Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport

OK, OK It's just a headline!!!! This headline does not represent my personal opinion. Although I will admit it and the accompaying photo are a somewhat cheap attempt to excite you the reader about this posting.

I am a cycling fan and I was cheering for Floyd Landis - and saddened by his doping test failure after the Tour de France. With this recently in mind I was doing some web surfing today and I stumbled upon this article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine titled "Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport" from 2004.

It should provide food for thought over the weekend and perhaps some good locker room or pub chat after your training sessions.

If you are into the details the full-text article is available. If not here are the highlights:

- Given the low risk of beging caught and high return for victory - most athletes will choose to cheat.

- Drugs wouldn't be against the Spirit of Sport if we allowed them - "Olympic performance would be the result of human creativity and choice" As justification the authors suggest that drugs (beta-blockers) are common in classical music performance and have no stigma attached to them.

They write:

"We should not think that allowing cyclists to take EPO would turn the Tour de France into some kind of "drug race", any more than the various training methods available turn it into a "training race" or a "money race". Athletes train in different, creative ways, but ultimately they still ride similar bikes, on the same course. The skill of negotiating the steep winding descent will always be there."

-EPO gives athletes no different an advantage than good genes, altitude training, or hypoxic tents...so what makes it unfair? He goes on to suggest that permitting EPO use actually levels the financial playing field as it is far cheaper than the legal alternatives.

-The authors argue that drugs with clear ill-health effects should be monitored and banned - but others should be permitted to the extent that an athlete's health is not harmed. He uses cycling's test for hematocrit as an example - professional cyclists have blood tests and are not permitted to race for "health reasons" if their hematocrit is above a certain value. The reason is immaterial (although usually implied).

They finish with the conclusion:

The welfare of the athlete must be our primary concern. If a drug does not expose an athlete to excessive risk, we should allow it even if it enhances performance. We have two choices: to vainly try to turn the clock back, or to rethink who we are and what sport is, and to make a new 21st century Olympics. Not a super-Olympics but a more human Olympics. Our crusade against drugs in sport has failed. Rather than fearing drugs in sport, we should embrace them.

If this can't start a comment storm - what can? Weigh in with your opinion - if we get enough I will collect them and post them with credit given to you for your points.

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