When it comes to performance enhancing drugs in sports, what is deemed acceptable and what is deemed unethical is divided by a thin line. Many people would say that an athlete who uses an inhaler to control their asthma is completely admissible, but an athlete who uses steroids to enhance their muscles is breaking the rules.
The use of performance enhancing drugs, otherwise known as “doping,” has the ability to seriously alter the human body and its functions. Doping has been occurring in professional sports since the 1960s, and still persists today. The first attempt to monitor doping started in 1967 with the International Olympic Committee. They established a medical commission in response to increased drug use in athletics. By 1987, the NFL was testing players for steroids, and the following year, congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which made possession and distribution of anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes a crime. Over time, athletes have been forced to relinquish their titles and awards for testing positive for steroid use. Recently, bans have been set to keep athletes of certain countries from participating in the upcoming Olympic Games.
Overall, the use of drugs in sports has been frowned upon for many decades, but where do we draw the line? Going back to the asthma example, the key distinction is “enhancement.” Something used specifically and solely for enhancing the performance of an athlete is deemed cheating. But it can also be argued that a player who uses an inhaler is cheating as well. If that player has a natural disadvantage, why do they get to absolve that? That can be considered an enhancement too. When viewed this way, the smallest of enhancements, such as shaving body hair to reduce friction in swimming or wearing specific clothing to decrease air resistance, can be placed into the category of “unethical.”
I learned that the use of performance-enhancing drugs is much more complicated than it appears at first, and that there is a large gray area of what is considered legal and what is considered cheating. All in all, doping has been a prominent issue for many years, but it’s what is classified as “doping” has yet to be solidified.