Drugs in Sport

Last updated: March 8, 2019

Should the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport be legalised?

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Freedom of choice. If athletes wish to take drugs in search of improved performances, let them do s...

Freedom of choice. If athletes wish to take drugs in search of improved performances, let them do so. They harm nobody but themselves and should be treated as adults, capable of making rational decisions upon the basis of widely-available information. Even if there are adverse health effects in the long-term, this is also true of both tobacco and boxing, which remain legal.
No because...
Once some people choose to use drugs to enhance their performance, other athletes have their freedom of choice infringed upon: if they want to succeed they have to take drugs too. Athletes are very driven individuals, who would go to great lengths to achieve their goals. The chance of a gold medal in two years time may out-weigh the risks of serious health problems for the rest of their life. We should protect athletes from themselves and not allow anyone to take performance-enhancing drugs.

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Natural/unnatural distinction untenable. Already athletes use all sorts of dietary supplements, exe...

Natural/unnatural distinction untenable. Already athletes use all sorts of dietary supplements, exercises, equipment, clothing, training regimes, medical treatments, etc. to enhance their performance. There is nothing ‘natural’ about taking vitamin pills, wearing whole-body Lycra suits, having surgery on ligaments, spending every day in a gym pumping weights, running in shoes with spikes on the bottom, etc. Diet, medicine, technology, and even just coaching already give an artificial advantage to those athletes who can afford the best of all these aids. Since there is no clear way to distinguish from legitimate and illegitimate artificial aids to performance, they should all be allowed.
No because...
It is true that it is difficult to decide where to draw the line between legitimate and illegitimate performance enhancement. However we should continue to draw a line nonetheless. First, to protect athletes from harmful drugs. Secondly, to preserve the spirit of fair play and unaided competition between human beings in their peak of natural fitness. Eating a balanced diet and wearing the best shoes are clearly in a different category from taking steroids and growth hormones. We should continue to make this distinction and aim for genuine drug-free athletic competitions.

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Levels the playing field. Currently suspicion over drug use surrounds every sport and every success...

Levels the playing field. Currently suspicion over drug use surrounds every sport and every successful athlete, and those competitors who don’t take performance-enhancing drugs see themselves as disadvantaged. Some drugs can’t be tested for, and in any case, new medical and chemical advances mean that the cheats will always be ahead of the testers. Legalisation would remove this uncertainty and allow everyone to compete openly and fairly.
No because...
Very bad for athletes. The use of performance-enhancing drugs leads to serious health problems, including “steroid rage”, the development of male characteristics in female athletes, heart attacks, and greatly reduced life expectancy. Some drugs are also addictive.

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Better spectacle for spectators. Sport has become a branch of the entertainment business and the pu...

Better spectacle for spectators. Sport has become a branch of the entertainment business and the public demands “higher, faster, stronger” from athletes. If drug-use allows world records to be continually broken, and makes American Football players bigger and more exciting to watch, why deny the public what they want, especially if the athletes want to give it to them?
No because...
Spectators enjoy the competition between athletes rather than individual performances; a close race is better than a no-contest in a world record time. Similarly, they enjoy displays of skill, e.g. in football and other team sports and in gymnastics, more than simply raw power. In any case, why should we sacrifice the health of athletes for the sake of public enjoyment?

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Current rules are very arbitrary and unfair:e.g. cold remedies denied to athletes, even in sports wh...

Current rules are very arbitrary and unfair:e.g. cold remedies denied to athletes, even in sports where any stimulating effect these might have is minimal (e.g. Gymnastics in the Sydney Olympics)e.g. the possibility that some positive tests are simply the result of using a combination of legal food supplements (e.g. nandrolone) e.g. creatine is legal despite health riskse.g. cyclists legally having heart operations to allow increased circulation and thus improve performance.
No because...
What about the children? Even if performance-enhancing drugs were only legalised for adults, the definition of this varies from country to country. Teenage athletes train alongside adult ones and share the same coaches, so many would succumb to the temptation and pressure to use drugs if these were widely available and effectively endorsed by legalisation. Not only are such young athletes unable to make a fully rational, informed choice about drug-taking, the health impacts upon growing bodies would be even worse than for adult users. It would also send a positive message about drug culture in general, making the use of “recreational drugs” with all their accompanying evils more widespread.

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

Bans increasingly fail to stand up in court. The whole legal basis for drugs-testing and the subseq...

Bans increasingly fail to stand up in court. The whole legal basis for drugs-testing and the subsequent banning of transgressors is open to challenge, both as restraint of trade and invasion of privacy, and on scientific and methodological grounds. Sports’ governing bodies fighting, and often losing, such court cases wastes vast sums of money.
No because...
Disadvantages poor nations. Far from creating a level playing field, legalisation would tilt it in favour of those athletes from wealthy countries with advanced medical provision and pharmaceutical industries. Athletes from poorer nations would no longer be able to compete on talent alone.

Drugs in Sport
Yes because...

If legal then drugs can be controlled and monitored by doctors, making them much safer. Athletes on...

If legal then drugs can be controlled and monitored by doctors, making them much safer. Athletes on drugs today often take far more than is needed for performance-enhancement, running needless health risks as a result, simply because of ignorance and the need for secrecy. Legalisation allows more information to become available and open medical supervision will avoid many of the health problems currently associated with performance-enhancing drugs.
No because...
Reform is preferable to surrender. The current testing regime is not perfect but better research, testing and funding, plus sanctions against uncooperative countries and sports could greatly improve the fight against drugs in sport.


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