In favor of augmentation…

With all the doping scandals in sports news lately, I keep wondering why, exactly, doping is against the rules in the first place:

  • Is it because doping is unsafe and encourages children to be unsafe as well? Then we shouldn’t allow people with osteonecrosis to compete either — that’s just asking for trouble. Alternatively, we should only outlaw those kinds of doping that are clearly more dangerous than the extreme stress athletes put their bodies through as a normal part of training.

  • Is it because doping rewards the athletes who have the best pharmacists money can buy? Then we should outlaw expensive trainers and coaches too.

  • Is it because we want to test the human rather than what they put in their bodies? Then don’t allow pitchers to pop ibuprofen like vitamins, and while you’re at it outlaw the traditional carbo-loading spaghetti dinner the night before a marathon.

I don’t mean to dismiss these reasons entirely, but there seems to be an underlying prejudice against any form of “unnatural augmentation” that bothers me. Training for professional athletics by definition pushes one’s body to and sometimes beyond its natural limits, and as long as those dangers aren’t too extreme our society accepts that. We should accept the risks of doping to the same degree. As for the “naturalness” of doping, the line between training in high altitudes and eating right, on the one hand, and blood doping or even anabolic steroids on the other seem pretty arbitrary.

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