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.











CC BY-SA 4.0 What’s the Deal with Performance-Enhancing Drugs? by Lindsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

  1. Gwendolyn 10 months ago

    I found your article very interesting. I particularly enjoyed your example about asthma. I had never thought of that as an enhancement, but you are right that people who need inhalers are enhancing their performance. I also thought that your inclusion of the history behind doping added to my understanding of the current issue. Your question that “If that player has a natural disadvantage, why do they get to absolve that?” really made me think about all the things that could be considered enhancement if enhancements were defined as anything that improved any players’ performance. Things like migraine medication or painkillers could be considered enhancements because they would help the player to play better. My sister needed a lot of medication when she was playing basketball because of her Crohns disease. This experience makes me inclined to think that enhancements should only be illegal if they do not serve to level the playing field and instead serve only to give some player a competitive advantage. One thing I think you could add would be a specific example of an athlete that lost his/her awards due to doping. This article talks about Lance Armstrong’s doping (https://www.cnn.com/2013/01/15/health/armstrong-ped-explainer/index.html) and I think it could add a commonplace to your essay.

    I really look forward to reading your future posts. I hope that you will continue to use sports topics and possibly incorporate your unique perspective as a former competitive gymnast. I would love to know what your opinion is on what should be considered illegal enhancements.

    Thank you for the great read Lindsey!

  2. Anna 10 months ago

    You did a fantastic job of recognizing both sides of the argument. Perhaps you could end it with more of a question that keeps people thinking rather than stating what you learned. Great job though!

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