Yet Another Reason to Legalise Doping in Sport: Organised Crime
Unsurprisingly, the Australian Crime Commission has found widespread use of performance enhancing drugs in sport in Australia and the involvement of organized crime in its distribution.
I have given many arguments for why it would be better for athletes, spectators and sport to liberalise laws currently banning performance enhancing drugs. I have also argued that they are likely to be involved in all sports – football, baseball, rugby, soccer, and so on, and not merely in athletics and cycling.
The Australian Crime Commission report suggests another reason to legalise drugs in sport – that would be the most effective way of reducing the involvement of organized crime in the doping market. As experience with recreational drugs has shown, bans inevitably fail, harm the user and invite crime. The way to put drug lords out of business is to legalise the substance.
When prostitution, alcohol, abortion or recreational drugs are banned, organized crime moves in to deliver the desired product or service. The best to deal with these issues is not through some fanatical moralistic war but through legalization, oversight, regulation, monitoring and harm reduction.
When will we learn?
Legalising doping won’t eradicate organized crime – there will still be match fixing. But it would protect an athlete’s health by putting doping under medical supervision, it would reduce unfairness and be a more cost-effective use of limited public resources. It would also remove the doping scandals that are ruining sport. It was done for caffeine – that was banned because it enhances performance but now it is legal. It can be done for other doping agents that can be safely administered and monitored.
It is time to wake up that prohibition always fails. And it provides the ideal breeding ground for organized crime.
The current laws might be fit for angels among a few devils, but not for human beings. Humans will try anything to be better, especially when there are huge rewards at stake, and we have to recognize that fact and frame our laws to deal with the very significant moral and psychological limitations of human beings. How can you make things reasonably fair, reasonably safe, given the very imperfect nature of human beings? The answer is not to absolutely ban all doping, but to form laws that enforceable and protect a wide range of values that are important in sport. Fairness, health, spectacular competition, test of the human spirit, physical and mental perfection are all consistent with a liberal approach to performance enhancing substances. The only barrier is an outdated attachment to the natural and a deep reverence for pure natural talent. Sportspeople enhance themselves in all sorts of ways – by training, diet, food supplementation, equipment, etc. Why should we care so much if they biologically enhance themselves within reasonable limits? The costs of worshipping the natural are significant: ruined careers, ill health, unfairness and now organized crime. Embracing the fruits of their creation is a natural and worthwhile part of the human condition. “Chariots of Fire” might have been a nice film about the past. But it was the past. Human enhancement – the project of making oneself better – is inevitable and it can be done ethically.