By Ken Reed

Given all the busts for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports the last few years, and the difficulty in catching all the cheaters, there’s a growing movement to chuck the whole process, to let athletes do anything they want in order to get a performance edge.

In a recent commentary, Tom Murray wrote: “Some critics say the problem isn’t athletes who break the rules but the rules themselves — specifically, the prohibition on doping.” Others even suggest they’d like to see what human beings can do when they’ve maximized their PED regimen. They’re intrigued by the possibility of trying to find out what the limits of technology and science are in the area of sports doping. (We’ve seen what PEDs can do to an entire sport, including one of the sport’s most hallowed records, when we watched Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds make a mockery of the single season home run record in Major League Baseball.)

Those arguing “let them do what they will” miss the whole point of sports, the essence of the concept of sportsmanship: fair, natural competition between athletes who bring out the best in each other. Athletes who dope bring out the worst in themselves and their fellow competitors. By using PEDs, these athletes put extreme pressure on fair-minded competitors to cheat in order to remain competitive. That’s exactly what we’ve seen in the world of cycling, where more and more top cyclists are admitting using various doping techniques in order to have a chance at the winners’ podium.

There’s more and more money in sports these days and that money severely tests the ethics of today’s elite athletes. Greed and the WAAC (win-at-all-costs) mentality have become more prevalent. But we have a choice, either everything goes or we do what needs to be done to make our sports as fair, natural and healthy as possible. If we let anything go in sports when it comes to doping the health of athletes will be jeopardized, from the pros down to the youth level. Moreover, the foundational values that make sports so compelling to play and watch will be imperiled.

“The meaning of cycling, like the meaning of every sport worth the name, is in the values it fosters, the particular forms of human excellence it exhibits and the dedication each individual shows in perfecting his or her natural talents,” concludes Murray. “The rules against doping remind us what’s valuable about sport. They help us remember why we play.”

Yes indeed.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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