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Performance Enhancing Drugs / Doping and the Law

Two swimmers got caught doing it last week! In fact, a lot of athletes you know has been caught doing it. Even Lance Armstrong and his teammates are guilty! What is ‘it’, you ask? ‘It’ is doping. Doping refers to the use of banned performance enhancing drugs by athletes in competitive sports. Performance enhancing drugs can be defined as “substances athletes inject or consume to increase the human body’s ability to perform during training sessions and sports contests. This includes common, over-the-counter muscle-building supplements, recovery products, and endurance-enhancing blood doping.” 1) The International Olympic Committee and most international sports organization considers doping to be unethical. But why and why not is it considered unethical? To what extent does ethics play a role in the use of drugs in sports? Should performance enhancing drugs be accepted/legal in sports? What would happen if these drugs were to be legalized?


The ideology of the Olympics states: “The important thing in the games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing is not conquering, but fighting well”. As noble and honorable a goal as this is, it is not very realistic for the modern sports world. Athletes are rewarded and celebrated for winning at essentially every level of competition. The second place becomes the “first loser”. The media’s misleading perception of fame in combination with modern sports creates this mindset of having to win, in order the achieve. Consequently, this raises the popularity of doping substances for athletes. We only needed one elite athlete that is a role-model to many young, amateur athletes to abuse the performance enhancing drug for the impressionable young fans to follow their mistakes.

Furthermore, Bob Goldman, whom is a physician, osteopath and publicist came up with a question called “Goldman’s dilemma”2). This is what he asked elite athletes whether they would take a drug that would guarantee them success in sport, but cause them to die after five years. More than 50% said “Yes”. Sports Illustrated also asked olympic athletes a similar question, “If you were given a performance enhancing substance and you would not be caught and win, would you take it?” 98% of the athletes responded “Yes”.


Doping not only threatens the integrity of sport, but also puts the athletes’ health at risk. The use of performance enhancing drugs, such as stimulants and strength-building substances can be traced back as far as Olympics in Ancient Greece, or even Ancient Rome, where chariot racing had become a huge part of their culture, athletes drank herbal infusions to strengthen them before chariot races. Dr Jean-Pierre de Mondenard,historian of sports doping talking about Strychnine at the Olympics “It has to be appreciated that at the time the menace of doping for the health of athletes or of the purity of competition had yet to enter the morals because, after this marathon, the official race report said: The marathon has shown from a medical point of view how drugs can be very useful to athletes in long-distance races”3) However, it was not until the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where the death of Knud Enemark, a Danish cyclist shocked everyone. The autopsy revealed traces of amphetamine. Therefore the sports authorities began to introduce drug testing.

However, there are a few problems with drug testing, it raises certain constitutional issues, such as privacy. From intrusive searching and seizures, to analysis of blood and urine samples. In addition, drug testing did not stop athletes from abusing the use of performance enhancing drugs. Dick Pound, former International Olympic Committee vice president and former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, has stated in a CNN interview, “If you're a sophisticated doper and you test positive, you fail two tests: a drugs test and an IQ test.”4) For example, as seen in the videos below, Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones denied the rumors of drug use without a sweat. Their facial expressions remained calm and trust-worthy, they got the whole world to believe them. However, a few months later, Lance Armstrong admitted to doping on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Marion Jones admits to steroid use and pledges guilty

                            A compilation of Lance Armstrong of denying drug use

                            Lance Armstrong admits to drug use on Oprah Winfrey

                            Marion Jones denying steroid use

                            Marion Jones admits to steroid use and pledges guilty

The reason they can fully say they passed multiple drug tests is because it is extremely easy to cheat the system. The majority of athletes used drugs at undetectable levels, or ones with chemical structures that had been tweaked beyond recognition.

If you have never heard of Lance Armstrong, he is a former professional road cyclist, he has won 7 consecutive Tour de France titles 1999-2005, established a cancer foundation, as well as role-model and inspiration for millions around the world. However, as soon as he admitted to doping in 2013 after years of denial, he was stripped off all 7 Tour de France titles. This situation has been called “Cycling’s Greatest Fraud”, and “the most sophisticated and successful doping scheme in all of sports”. While he was on The Ophra Winfrey Show, it is still hard to tell if the interview was supposed to be an apology, or Armstrong trying to manipulate the audience in to accepting doping. Armstrong had also used the excuse of having low testosterone from cancer, gaining sympathy from the audience.

For example, as Oprah asked,

“Did it not even feel wrong?”

Armstrong confidently answered

“No. …Scary.”

“Did you feel bad about it?”

“No. …Even scarrier.

“Did you feel, in anyway, that you were cheating?”

“No. It’s scarriest.”

Now, the question is, if doping was legal, would Lance Armstrong get to keep all of his seven Tour de France gold medals, of would he have not won them in the first place?

Legalizing performance enhancing drugs would finally set an even bar, no more genetic lottery and first world countries’ privileged training equipments. Everyone would have the same starting point. “Not only would the playing field suddenly be even for all players, it would be at a higher level,” Chris Smith wrote at Forbes. “A huge part of watching sports is witnessing the very peak of human athletic ability, and legalizing performance-enhancing drugs would only help athletes climb even higher.”5) Would this become more or less interesting for the audience? If the next Olympics were participated entirely by doped athletes - is it finally FAIR? Could we go as far as Gene Doping? Personally, I think it would be become the Olympics for biotechnology, we might as well watch RoboCup.

Performance enhancing drugs will always be a medical, ethical and legal problem in the modern sports world. On one hand, there are countless advantages to doping being legalized, such that it would demolish inequality in sports. On the other hand, life and death situations are a consequence of doping, due to negative side effects. In my opinion the disadvantages tend to outweigh the advantages. Therefore, I do not see doping being legalized anytime soon.


Armstrong, Lance, and Sally Jenkins. It's Not about the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.
New York: Putnam, 2000. Print.
Beamish, Rob. Steroids: A New Look at Performance-enhancing Drugs.
Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011. Print.
How, and Why, Should Performance-Enhancing Drugs be Kept Out of Sports?
Opinion: It's Time to Allow Doping in Sport
Should doping be legalized? A tired debate renewed
Pros and Cons of performance enhancing drugs
Doping in Sport: What is it and how is it being tackled?
Doping in Sport

Author: Proud Devakula

drug_use_in_sports.txt · Last modified: 24/11/2015 19:47 (external edit)