Why are performance enhancing drugs considered cheating

One of the major arguments against performance enhancing drugs is that they are cheating and give unfair edges to some athletes.

However, athletics are already very unfair for endless reasons. An individual from a wealthy country is going to have access to better nutrition than someone from Kenya. A wealthy individual can devote all day to training, while a poor individual has to balance a full time job with training. Having a family or social events can distract from training while a social introvert doesn’t have to worry about these things.

Not only that but some attributes necessary to become a great athlete are genetic. I can’t cite the article, but i remember reading a long time ago that sprinters have about 70% of their leg muscle fibers as fast twitch fibers. I think the average is about 50/50 slow and fast. The same article also said marathoners were about 40/60 slow/fast fibers.

There are tons of situations and chance occurences that make athletics unfair, giving one individual an edge over another. However drug use is something all athletes can do. Not all athletes can quit their jobs and train all day, or have access to the best coaches, or be born with 70% of their leg muscles as fast twitch fibers, etc. etc. So why are drugs considered cheating and unfair when they are one of the few unfair edges that all the contestants have access to?

Some of those drugs can be extremely harmful to ones health.

But if all atheletes could take performance enhancing drugs, then their performance will all be enhanced. Meaning that what will make them outperform is still whatever they had going in. No?

It is a tricky one; arguments to the effect that the drugs are harmful don’t really work because the intense training itself can be extremely harmful to the future health of the individual; in some disciplines (I’m thinking about gymnastics, for example), excellence is often achieved at the expense of severe joint problems later in life; some of these young gymnasts push their bodies so hard that they can be virtually crippled by the time they are thirty.

Not that I think legalising performance-enhancing drugs is a great idea, just that the argument that they are wrong because they are harmful doesn’t really work.

I know it’s kind of a cricular argument, but performance enhacing drugs are wrong because they’re against the rules. Various sports bodies have banned them for a variety of reasons; given that they are banned it is wrong to use them simply because it’s cheating. If I follow the rules and you do not, you’re taking unfair advantage of my honesty.

As to WHY they’re banned, it’s primarily for reasons of public relations. Performance enchaning drugs just turn people’s stomachs. Look at the steroid scandal in baseball. Steroids were NOT against the rules in baseball until last year, so there’s no taking-advantage-of-honesty argument. Indeed, there is scant evidence that steroids actually make you a better baseball player. But there was, and is, tremendous public backlash against the revelation that some ballplayers might use steroids. Any sports league or federation that says “This is silly… we’re getting out of the drug testing business” will have a PR nightmare the likes of which you’ve never seen.

I agree.

Don’t enhancement drugs cost money? Wouldn’t you find rich atheletes using them more than poor atheletes for this reason?

And what if you couldn’t take enhancement drugs for health reasons? You’d be at a disadvantage.

Again, those aren’t necessarily ‘special’ arguments; performance-enhancing drugs cost money, but so do specialist personal trainers, high-quality equipment and clothing, etc. and there might be health reasons why you can’t train to be, I dunno, some category of weighlifter.

Having said all that, banning all such substances probably does create the fairest and most level playing field, where competitors pit themselves against one another, by their true ability, rather than against one another’s pharmacists.

Yes, there are many factors in games that give one individual an advantage so why not let people use performance enhancing drugs to even things out? First, it might not even things out. The athletes from rich countries could afford better drugs than some others. Second, it becomes a competition between drug designs and not between athletes.

All games and sports have arbitrary rules. For example, there is no compelling reason why the chess King can only move one square at a time. There is only the entirely arbitrary rule of chess that makes it so. Relying only on whatever nature and your circumstances provide is one of those arbitrary rules for athletic contests.

Because once you allow it where does it stop?

Medical science can now make a lot of previously impossible things possible. If you are allowed to make use of performance enhancing drugs, then why not other things that can enhance your ability? Surgery? Gene therapy?

It’s not too outlandish to suggest it would end in “custom-built” athletes, bred and enhanced towards having an advantage in one particular sport, but abnormal monsters by all other considerations. Now, moral considerations aside, there’s nothing wrong with that as a sport. But it kind of makes the idea of most sports a mockery. The idea is usually that natural ability, practiced skill and training should triumph. With enhancement permitted any athletic competion becomes more like Formula One racing. It’s not the driver, or the athlete, that’s competing; it’s the manufacturers.

Have you been reading the Red Dwarf novels? - In one of them, there is discussion of a race of GELFs (Genetically Engineered Life Forms) that are specifically taliored for sporting excellence - the GELF soccer goalie is a rectangular block of living flesh that entirely fills the goal mouth.

I’ve heard that Tommy John surgery can actually improve some pitchers’ ability to pitch. They can (again, this is what I’ve heard) end up with greater arm strength than before the surgery.

Baseball doesn’t have any rules preventing Tommy John surgery, even for people who don’t “need” it. (Of course, it’s risky. But so are steroids and people use those.)

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Whether drugs are harmful, and whether over-training is harmful are two seperate questions. You can’t say one argument “doesn’t work” because of an entirely unrelated argument. I see no practical way to prevent althletes from pushing themselves too hard; you certainly can’t ban training. You can ban drugs, however.

To give an analogy: Murder can kill you. But driving a car can also kill you. That doesn’t mean the argument against murder “doesn’t work”.

Not a terribly useful analogy - your argument is unrelated, mine isn’t - murder and driving are only connected by detriment (that they cause death), whereas performance-enhancing drugs and intensive training are connected by both detriment (they cause health problems) and advantage (that they can help you win).

Not that I entirely disagree with the logic of your statement, but my point, perhaps not explained very well) was that an argument against drugs would be flawed if it was to the effect 'we don’t allow performance-enhancing drugs because they can be injurious to the athlete’s health (with the implication ‘We don’t condone things that are beneficial to performance if they are also injurious to health’)

I am not advocating the use of illegal drugs, or trying to be confrontational, but are there any studies or statistics backed by studies showing the dangers of performance enhancing drugs?

Seriously… I hear quite often on the bodybuilding message boards about the “steroid myth” being that they are extremely harmful when they are not that bad at all. How does the danger factor of steroids compare with something like cholesterol medication, or heavy drinking?

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to find some information to the contrary, not that it would surprise me to find out that there is information out there- the bodybuilding world tends to ignore things like studies…

I don’t know if anyone’s ever needed to do a study to demonstrate that steroids can be dangerous–there are plenty of case studies out there that provide enough evidence. Most of the competitors in this year’s Mr. Olympia would make good case studies.

Thing is, there’re also people out there who know enough to use steroids without endangering themselves to that degree. You can’t completely take away the risk, but you can mitigate it.

Personally, I think the reason why Americans are so down on steroids is because of the widespread belief that those who take the drugs don’t need to work to become big/strong/athletic/etc. Most Americans believe that success should come only to those who work for it, so anything that gives success without work is just right out.

I’d like to see someone find a steroid user who’s willing to say that they didn’t have to work hard for the results they got.

True, but most people don’t use nearly as many steroids and hormones as professional bodybuilders. I bet most of them spend upwards of 30-50k a year just on drugs. Average joe steroid user would only be using a fraction of that amount, and would probably be doing no more damage to their heart or liver than say a night drinking. (not that damage done drinking is trivial… but you don’t see people making alcohol illegal because it damages the liver)

An analogy does not have to be identical in every way in order to make the point. If it were exactly identical in every way, it wouldn’t be an analogy, it would be the exact matter of discussion. My point, quite simply, was that it is not necessary to correct every evil in order to correct one evil, and my analogy demonstrates that point aptly.

But that implication is not part of the argument. It seems perfectly logical to me to try to prevent one thing that can be injurious to health, without necessarily having to prevent every thing that can be injurious to health. Merely finding a similarity between two issues does not make them the same issue.

I’m skeptical that a bodybuilding message board would be the best place to find out about the dangers of steroids, just as I wouldn’t go to a rave party to ask people whether Ecstasy is dangerous.

Well, i sort of understand the reasoning behind banning certain drugs and steroids, but for simplicity’s sake i think i’d be quite happy for sports officials to just throw their hands up and say, “OK, you can use whatever the hell you want.”

It would save money on testing and oversight, and it would prevent plenty of professional athletes from spending their whole careers lying through their teeth.