be also dangerous and performance-enhancing substances cause future health problems. For instance, according to Waddington cases of “osteoarthritis among retired footballers” are numerous and even “significantly greater than for the general population” (Waddington 28).
Waddington also claims that the risk of injuries in contact sport is also “very high” (28). Of course, it is impossible to deny that sport can lead to lots of injuries. Sometimes these injuries become even fatal, but any profession presupposes definite risks. For instance, such dangerous occupations like fire-fighters, miners, police officers and many others get injured every day.
However, it is possible to cure a broken leg or even arthritis in retired sports people, but it is hardly possible to cure the consequences of the performance-enhancing substances use. Thus, drugs use often leads to blood pressure diseases, aggression, insomnia, mental disorders, even hepatitis B and AIDS (if they share syringes), which are difficult to cure and some of these diseases are “irreversible” and incurable (Putnam 122).
Moreover, dozens of performance-enhancing substances users get involved in “rapes, traffic altercations, assaults, bar fights, and incidents of domestic violence” (Putnam 122). Thus, these drugs use not only affects negatively athlete’s health but it also leads to negative consequences in their personal and social lives as well. Thereby, it is necessary to stress that performance-enhancing substances cause serious health problems which cannot be juxtaposed with other professions injury risks.
B. Legalization will not lead to better control over drug use.
Another argument for performance-enhancing substances legalization, which is the most common, is that drugs are still used even when they are banned. Thus, drugs legalization advocates claim that it is better to legalize some “not dangerous” drugs which could diminish or at least control the use of dangerous performance-enhancing substances. However, this argument is quite week. Admittedly, athletes often use drugs to improve their performances “without medical care” (Putnam 122).
Moreover, many athletes follow the simple rule “more is better” and “flood their bodies with many varieties of the drug” (Putnam 122). Thus, it is hardly possible to change the situation since even if some drugs can be available, people would always seek for better “medicine”. It is also necessary to take into account that legalized and new drugs can be taken simultaneously.
Of course, there will be no study of these substances interaction which may lead to serious health problems or even many deaths. Besides, even now many legal drugs are extremely dangerous, especially pain killers which may lead to cardiac disorders, and in “very large doses they cause central nervous system stimulation, convulsions and death” (Waddington 31).
Reportedly, painkillers act like energizers accumulating athletes’ energy which can be used to continue the game and show good performances (Putnam 122). However, these immediate energy accumulations are unnatural and very harmful since they cause many diseases and addictions. In fact, these legalized drugs are sometimes more dangerous than steroids and other performance-enhancing substances.
Thus, it is quite difficult to make a decision which drugs are not dangerous and which ones should be banned. Moreover, this partial (and total) legalization may lead to numerous abuses since pharmacological business can violate some ethical and medical issues of the problem and withhold some “inappropriate” information on negative consequences.
C. Doping tests are very useful for drug use prevention.
One more argument to support performance-enhancing substances legalization is that doping tests, which are quite costly, lead to production of the less detectable drugs, rather than safer ones (Ashcroft 518). Moreover, Ashcroft et al. claim that doping test removal would lead to “less cheating, increased solidarity and respect between athletes, more focus on sport and not rules” (518).
First of all, it is simply impossible to remove doping tests since there will be constant need to check whether athletes take some new drugs. Besides, as has been mentioned above the drugs legalization will not stop production of new performance-enhancing substances which will be far from being safe. Admittedly, such substances are aimed at improving athletes’ performances. Here “inventors” follow the principle “if it does not kill you, it makes you stronger”.
In fact, doping tests are very useful not only for detecting drug use, but to prevent athletes from using performance-enhancing substances. Of course, many athletes do not use such substances since they want to be fair or simply do not need pharmacological enhancers, but many athletes think twice before using drugs for being afraid to be disqualified for performance-enhancing substances use.
Unfortunately, not only athletes try to use drugs. Many coaches and team doctors often make athletes use drugs, or sometimes they even do not say athletes what dangerous substances the latter take. So, if athletes are very concerned with their health, doctors may be less concerned with this issue. Thus, doping controls prevent coaches and team doctors from giving drugs to the athletes.
D. Performance-enhancing substances cause insignificant performance improvement but leads to considerable health risk.
Another argument provided by drugs legalization advocates is that performance-enhancing substances do not lead to supernatural powers, but only improve physical performances, training capabilities and recovery processes and, thus, they can be legalized.
For instance, Waddington and Smith claim that drug use do not “improve one’s technical skill” so the performance gains” from performance-enhancing substances use are small (176). Thus, legalization supporters state that drug use is just another type of diet or medical care. According to Putnam, performance-enhancing substances can be in the one line with such “performance aids” as “computerized exercise programs, biomagnetic therapy” (126).
However, these very arguments only prove that performance-enhancing substances legalization is impossible since the benefits from drugs use are not significant, but risks of possible health problems are considerable. Therefore, there is no sense in making substances legal if they are harmful and cause no considerable improvements for athletes. Besides, the effects of performance-enhancing substances are not investigated thoroughly and some scientists even suggest that they may cause some genetic diseases.
It is also necessary to remember that sport and athletes inspire many young people. Reportedly, drug use in professional sport leads to the use of such substances in amateur sport which make many adolescents use performance-enhancing substances. For instance, Gold suggests that professional athletes should become “role models and spokesmen for drug-free sport and lifestyle” (14). Thus, performance-enhancing substances legalization will only increase the spread of drug use among adolescents.
E. Performance-enhancing substances cannot be considered as scientific progress.
Finally, many legislation advocates suggest that performance-enhancing substances are indicators of human progress. They claim that sport and science should go hand in hand to reach higher results. However, it is impossible to ignore the fact that sport is the competition of human abilities, not chemicals. In fact, 20th century sport experienced such “drugs drive”. Thus, in the 1960-70s the effects of performance-enhancing substances were praised by drug users throughout media (Bahrke 8).
Interestingly, in the 20th century athletes did not pay attention to reports about various cases of deaths because of drug abuse and continued to use performance-enhancing substances. For instance, Bahrke quotes Ken Patera, U.S. weightlifter, who speaks about his Soviet rival:
Last year the only difference between me and him was I couldn’t afford his drug bill. Now I can. When I hit Munich I’ll weigh at about 340, or maybe 250. Then we’ll see which are better, his steroids or mine. (Bahrke 8)
Thus, it is clear that those times were the times when chemists competed not athletes. In fact, the ethical issue arises out of this argument about the “scientific approach” to training.
It is necessary to remember that any sport is a fair competition and demonstration of physical abilities and professional skills of athletes. Moreover, those scientific “improvements” lead to severe health problems so they cannot be regarded as the indicators of progress. Perhaps, someday scientists will invent some really harmless performance-enhancing substances.
Only after this it will be possible to start the conversation on the ethical issue of the problem trying to decide whether it is possible to launch some sport competitions of performance-enhancing substances users. At the moment the argument that scientific progress should support sports is groundless since, as has been stated above, it is impossible to mention scientific progress when enhancers do not improve performance but cause health problems.
III. Performance-enhancing substances legalization is impossible since drug use is too dangerous and provides no significant improvements.
To conclude, it is possible to state that performance-enhancing substances cannot be legalized due to several facts. First of all, drug use is extremely dangerous for athletes’ health and their future lives.
Thus, arguments that sports are very dangerous and drugs are not the main risk factor is groundless since negative effects of performance-enhancing substances leads to very severe health problems when athletes retire. Secondly, drugs legalization will not stop these substances production and, vice versa, can lead to more dangerous drugs use with no medical control.
Thirdly, some drug legislation advocates presuppose the removal of doping tests. However, doping tests are helpful tolls of drug use prevention: being afraid of disqualification, many athletes avoid using drugs. Fourthly, performance-enhancing substances do not improve physical performances considerably, but instead they are very harmful for athletes’ health. Thus, drug use is not worth the risk. Finally, it is necessary to remember that sport is a competition of athletes’ abilities.
Moreover, one should admit that performance-enhancing substances cannot be regarded as scientific progress since they lead to various negative consequences and it is impossible to say that science only develops the abilities of a human body. Thus, it is not time to start discussion of the possibility of performance-enhancing substances legalization since these drugs not only violate the main principle of fair competition but cause numerous negative effects which are still insufficiently explored.
Ashcroft, R.E., Dawson, A., Draper, H. Principles of Health Care Ethics. London: John Wiley and Sons, 2007.
Bahrke, M.S. Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.
Putnam, D.T. Controversies of the Sports World. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999
Waddington, I., Smith, A. An Introduction to Drugs in Sport: Addicted to Winning? New York, NY: Routledge, 2009.