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An argument against permitting athletes to use steroids

Should We Accept Steroid Use in Sports?

The debate over athletes' use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs has taken on newfound urgency in recent months. A report by former Sen. George Mitchell, released in December, mentioned dozens of baseball players as having used steroids and described their use as "widespread.

And last summer, several riders were dismissed from the Tour de France on charges of using banned substances. Those who oppose the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs say that the athletes who use them are breaking the rules and getting an unfair advantage over others.

  1. There is no rush to ban people from climbing Mount Everest even though it is far more dangerous than taking EPO. How interested are we in fairness in sport?
  2. After the debate, 37 percent of audience members agreed with the proposition.
  3. So, if our objection to drugs is that they create an unfair advantage, consistency demands we apply the same standard to many other aspects of athletic competition. There seems to be no reasonable justification for drawing a line in the sand that places drug use on one side and the above-mentioned performance enhancers on the other.

Opponents of the drugs say the athletes are endangering not only their own health, but also indirectly encouraging youngsters to do the same. Others maintain that it is hypocritical for society to encourage consumers to seek drugs to treat all sorts of ailments and conditions but to disdain drug use for sports.

They say the risk to athletes has been overstated and that the effort to keep them from using performance-enhancing drugs is bound to fail.

  1. The debates are modeled on a program begun in London in 2002. Those who use drugs prosper at the expense of those who play fair.
  2. But is either claim persuasive?
  3. Nineteen percent were undecided.
  4. The first is that it is cheating.

Six experts on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs recently took on the issue in an Oxford-style debate, part of the series Intelligence Squared U. The debates are modeled on a program begun in London in 2002: Three experts argue in favor of a proposition and three argue against.

In the latest debate, held on Jan. Johnson was stripped of his gold medal in the 1988 Olympics after testing positive for steroids.

In a vote before the debate, 18 percent of audience members supported the motion to accept performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports, and 63 percent opposed it. Nineteen percent were undecided. After the debate, 37 percent of audience members agreed with the proposition. Fifty-nine percent opposed it, and 4 percent remained undecided. Highlights from the debate: I'd suggest it's about paternalism, and it's about control.

We have a full-blown moral panic on our hands here, and it's over a set of substances that, for whatever reason, has attracted the ire of the people who have made it their job to tell us what is and isn't good for us.

Our society has an oddly schizophrenic relationship with pharmaceuticals and medical technology. If something could be said to be natural, we tend to be OK with it. If it's lab-made or synthetic, we tend to be leery.

But even synthetic drugs and man-made technology seem to be OK if the aim is to make sick people better or broken people whole again.