Roman Gaehwiler’s posts

Go for Bronze!

Written by Roman Gaehwiler

Within research of happiness sports incorporates a scientifically approved instrument in order to fight mental depression. Therefore, the excretion of endorphines during physical exercise is capable to generate what a frog might experience when birth-rates decrease – pure delightment! Hence, frogs do not believe in princesses, but in storks.

Nevertheless, the general increase of average Body-Mass-Index (BMI) implies that many people tend to prefer the phlegmatic state of unhappiness and ignore the psychological effect of sports. As a matter of fact, in terms of public happiness in sports we might better take on an utilitaristic standpoint. Therefore, it might be legal to question our single-winner orientation like Hans Lenk used to in his piece „Dopium fürs Volk“ (Denkperlen 06, 2007 merus Verlag). With regard to the sporting performance of a marathon-runner for instance, thousands of participants experience rushes of satisfaction, although they did not perform world-record time. Consequently, it is not the athletic result which makes us happy or unhappy rather it is about the assessement. This might also be the reason why a bronze-medallist tend to be happier than his/her component at the other end of the podium. Additionally, targeting the maximation of happiness could be identified as „friends“, because in order to gain more individual happiness you have to share it. Friends are those people who like you, although, they know you. Applied to sports such derivation would suggest to engage in team-sports.

To come to a conclusion, it is easy to be happy, but it is hard to be easy. Some day in life you will be the pigeon and another one maybe the historical monument or statue. But, with the aid of sports you will learn to fly no matter what you are.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thanks a lot to Dr. med. Eckart von Hirschhausen for creative inspiration and essential insights.
References: Dr. med. Eckart von Hirschhausen; Glück kommt selten allein…, Rowohlt Verlag, Juni 2009

Gender Competition Preserves Natural Traits of Competitive Sports

Written by Roman Gaehwiler

In western communities the degree of gender equality and emancipation represents an important indicator to level sophistication and liberalism. In sports, however, sexual discrimination is taken for granted. As a result of strict sex segregation, there’s no opportunity for women to measure their abilities with male opponents. Consequently, either sport seems to lack social development or the emancipation of female athletes is not an issue worth considering. Tamburrini and Tännsjö declare this state as “strange” arguing as follows: “The best response to this argument may be to offer women the possibility of genetically becoming as strong as men”. In fact, this would mean to genetically alter the natural female hormone-balance in order to increase testosterone serum-concentration. Finally, that may result in transforming women into men rather than providing equality. In fact, such an act would undermine the ideology of emancipation and therefore foster the issue about gender distinction more acutely. Additionally, Susan Sherwin and Meredith Schwartz respond that “this solution misses the fact the problem of oppression for women is not that men are ‘naturally’ superior and women are struggling to ‘catch up’ to the male ideal.” Furthermore, the problem may have origin in the masculanization of society and “the construction what is ‘best’ reflects male talents, and those activities that are perceived as female are systematically undervalued.” Apparently, this discussion and the tolerance of gender distinction in sports prove the pleasant fact that the acceptance of natural differences and individual traits are still welcome, even in times of “levelling the playing field” and genetic enhancement debates. As a matter of fact, the nature of competitive sports is about the measurement of differences. Hence, when artificial performance enhancing substances tend to level the playing-field the existence of sexes is able to preserve some natural traits of competitive sports.

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).

Considering the Instrumentalization and Exploitation of Elite Athletes

Why did Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye not wear helmets during their boxing fight a few weeks ago? Actually, they do tend to wear them during training, but obviously not when an official boxing match takes place. Why not? Presumably, it is because wearing helmets could foster tactical fights and finally turn them into unspectacular victories won on points.
Instead of impressive knock outs, swaying hulks and eye-rolling fighting-machines, an audience would have to content itself with scampering human rocks and rare surprise effects. From another perspective, boosting knock outs (or not wearing helmets) could even be seen as a degrading or even a humiliating act against an athlete’s integrity. Nevertheless, professional boxers accept this system because they also get their salary after being vanquished and humbled. Still, a slightly unpleasant taste of something between modern slavery and exploitation cannot be denied.

Furthermore, participating at an excellent level automatically implies taking on a kind of role model responisibility. Often, still adolescent athletes are meant to be ambassadors of virtues such as fairness, consideration and respect. But unfortunately, within a Darwinistic framework like sports you cannot reach the top of the pyramid while considering the needs of your competitor. Moreover, the regular monitoring of athletes actually undermines their status as role models, since it stigmatizes athletes as people who, without surveillance, will behave improperly. [1] Hence, to put an athlete in charge of being an ambassador of moral traits may be utopian. Rather it should be the other way round. Elite sportsperson represent qualities and insufficiencies of the specific society they were born and raised in and therefore, tend to be seen as a mirror of society. In fact, they’re not. Sports, including athletes as its protagonists, are rather boosters of human traits because performing at limits confesses which values we actually stand for. Expecting athletes to exhibit superior moral traits because they occasionally appear on a screen responding to questions, is not unfair, but naïve. Therefore, enforcing a sportsperson to bear the burden of being a centre of moral competence while gasping for breath might be a deportation of this specific « educational » responsibility.

A further aspect of instrumentalization is going to be obvious while conceding that the system of modern sports industry actually promotes doping. To substantiate this provocative thesis, I would like to make the connection to the Tour de France 2011 or similar intense competitions requiring weeks of top performance. The main reason why cyclists began abusing performance enhancing methods in such an excessive manner is certainly not because they were poorly prepared for the race. It is because the setting of the competition itself (in this case the TdF) demands inhuman physical capacities. To cycle 3’430.5 kilometres within 23 days and only 2 days of recovery cannot be healthy at all. Despite the fact elite sport does not much concern health these numbers imply a daily distance of 149.15 km on average, of course under contest conditions. Additionally, all of the six high mountain stages take place in the second half of the Tour (superfluous to mention that every of them is above 152 km with exception of the last one). Notably, not the length of each single stage, which is questionable, it is more about the short interval between the stages and the repetition for more than three weeks. Due to the fact that the human body depends on regular nutrition, hydration and recovery to keep a natural level of performance such a race-calendar, at least indirectly, suggests the intake of performance enhancing substances . In fact, during the Tour, cyclists get infusions for nutrition and hydration [2] because the human body is physiologically not able to restore its stock this fast (until next competition starts, normally on the subsequent day). Finally, we have to keep in mind that the Tour de France is only one of several long-distance events in the race-calendar.

To conclude, doping is just an inevitable corollary. Especially, if we as spectateurs insist on the current aesthetic and entertaining standard of sports which actually involves boxers not wearing helmets or cyclists trying to make up with inhuman competition-settings. Even on that account, it might be inconsistent, maybe even hypocritical, to justify a ban by appealing on athletes’ well-being [3] like various anti-doping defenders do. As a result, sports governing bodies may ask themselves what they intent to provide to the ticket payers. Is it about sports, a fair competition or solely an entertaining show to celebrate the potential of modern biochemistry? Simultaneously, society, as a consumer of elite-sports, may re-evaluate its interpretation of the extraordinary skilled athlete who is regarded to represent idealistic moral traits.

[1] Current anti-doping policy: a critical appraisal. Kayser B, Mauron A and Miah A, published 29 march 2007, BMC Medical Ethics 2007, 8:2
[2] Dopium fürs Volk? Werte des Sports in Gefahr, Denkperlen 06, Hans Lenk, 2007 by merus verlag Hamburg.
[3] Constructing Winners: The Science and Ethics of Genetically Manipulating Athletes. A. J. Schneider and J. L. Rupert, Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 2009, 36, 182-206.

Enhancement – Keep the Game, Change the Basis

Paradoxically, elite sports is largely about seeking for inequality, but simultaneously trying to level the playing field in order to equalize the opponents. So, how is it possible to cultivate inequality through equality? Anti-doping activists argue that enhancing substances falsify the individual and naturally given capability to perform in a competition. As a result, there might be a lack of equal opportunities. In contrast, enhancement advocates underline that doping might be able to level the playing field by removing the effects of genetic inequality, and therefore provides equality.[1] In fact, both arguments imply the noble aspiration of equality. So then, equality must be the ultimate aim.

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Cosmetic Surgery – What is the Matter with Dr Salesman?

Written by Roman Gaehwiler

Reconstructive plastic surgery to correct ravages of disease and injuries as well as gross physical abnormalities constitutes a core medical practice. Reconstructive procedures, however, lie along a continuum, without any clear boundary between therapeutic reconstructive surgery for diagnosable problem and purely cosmetic surgery.[1]

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Competing against Mutants


In a recently broadcasted documentation about gene-doping, multiple award winning Swiss science journalist and author, Beat Glogger, reflected the issue of gene-doping in a sensitive and objective manner. In this Swiss-German co-production Andy Miah, a bold British Bioethicist, argued that gene-doping is supposed to be a natural friendly method of performance enhancement, whereas many other practices in the past weren’t. Simultaneously, he considered athletes no more as natural creatures by arguing: “We have to get rid of the imagination, that athletes are natural human-beings” (freely re-translated from the German version). Despite the fact that this statement is rather an anti-thesis than a substantiation for his strident position, I have to admit that the current development in gene technology tends to construct a sort of athletic hybrid. No doubt, this is a serious future issue we have to face. Nevertheless, Andy Miah’s declaration implies that athletes might kind take on a pioneer role regarding the subject of genetic enhancement. Therefore, is that an issue worth considering or even to achieving?

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Performance Enhancement – Athletes are Victims not Delinquents

To describe the obvious power dynamic in modern sports industry from my personal point of view, I’m going to make use of a little metaphor. Therefore you have to imagine sport as a squash game played by several opponents. The competitors, hitting the ball from one corner into the other, represent the different stakeholders in elite-sports. Spectators, coaches, sponsors, national and international associations to mention a few. Of course there’s also one tiny ball incarnating the athlete himself as a kind of focal point, trying to satisfy the different demands. As a ball you’re certainly one of the most important parts of the game. But simultaneously you might be very easy to manoeuvre, because your being spherical, which could imply your lack of personal influence. Merely your ability to leave behind a little black marking on the squash court “wall of fame” is your only chance to colour your sport individually. As an elite sportsperson you’ve almost no opportunity to defend yourself against the prevailing key-players in the system. Otherwise you’re going to risk your career or even your status as a moral competitor. In the following lines, I’ll try to explain my position by disclosing the maladministration and mild coercion top-athletes are confronted with, emphasising four different issues of the “sports-system”.

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Artificial Performance Enhancement in Sports – Are we Overreacting?

by Roman Gaehwiler

Within human history sport consistently has been abused as a platform of political disputes and athletes came to be exploited by governments to benefit the economy. The simple competitor has been transformed into a nationalized single warrior and pushed to represent his country as perfectly as possible. This spirit of the “idealized hero”, whose ability stands for the strength and force of a whole nation persisted until the twenty-first century. Of course not in the same dimensions, but there’s no doubt elite-sportspeople are a kind of mirror for society. In connection with the increasing influence of monetary incentives, a simple comparison of physical strength became an inexorable business. Excessive artificial performance enhancement is just an unavoidable result of that. The paradox obviously is that the audience calls for supernatural performances, but at the same does not approve the athlete to do so by taking performance enhancing substances.Therefore it’s legitimate to ask ourselves: “Are we taking sport too seriously?”

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