Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): Sports Med.
Page numbers: 167-176
It is believed that some of the greatest sports achievements made were possible due to use of performance-enhancing substances. Some argue that permitting the use of performance-enhancing substances would eliminate “the fairness argument” since the use of drugs would no longer be considered cheating. However, because of the grave health dangers associated with some drugs, medical supervision would be imperative and some limitations would still need to be in place. Most people in our society believe that athletes should not be able to choose to permanently damage their health in exchange for a transient sport victory. There is not an obvious boundary between “safe” and “unsafe” so, in a sense, the lines would be simply moved rather than erased.
Spectators are sometimes skeptical of great achievements and write them off because they may be attributed to use of illegal substances. If performance-enhancing drugs became legal, this mindset would not change because “cheating” would still be possible; boundaries still would exist and would be able to be crossed.
Advocates of legalization argue that sports are inherently risky; performance-enhancing substances would simply be another risk associated with participation in sports. Some argue that the risk is unnecessary, but others could argue that many sports have associated “unnecessary risks” (i.e., platform diving does not need to be from 10 m.)
If performance-enhancing drugs do become legalized, opponents argue that it would not change the outcome of any competition. A race may be shorter, gymnastics skills might have higher difficulties, pole jumps might be higher, etc. but the same people (if they all play the “new” game) would still likely win. Drug legalization offers no advantage in this regard. It is likely that athletes will respond differently to various doping agents, so the pursuit of the optimal doping agents would become another facet of excelling at a sport. Legalizing these substances would put ‘gentle’ pressure on all athletes in sports to use these drugs since they will not physically be able to succeed without use of the drugs. Therefore, legalization changes the game, but would not make it better or worse.
Advocates of legalization argue that allowing performance-enhancing drugs would make sports fairer. People are born with genetic inequalities, so drugs will level the playing field and athletes with the most talent, discipline, and effective training methods have a better chance at winning. However, it is likely that biological advantages and disadvantages will still exist and performance enhancing drugs will only partially compensate for these inherent inequalities.
Another concern regarding legalizing performance-enhancing drugs is that one would be teaching youth that it is okay to use any means necessary to achieve your goal, when that is often not good advice.
This discussion affects all elite athletes and those who aspire to be elite athletes because, if performance-enhancing substances become legal, they will be almost necessary to be competitive. However, this author of this article argues that there are no advantages to the athletes or the sport communities by legalizing performance-enhancing substances. The changes that would take place in sports would be either neutral or negative. Because the use of some substances will unquestionably remain forbidden, the “problems” that we have now will still exist and other problems, such as health problems and moral issues, will arise.