Doping Issue on Economist Front Page

Discussion in 'Doping in Cycling' started by craigstanton, Aug 9, 2004.

  1. craigstanton

    craigstanton New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    0
    When this week's Economist arrived, I was glad to see this magazine covering the doping issue -- as it applies to most national and international competitive sports these days and has become a major issue. Upon reading, I was a little surprised to see their perspective. For anyone who is interested in the doping issue -- or the Lance doping debate (which is mentioned . . . along with David Millar) I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this week's Economist. I won't copy the entire article here for copyright reasons, but here is the leader (which is publicly available). Thoughts? Reactions?

    -------------------------

    Sport

    Drugs and the Olympics

    Aug 5th 2004
    From The Economist print edition

    They are going to mix, whether you like it or not


    “WHERE does the power come from, to see the race to its end?” asks Eric Liddell in that cinematic celebration of the Olympian ideal, “Chariots of Fire”. The runner's answer? “From within.” Eighty years after Liddell won his gold medal, for competitors at the Olympic games starting next week in Athens that power may come instead from without—in the form of drugs designed to maximise performance.

    There was “doping” in sport even before the days of Liddell; cyclists, boxers, swimmers and others made use of alcohol, strychnine, cocaine and sundry other substances to ease the pain and give them an edge. But by 1988, when a Canadian runner, Ben Johnson, was stripped of his 100m gold at the Seoul Olympics for failing a drugs test, it was clear that doping had become rife—not just in nasty communist regimes such as East Germany and China, with their famously manly female athletes, but in western countries too. If doping may play a lesser role than it might have done this month in Athens, it is only because allegations about the use of the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone by clients of BALCO, a dietary supplements firm in California, have deprived the Olympics of some of its likeliest medallists—as well as highlighting the pervasive use of steroids in some non-Olympic sports such as America's Major League Baseball, now dubbed the “new East Germany”.


    The evidence of doping has been greeted with almost universal condemnation, at least from those parts of the media that love a scandal and the chance to bring down a hero, and from politicians. George Bush has added the war on doping to his broader war on drugs, using this year's state-of-the-union address to urge sport to “get rid of steroids now” and bringing high-profile indictments against sporting dope-peddlers. Those in charge of sport are rapidly losing any ambivalence they once had, and joining a crusade against doping led by the redoubtable head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Dick Pound (see article). Driving doping out of sport may prove impossible, however—especially as undetectable gene therapies may soon be on the market. But in any case, is it really so obvious that doping is wrong?

    Though they come in many forms, there are really two main arguments made against doping. One is that it harms athletes—or, if the argument is made by someone willing to admit that putting athletes in harm's way is an integral part of many sports (boxing, rugby, American football and so on), that it harms them unnecessarily. The other is that it is against the spirit of sport: it is cheating or, at the very least, it destroys the mystical quality that gives sport its appeal. There is something to both arguments, but neither is wholly convincing.

    For a start, how harmful are the performance-enhancing drugs used by today's athletes, or likely to be used in the future? Certainly, there have been heavily publicised cases suggesting that excessive use can sometimes have nasty consequences—cyclists suffering heart attacks, perhaps because of the oxygen-storage boosting but blood-thickening steroid EPO, or drug-expanded body-builders who are deeply depressed—though these examples are isolated, and may not be entirely as they appear. Some of the drugs used in East Germany had severe consequences, including gender-bending, but these were often given to the athletes with neither their knowledge nor any concern for the consequences after the gold medal was won. There are grounds to worry about the reportedly widespread use of steroids by children, who may, among other things, lack the maturity (physical and mental) to handle them. But the balance of the medical evidence—which would be harder to gather in an era of outright prohibition—suggests that, used responsibly, today's more popular performance-enhancers mostly have only temporary side-effects, at worst. (“Gene-doping”, done properly, may well prove to have no side-effects at all.) And any such harm pales beside that known to be done by, say, smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol—activities not unknown among athletes, but not likely to be banned anytime soon by the sporting authorities.


    Bring me my arrows of desire
    Suppose that the only consequence of doping is enhanced performance. Would that really be against the spirit of sport? Cheating is unequivocally against that spirit. Without agreed rules to play by, and strict sanctions against those who break them, sport would soon descend into unsatisfying anarchy. But is not part of the spirit of sport the pursuit of ever greater performance? Athletes do all sorts of things to improve their performance, to give them an edge, including things with similar physiological effects to steroids: training at high altitude, or spending long hours in an altitude chamber (as the iconic soccer star David Beckham did to accelerate the healing of a broken bone before the 2002 World Cup) do much the same as using EPO. If the rules were changed to allow, say, non-harmful performance-enhancing drugs—something that Juan Antonio Samaranch, then head of the International Olympic Committee, once caused outrage by advocating—then surely (that sort of) doping would no longer be cheating.

    So, should the rules be changed in that way? There is, in fact, no right or wrong answer to this question—just as there is no right or wrong answer to questions such as what should be the offside rule in soccer (or the LBW rule in cricket, or the size or composition of a baseball bat). Indeed, such questions are wholly ill-suited to being answered with a blanket rule imposed by a single quasi-governmental global body that tends to see complex issues as black and white, and to demonise those who disagree with it—such as WADA. Far better for the question of doping to be addressed— just like, say, the offside rule—sport by sport, by the people who run each sport. Who better than they to judge how much performance-enhancement their athletes, and the fans who worship them, can take?

    The development of undetectable gene-doping may soon make this entire debate moot. But if not, sport, with its increasingly shrill, intolerant attitude to doping, will find itself out of kilter with a society in which the use of performance-enhancing drugs—Viagra, Prozac and many more to come—is becoming the norm. We are all “drugs cheats” now
     
    Tags:


  2. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2003
    Messages:
    1,667
    Likes Received:
    1
    It's funny how these media people like to paint everyone with the same brush. I don't take any drugs at all--none. No aspirin, prozac, viagra, etc. I doubt that I'm the only one out here who doesn't, and yet these media people seem to want us to believe we all are taking them.

    How many others out there don't take drugs?

    This was an interesting article. Thanks for including it.

    I was rather amused that he threw genetic engineering into the doping debate. I've heard about advancements in the making a few years ago in Scientific American that would make doping unnecessary and the performance enhancement undetectable. The result, in one particular case, would be much like getting a vaccination. You are permanently changed, no drugs involved. In testing, this "vaccine" resulted in a 30% muscle enlargement in laboratory mice in one month, and these mice were sedentary. Additionally, the muscle enhancement was localized. They injected it into their legs, and their legs grew larger and stronger with no change in the rest of their bodies. This muscle enhancement vaccine is being developed first for elderly people who are confined to wheelchairs due to atrophied muscles. When they receive the vaccine, they are expected to be able to get up and walk again out of their wheelchairs. The other uses for such an undetectable vaccine, particularly for sports enhancement, are troubling. It is yet to be seen if it would be a help in cycling, due to the increase in body weight, but I wouldn't be surprised if it would help track cyclists and superheavyweight Olympic weightlifters.
     
  3. craigstanton

    craigstanton New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2003
    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi gntlmn,

    I agree with your thoughts on the troubling implications of genetic engineering . . . but at this stage -- unless I am missing something -- doping is indeed still a real issue in sports. The author implies that because society in general uses aspirin to get rid of headaches, benadryl to get rid of allergic reactions, and chemo coctails (some of which include EPO) to help us get past cancer affliction . . . we are all dopers. But, blurring the line between athletic competition and "real life" is where I get off the boat.

    Since when is competition intended to mimic or conform to the mores of everyday life? In some sense, the reason for rules, a playing field, and other "diiferentiating" aspects of sports (e.g., team uniforms) is precisely to differentiate sports from real life. It seems to me that rules, playing fields, etc . . . all serve to suspend the rules of everyday life on the field of play. Sports are interesting because they mimic and magnify certain aspects of everyday life -- sheer darwinian competitive forces. But, on the other hand, sport is really a different zone. The competitiveness of any sport plays out differently than the competitiveness of real life . . . for example, most games, matches, tours, races, and meets have a beginning and an end. They are artificially created zones where specific actions play out in the context of pre-defined rules. The whole reason that doping is troubling has little to do with whether or not people use similar drugs in everyday life . . . and more to do with the fact that players (in this case riders) are not playing by such pre-defined rules, and then receiving credit for "winning" or "doing well." In the little world of a bike race -- there are dos and don'ts that one must abide by if we are willing to consider him or her a champion/vitctor/winner. In this case, by doping, any single rider takes credit for being a champion/winner/victor while simultaneously jipping us on our investment of time and praise.

    Just a few thoughts. I could be wrong about all of this. But, in general I am not convinced by the Economists logic, which relies in part on blurring the lines between the use of drugs in everyday life and the use of drugs in athletic competition.
     
  4. HellonWheels

    HellonWheels New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2003
    Messages:
    392
    Likes Received:
    0
    The doping issue is also in this week's TIME which I just got today.
     
  5. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2003
    Messages:
    1,667
    Likes Received:
    1
    Yes, it seems to be an attempt to chip away at the gray area of what constitutes doping. By getting us to think about all of the acceptable everyday drug uses and then to ask, "Why not?" with sport gets people to start thinking about going a little softer on drugs. I don't think that's a good path to wander down.
     
  6. Flyer

    Flyer Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2004
    Messages:
    2,961
    Likes Received:
    0
    As timely as ever.

     
Loading...
Loading...