Drugs in sport debate: Moderator’s closing comment

Our debate could have been polarized, between a pure libertarianism
which advocates the lifting of all restrictions on performance-enhancing
drugs in all sports, and a pure prohibitionism (similar to the WADA's)
which rules out any use of such drugs in any sport. In fact, it has been
more nuanced. There has been a good deal of consensus, both
participants agreeing for example that the safety of athletes must not
be compromised. The question we end up facing really concerns the
direction of travel in which we think sport should be moving – that of
looking into permitting more drugs in more sports, or that of continuing
the war against drugs in sport by testing with greater vigour and by
encouraging sportspersonship especially among the young.

Nor has
our debate turned out to be one between an Aristotelian view, according
to which what matters in sport is the development of excellence, and a
utilitarian position according to which all we need is to weigh the
costs of allowing drugs against the benefits, in terms of human
well-being. Both participants are Aristotelians. Here the question is
whether relaxing the restrictions on drugs is more likely to promote the
development and exercise of human excellence in sport, or to hinder it.
Of course, such relaxation would change many sports; but it is
important to note that John William explicitly denies any charge of
conservatism. Change is acceptable, but it must be for the better, and
guided by the internal excellences of the sport in question.

Our
participants also attach value to fairness in competition, as one value
among others. Again, the question is whether permitting certain drugs in
certain sports might promote fairness, by, for example, allowing the
concentration of scarce resources on the use of drugs which are – as
both participants agree some might be – damaging to health or to the
internal goals of some particular sport. Or could it be that permitting
the use of certain drugs, perhaps only up to a certain level, will
merely result in the cheats going above that level, or shifting to
other, potentially more dangerous and hard-to-detect methods to enhance
their performance?

This is not an all-or-nothing issue, then, and
neither participant is advocating immediate and radical change. Julian
is suggesting that we might, gradually and with careful monitoring, move
to permit certain drugs in certain sports, while John William argues
that such a policy shows the wrong attitude towards sport understood as
the exercise of unadulterated human excellence, free from artificial and
possibly distorting pharmacological assistance.

[Don't forget to vote in the debate. Voting closes on 9th July]

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