Lance Armstrong, drugs, and skepticism

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brianvds (January 20, 2013, 10:34:39 AM):
Even someone like me, who is not into sport at all, has heard about the whole Lance Armstrong saga by now.

In short, he cheated by doping with performance enhancing drugs.

Question: Is it not time for sporting bodies to simply allow athletes to dope with whatever they like and take the risks along with the glory?

What say ye?

Mefiante (January 20, 2013, 11:15:07 AM):
The question of doping is chiefly an ethical one around perceptions. The athletics regulating bodies want to be seen to enforce fairness and transparency. Word from the underbelly of cycling (a well-known sports doctor) is that you simply can’t compete internationally unless you actually dope, and all else being equal, those who can afford better drugs will do better. The real question is how well it can be hidden from testing. It’s an ongoing battle where ever more sophisticated performance enhancers are developed to elude increasingly sophisticated testing protocols.

Besides the ethical considerations, the counterargument to uncontrolled use of performance-boosting drugs is, I think, similar to the practical aspects that motivate control of other drugs, namely widespread abuse resulting in health issues and incapacity.

'Luthon64
Tweefo (January 20, 2013, 11:21:46 AM):
Tour de Pharma and the yellow jersey belong to the thickest wallet.
brianvds (January 20, 2013, 12:48:26 PM):
The question of doping is chiefly an ethical one around perceptions. The athletics regulating bodies want to be seen to enforce fairness and transparency. Word from the underbelly of cycling (a well-known sports doctor) is that you simply can’t compete internationally unless you actually dope, and all else being equal, those who can afford better drugs will do better.

All else being equal, those who can afford better equipment and training will also do better. It is not always clear to me why it is fair for an athlete to use the very best equipment and trainer and diet he and/or his team can afford, but when he uses the best drugs he can get hold of, it becomes unfair.

Quote
Besides the ethical considerations, the counterargument to uncontrolled use of performance-boosting drugs is, I think, similar to the practical aspects that motivate control of other drugs, namely widespread abuse resulting in health issues and incapacity.
'Luthon64

Well, I can see the problem here: one does not want to create a situation where those willing to take the greatest risks to their own health get an advantage. One has to keep in mind though that even without drugs, athletes today take significant health risks and often inflict significant long term harm on their bodies. I'm not sure the drugs are uniquely dangerous.

It also seems to me that the whole anti-doping thing has a generous dollop of old-fashioned moralism mixed into it. E.g. marijuana is also on the list of forbidden drugs; it is by no stretch of the imagination a performance enhancer. I.e. to some extent the sporting bodies have now descended into a moral crusade instead of just ensuring fairness. In the meantime the list of forbidden substances has grown so long that ever more and more athletes find themselves doping by accident.

As for the health concerns, it seems to me that if one can do the doping in the open, under supervision of a trained doctor, it might well be safer than the way it is done now, with many athletes dosing themselves with stuff they ordered over the web, based on information they got on the web.

Last but not least, it is noteworthy that this doping thing became a serious problem only when significant amounts of money got involved. One seldom heard of such things in the "good old days" when athletes were amateurs and competed for personal glory rather than potential millions in remuneration. It is as if a certain ugliness has crept into sport now that athletes are paid: the competition has become merciless, and little is left of old-fashioned "good sportsmanship" in which people behaved with dignity and generosity of spirit both in victory and in defeat.

Well, as I said, I am not really into sport and thus I couldn't really care less whether athletes dope or what they dope with. Just an interesting theoretical question. :-)

Perhaps Mr. Armstrong should simply start his own sporting body, which will work exactly the same way as any other except that no drug testing will be done. Then they can arrange the Tour de Dagga if they like, and those who want to dope can do so in peace.
Jacques (January 20, 2013, 16:37:27 PM):
Definitely time to allow doping. The restrictions are arbitrary and incoherent. It's the subject of my Wednesday Daily Maverick column, for those interested.

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