Anyone with a basic understanding of sports and current events will tell you that doping in sports is an issue. Almost every week, another high-profile doping scandal makes the front pages of newspapers all around the world. A fast Google News search for “doping” yielded over 7,500 articles from just the previous week. The stories varied from the lesser-known suspension of two Youth Olympic Games wrestlers to the more well-known positive test of 2010 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
Brent Musburger (an ABC/ESPN sports broadcaster) informed a gathering of University of Montana students earlier this month that drugs work. For the poor image steroids and doping currently have, Musburger criticized “journalism youths” who “became too intimately involved in something they didn’t know too much about.” Steroids, he continued, had no place in high school, but “may be taken at the professional level with proper care and doctor’s advice.” (All quotes are from the Missoulian.)
You know how I feel about doping in sports if you know me (or have taken a class with me). Anti-doping was, in fact, one of the reasons I chose law school, and specifically Marquette. Doping, in my opinion, has no place in sports. The tale of how I came to be so anti-doping is a topic for another day (and perhaps an other forum), but it essentially revolves around my love for cycling and the systematic doping that plagues that sport. To summarize, I am a staunch opponent of doping in all forms in all sports.
I’m sure it’s self-evident that I completely disagree with Musburger. Doping, especially in the form of anabolic winstrol for sale, has no place in professional or amateur sports. All anti-doping arguments, in my opinion, boil down to two basic points, only one of which Musburger addresses in his blanket endorsement of steroid use in professional athletes.
To begin with, doping endangers athletes’ health. Steroids, according to Musburger, can be healthful when used under medical supervision. While this may be true in some (and I would argue limited) circumstances, it is surely not true in all. Steroid use can have major health consequences, including impaired liver, endocrine, and reproductive function, liver and kidney cancers, heart problems, and psychological symptoms. Furthermore, the page I just linked mentions the increased risk of negative effects when: 1) steroids are used in excess of the recommended dose, 2) steroids are combined with other performance-enhancing substances, and 3) counterfeit or tainted steroids are utilized.
Legalizing the use of anabolic steroids would not solve these issues. The negative effects stated in the article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (a division of the National Institute of Health) are not limited to steroid abuse. I won’t go into depth about the side effects of steroids, as well as hGH and EPO (often used in cycling), because the NCBI does a great job of documenting them and providing references to research. In addition, the desire to win will constantly push sportsmen to take “just one more.” Sure, competent medical supervision would ensure that an athlete obtains the appropriate dose from that doctor, but if that athlete fails to win the following race, game, or match, he or she is more likely to boost the dose or combine other doping tactics.
Second, and unmentioned by Musburger, doping has an impact on sport’s integrity. Sport is about more than just winning. Although cliché, the adage “It’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s about how you played the game” is exactly right. The Olympic Movement considers the Olympic spirit, which includes mutual respect, camaraderie, solidarity, and fair play, to be important to sport. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was created on the belief that sport’s integrity is essential to its spirit, and that doping jeopardizes its integrity. The anti-doping division of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) considers that “doping jeopardizes the moral and ethical basis of sport as well as the health of those who participate in it.” Because steroid usage undermines “the fairness and integrity of athletic competition” and “sends the incorrect message to young people who may be enticed to use them,” the National Football League adopted its own steroid policy. Sports are about a level playing field, respect for the opponent, and adherence to the laws of the game.
Allowing the use of steroids under medical supervision would jeopardize the game’s fairness and integrity. For starters, athletes who refuse to use steroids have an unfair edge because they will be unable to compete at the same level as those who do. Second, the game’s credibility is jeopardized because it’s no longer about who has the best abilities or talent; instead, it’s about who has the best steroid cocktail or the money to acquire the finest steroids. As a result, steroid use goes against the spirit of sport, which is based on fairness, respect, and solidarity. When one (or both) athletes would rather utilize steroids to boost their performance than compete based on individual strength, ability, or talent, the concept of mutual respect between competitors is thwarted.
Consider this final issue if health and integrity concerns aren’t enough to persuade you. The slippery slope argument is popular among law students and professionals alike. It, I believe, finds a suitable home in this discussion. Allowing steroid use with competent medical supervision while also abolishing anti-doping regulations is a slippery slope. What will be the dividing line? Will it now be illegal to utilize steroids unless they are administered under the guidance of a doctor? What evidence may be presented to show that sufficient medical supervision is in place? How can an athlete establish that the steroids in his or her system were obtained under medical supervision and not by any other means? What happens if an athlete exceeds the recommended dose? What about other forms of doping, such as human growth hormone (hGH) or erythropoietin (EPO)? Are those who come after going to be allowed to do so under medical supervision? It’s difficult to see how restricting steroid usage in sports might be feasible.
A serious anti-doping strategy is the only option to maintain sport’s integrity and protect athletes’ health. When the “law” (anti-doping policy) establishes clear, bright-line regulations concerning when and what substances are prohibited, anti-doping initiatives are most successful. WADA has established the world’s most comprehensive anti-doping program, despite the fact that it is far from perfect (indeed the only anti-doping program most of the world outside of the US models and implements). Instead than looking for ways to excuse steroid usage or undermine anti-doping efforts, American professional sports leagues should look for ways to mirror the WADA code in their own anti-doping policy (as the US Anti-Doping Agency is doing). In athletics, anabolic steroids have no place.