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Are Dopers better Sports(wo-)men?

by Roman Gaehwiler

The crusade against artificial performance enhancement in sports is varicoloured and almost exhaustively debated. Nevertheless, there are still several approaches from the athlete’s perspective which are worth to consider. On the one hand, there is the noble and doubtlessly essential pedagogic approach fostering the educative aspect implying that the misapplication of pharmaceuticals and psychotropic drugs is medically and morally intolerable. In this respect, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency such behavior is also ment to represent a prohibitive action against the «ethos of sports». On the other hand, we probably have to reflect that ingesting specific pharmaceutical performance enhancers displays one possible interpretation of the «ethos of sports». Admittedly, this is a polarising thesis which may be highly challenging at first sight. However, the intrinsic motivation to do everything within your repertoire of opportunities in order to achieve your individual goals demonstrates a typical trait of the so-called ethos of sports. As a matter of fact, doing this during competition as a mean to improve your punctual ability to perform could be interpreted as a dubious performance enhancing practice. In contrast, it is believed that a significant part of athletes help themselves with banned substances exclusively in order to increase their amount of training. In this reference, sports(wo-)men inject peptidehormones such as erythropoietin (EPO) to extend their individual endurance training or ingest anabolic steroids to shorten the interval between the different training-sessions and improve recovery. Concerning this, it might be appropriate to re-evaluate the term «ethos of sports» within an anti-doping framework. On behalf of definition-oriented coherence athletes might meet this specific aspect of the ethos while taking performance enhancing substances for training purposes.

As a result : Indeed, athletes using performance enhancing substances may be (by definition) better sportsmen in the sense of the ethos of sports because they (are able to) train more in order to reach their goals compared to «clean» combatants.

However, another serious ethical issue emerges some steps further in the process. As a matter of fact, unphysiologically elevated training quantities result in musculo-skeletal detrition at least in the long-term perspective. Consequently, athletes get treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in order to fight the pain caused by chronic tissue-overstress. Unfortunately, NSAIDs do not imply any preventive characteristics. Hence, as long as the individual athlete is obliged to continue regular competitions tissue damage is going to aggravate silently. To come to a conclusion, in short notice official bodies engage intensively to keep up the athlete’s capacity in order to participate for the benefit of an entertaining sport event. As a consequence, while adhering to such kind of inconsistent anti-doping practice governing bodies indirectly encourage professional athletes to undergoe illegal artificial performance enhancement. Hence, solely fighting the symptoms is not equal to disease-eradication. Thus, merely antagonizing the outcome (-> pain due to overstress) is somehow close to diplomatic ignorance of a basic complex of problems (-> doping).

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1 Comment on this post

  1. Would an 'athlete' walk into an arena or a stadium without people? most likely not! An athlete is nothing but a personification of our ideals: they simply do what we expect of them. We should do some introspection before bringing the athletes into the frame.

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