Drugs in sport jpoc opinion

It's Olympics time again. The great occasion when the nations of the world compete to see who has the finest pharmacists. We have already seen many athletes sent home in disgrace and the usual calls have gone out for, on the one hand, a crack down and on the other, for the derestriction of drugs.

The liberalisers normally argue that it is up to the athletes and, if they want to take drugs, then it is they who will face the longer term health consequences of the process.

This argument misses one very important point. Very often, the athletes themselves are unaware that they are taking banned drugs. Coaches administer "special vitamins" etc which are really banned drugs. This happens a lot. Some coaches in the former East Germany have been prosecuted for doing exactly this.

Is it so hard to imagine that this still takes place? Indeed, there are still plenty of regimes in the world in which a promising athlete might be ordered to take performance enhancing drugs if they were legal.

Suppose that there was a drug that would enable a fifteen year old girl to swim ten percent faster at the cost of her ability to bear children. Would that side-effect really stop every government from forcing some athletes to use it?

This reason, protecting athletes from others, is to me the strongest argument against the liberalisation of the sports drugs laws.

Willy Voet: Breaking the Chain Shocking revelations about drug taking in professional cycling
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