The NBA lockout gave me a chance to write about non-NBA topics that I feel strongly about. The other day I wrote the overview and second post in my series about doping; today’s post is the third in the series and covers some arguments against a ban on PEDs.
WADA WADA WADA
Like the War on Drugs, the entire anti-doping industry is an infinite financial sinkhole. Anti-doping efforts will never be successful, and anti-doping enforcers will always be a step behind dopers. For this perpetual failure, the IOC and governments around the world will pay millions of dollars. Currently, the yearly funding for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is divided as follows:
- World governments pay $13 210 049
- Europe pays 47.5%
- Americas pay 29%
- Asia pays 20.46%
- Oceania pays 2.54%
- Africa pays 0.5%
- The IOC matches governments by paying $13 210 049
But anti-doping funding is not limited to the WADA — most countries have their own national anti-doping organisations. For example, in addition to the $1.9 million the US gives to WADA each year, it also sends about $13.5 million to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). In addition to the $957 729 that Canada sends to the WADA each year, it also sends about $5 million to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). Federal governments around the world are (surprise!) spending a decent amount of money — somewhere around $90 million per year — on a futile endeavour. And let’s not forget all the money that goes towards policing PEDs and developing testing facilities.
Instead of spending money on a Sisyphean task, why not make money instead? Legalizing and regulating PEDs would turn them from a money waster into a money maker. In the midst of poor economic conditions, such a prospect should be a no-brainer. Countries and organizations around the world are beginning to realize that the War on Drugs is futile. Will the story be the same for PEDs?
Fast, High, and Strong Enough
What are the goals of elite athletics anyways? As far as I can tell, the goals are as follows:
- to push the limits of human performance
- to entertain the masses
- to demonstrate the superiority of various political systems
- to stoke the fires of tribalism
- to advertise products
While you can chalk up the last three goals to my cynical nature (or the corruptable nature of humanity — whichever helps you sleep at night), the first two seem pretty reasonable as far as the stated goals of elite athletics. Given those two goals, shouldn’t athletes use all the tools at their disposal? If properly administered, PEDs would allow athletes to safely push the limits of human performance, just as they make use of equipment, training methods, modern medicine, and performance techniques to improve their performances today. And that would lead to more spectator interest, as more performances would be record-breaking performances. After all, everyone loves a new world record. If you want to best performances, it makes sense to pursue all the options on the table. So why not allow PEDs?
Over the next several years, medicine will advance by leaps and bounds. The line between “cheating” and accepted practice will become increasingly blurred. As it stands, cyborgs have already been determined to be eligible to run in Olympic sprints. Gene therapy is on the horizon. It should only be a matter of time before PEDs are legalized as well.
I have only been able to scratch the surface when it comes to this issue; much more can be said and in much greater detail. Thankfully, there are plenty of in-depth writings on the matter. Here are some of my favourites:
- ‘Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport‘, by J Savulescu, B Foddy, and M Clayton,
- ‘Does the Ban on Drugs in Sport Improve Societal Welfare?‘, by Terry Black, International Review for the Sociology of Sport (subscription required)
- Gene Doping, by H. Lee Sweeney, Scientific American July 2004 (subscription required)