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Friday, August 03, 2007

Doping Apologists

Two recent Washington Post columns can only be described as supporting the theory that doping really doesn't mean anything.

Joel Garreau, in a column titled "Is It Time For a Flex Plan? Techno-Athletes Change The Definition of Natural" says "The old rules are increasingly untenable. Especially the one that goes: Enhancement is indistinguishable from cheating." He quotes Jame Hughes, an "ethicist" from Trinity College:
"This anxiety about athletes cheating with self-medication is a relatively recent phenomenon. It coincides with the professionalization of sports. To be truly superhuman in their capacities, people train 12-hour days, are hooked up to computers, have swimming gear" that costs hundreds of dollars. "That's natural -- everything else is unnatural. It's wildly inconsistent. There's a certain amount of double-think. If you have a cold, you take antihistamines to bring you up to your natural level of performance. But in sports, you would be taken out of competition," as some have.
At best, this statement is made in ignorance, and Hughes could be accused of intentionally misleading the reader. First of all, the level of antihistamine use that triggers a drug DQ is far above the recommended dose for over-the-counter medications; that's a totally specious claim. But the anxiety about doping is virtually indistinguishable from 20th-century athletics; the IAAF banned doping in 1928, seven years prior to the isolation of testosterone and 24 years prior to its first suspected use in sports. Nor is this anxiety limited to athletes; FIFA and UCI banned doping in order to protect the lives of their athletes, and Jay Silvester's poll of 1972 Olympians found the majority both used steroids and thought them unethical.

Sally Jenkins' "Winning, Cheating Have Ancient Roots" is much of the same argument that she made on Wednesday's Diane Rehm Show. She argues, as does Garreau's "ethicist" above, that doping is omnipresent and impossible to stamp out; the dopers are always several steps ahead of the testers. Furthermore, we can't even agree on what doping is because the list of banned substances is so long and constantly being changed. Finally, the fans must not be turned off by doping, considering the number of people who support Barry Bonds and the ever-expanding attendance at Major League Baseball games. All this means we should give up the fight.

It's an interesting argument if not a new one. But let's see how this logic stands up to being placed in any other context. Let's not assume doping in sport is a shocking moral failure, rather it's simply one type of corruption. Read the following and see what you think.
Congressional corruption has always been with us and we cannot stamp it out. There are so many more lobbyists than investigators. We can't even agree what constitutes corruption; the number of laws against it are staggering and Congress is constantly adding new ones while deleting others. Ordinary every-day people come to the defense of those charged with corruption, like Ted Stevens and William Jefferson; and the number of people voting in congressional elections continues to rise. Apparently, all this noise about corruption is being made by moralists with no understanding of how the world works. Senators and Representatives should be allowed to do as they please.
Any political pundit who makes this argument should be removed from his/her job immediately; if he/she doesn't even pay lip service to the notion of controlling corruption, we'd know that person has been in Washington too long and has lost grip on reality. Sports columnists...well, they do spend all their time around athletes. And sometimes they've just plain run out of things to write about.

1 comment:

bill said...

Professionals should be allowed to take whatever they want. For the rest of us, bring back amateurism.

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