Gladwell on PEDs, mutants, and Armstrong

Different body Types

A fantastic menagerie of athletes


Malcolm Gladwell has mentioned his position on PEDs in the past. Over at the New Yorker, Gladwell — using his amazing ability to communicate from the future, as the article is dated for September 9th — has posted an article that further articulates his stance on PEDs. Some great points raised by Gladwell include:

  • Is an “even playing field” even attainable?

We want sports to be fair and we take elaborate measures to make sure that no one competitor has an advantage over any other. But how can a fantastic menagerie ever be a contest among equals?

  • Are PEDs less natural than optional surgeries, such as laser eye or Tommy John surgeries?

Eyesight can be improved—in some cases dramatically—through laser surgery or implantable lenses. Should a promising young baseball player cursed with normal vision be allowed to get that kind of corrective surgery?

…But when it comes to drugs Major League Baseball—like most sports—draws the line. An athlete cannot use a drug to become an improved version of his natural self, even if the drug is used in doses that are not harmful, and is something that—like testosterone—is no more than a copy of a naturally occurring hormone, available by prescription to anyone, virtually anywhere in the world.

  • Why is blood doping frowned upon, but other (and far more common) questionable training practices get a free pass?

Try as he might—and sometimes he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard—Hamilton cannot explain why a sport that has no problem with the voluntary induction of anorexia as a performance-enhancing measure is so upset about athletes infusing themselves with their own blood.

These are issues we’ve covered on WoW before. But Gladwell does this with much better style, weaving in points about Finnish mutants, Kenyan distance runners from the Kalenjin tribe, and iodized salt. If you’re interested in the conversation around PEDs, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

– Devin

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