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Drugs in Sport debate and special edition

Over the next month Oxford Online Debates will be tackling the motion "Performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in sport". We will try to collect together relevant materials and blog posts below
in this special edition.

Participating in this term's debate, are two members of this blog Professor Julian
of Oxford Uehiro Centre (Proposer), and Professor Roger Crisp of
Oxford Uehiro Centre (Moderator) as well as Dr John-William Devine of Ethox and
HeLEX (Opposer). The debate will conclude with a public vote between
5-9 July.

The public can follow the developing debate online,
posting comments throughout the process and voting at the end.

debates have focused on whether the NHS should treat self-inflicted
, and whether the current economic crisis signals the end of
laissez faire capitalism.

The Debate begins

Proposer – Julian Savulescu opening statement

Opposer – John William Devine opening statement

Moderator – Roger Crisp opening statement

Proposer's response to comments

The debate continues

Julian Savulescu's first update 17/06/10

John William Devine's first update 21/06/10

Julian Savulescu's second update 24/06/10

John William Devine's second update 28/06/10

The debate concludes

Julian Savulescu's closing comment 1/7/10

John William Devine's closing comment 1/7/10

Roger Crisp's closing comment 1/7/10

Practical Ethics posts on sport

Audio & Video:



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2 Comment on this post

  1. Excellent opening statements by both sides — it looks like this will be a strong debate. Both Savulescu and Devine have chosen careful examples to make their points most strongly, and I look forward to seeing what will happen when they look more carefully at each others’ examples. Will they admit that the other side is right on those examples or challenge them?

    I also wonder where the limits are on Devine’s excellences argument. It is true that we don’t want to lose certain excellences from sports, but maybe there are also distracting factors that are less interesting and which we do want to lose. Maybe some doping type will have a similar effect to the change of surface and ball pressure in tennis, making the game a better balance of excellences rather than a worse one.

  2. Dominic Wilkinson

    One of Julian’s main arguments in his initial statement relates to cheating.
    He argues that 1. Cheating is a bad thing for sport 2. Prohibition does not prevent cheating 3. Allowing performance enhancing drugs would prevent more cheating than prohibition
    Therefore we should permit performance enhancing drugs

    Premise 3 is a key part of his argument. The failure of prohibition to prevent cheating can’t be enough on its own to justify a change in the law. Otherwise a similar argument could be run to allow a relaxation of the legal prohibition on other ‘crimes’ that often go undetected including shoplifting, fraud or corruption.
    But, as Maria points out it isn’t clear that allowing ‘safe’ forms of performance enhancement would reduce cheating. Competition in sport is zero-sum.

    The motivation for taking performance enhancing drugs is to gain a selective advantage.
    Imagine, for arguments’ sake that 10% of athletes are motivated to use non-legal means to improve their performance. It is possible that the identity of this 10% might change after a Savulescu reform to drug regulation in sport. Some of those who would previously have cheated may now be at the top of their sport. But others will now be struggling to compete (even with legal drugs) and will seek other means to do so. Unless all forms of enhancement are allowed (including unsafe forms) the incidence of cheating is unlikely to fall significantly over the long term. Is Julian happy to allow *all* performance enhancers?

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