Let them all take drugs if they want to

Keith Hudson

Now that the viewing of sports is becoming a major industry — if it’s not already the biggest industry for all I know — when some sportspeople can earn astronomical incomes, then doping must be here to stay, however much the purists complain.

Time and again, in what we thought was a pure sector of the industry, we discover that we’ve been naive.  I’m prompted to write this since dipping into the sports supplement of my ‘quality’ newspaper.  Incidentally, this 20-page stapled supplement, equivalent to 10 broadleaf pages, is already longer than the 8 pages of my businesss supplement.  I dare say it will grow a lot longer yet — if the paper itself survives in the coming years.

Which I think it will — going off-topic again very briefly.  What I find interesting as a newspaper addict is that even though my daily newspaper, delivered through my letter-box every morning is also freely available on-line, I actually read my paper version.  I’ll sometimes read a story in detail on-line but, for actually perusing a newspaper and going backwards and forwards leisurely instead of having to jump about — and having to wait for adverts to download — and to become pestered by all sorts of other surveys and things — then the paper version wins hands down. I can easily ignore adverts there if I want to. Besides the Daily Telegraph — whose politics I don’t much like — is clever enough not to put its crossword on-line!

No, I wasn’t actually naive about althletics.  It’s been plagued by doping for many years, particularly among sprinters.  It’s just that in long distance running, what with, recently, the delightful innocent personality of Mo Farah, the growing popularity of women runners, and in which millions of amateurs take part in marathons and half-marathons every year, and with all the controversy and investigations about doping, it might have been clean.  Whether Mo Farah himself has been taking drugs I wouldn’t remote speculate about on screen but when one reads that his coach, Alberto Salazar, is now facing fresh claims (and hiding himself from journalists), one wonders.

In fact, one doesn’t just wonder. Let’s just say that, in all likelihood, in most sports where big earnings are involved for physical performance, there is going to be drug-taking — and particularly among the winners.  And, just as government regulators can’t prevent evermore imaginative financial scams, nor can sports authorities prevent doping.  Why don’t we simply accept the situation?  Let high-earning sports people trade their longer-term health against money if that’s what they want to do.

We can then look at sportspeople (and their coaches!) in the same way that we look at Grand Prix racing (where, incidentally, I’m absolutely sure that racing car drivers don’t take drugs — drugs can’t decrease mental reaction times).  Although the skill of the drivers is important in winning races, the percentage difference between them is microscopically thin.  It is the difference between the development and maintenance of the racing cars that makes the difference (and that’s pretty thin, too!).  So it will be between sports personalities and their coaches.  It is not only the punishing training schedules and mental persistence of the athletes that we will be assessing and praising but also the dietary expertise of their coaches.

2 thoughts on “Let them all take drugs if they want to

  1. The usual argument against athletes taking drugs to enhance their performance is flawed, seriously flawed.Is it illegal for an individual to have a cup of coffee in an effort to stay awake and alert for an extra hour of work/study? What about taking a couple of aspirins to relieve some aching muscles? And then what about the “fairness” of having access to super modern training facilities limited to a small number of athletes?
    All the above examples, and there are many more, can be viewed as providing an edge to users over no users. So why declare the use of only a certain class as illegal and not others? Let them all take any drugs that they want and if the drugs enhance their performance then what is wrong about that? Do we object to the fact that the career of a baseball pitcher was saved by an skilled surgeon or that a soccer super star’s tendon healed in a short period of time thanks to a modern but expensive exercise regiment?
    And then do we ever wonder about why most of the Olympic medals are won by developed countries? Is that a function of superior physical prowess or is it a function of medical care, nutrition, training facilities that are built in order to provide an edge to the user.
    And please do not tell me that we ban some drugs based on their potentially negative health effects. Let the user decide whether s/he is willing to take the health risk as long as full disclosure is provided. We do not prevent miners from going down the coal mine shafts, neither do we forbid playing American football because of the risk of concussions.

  2. My only caveat is that people choosing endeavors with high risk of damaging their bodies should not expect to pay the same health insurance premiums as ‘average’ folks. In private insurance, high risk must be disclosed, and premiums reflect that. In government health plans that is not the case. Pooled risk is ok in my view given individual differences in inherited and developed physical conditions leading ‘normal’ lives. So called sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco compensate somewhat for unhealthy lifestyles. Why shouldn’t performance enhancing drugs and excessive training carry similar extra charges? The rewards the athletes seek are not shared except some income tax by the highest earners. The bulk of them damage themselves as much as do those victors.

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