Always striving for excellence, always trying to be better than the opposition, at all costs, no matter what it takes. This seems to be the motto of our culture. We are willing to risk our mental and physical health to achieve physiological advancements. One of the most controversial advances is the use of steroids in sport. Prior to the reading of the articles by Hoberman and Simon, my first reaction was that it is obvious the use of steroids should be illegal in sports of all levels. Although I still uphold that they should not be used, there were a few counter arguments that made the solidification of my statement not so concrete. So to defend my opinion I would like to briefly discuss why I believe it is unfair to use performance enhancers.
Free will, our right as a human being to have free choice. In reference to sport, yes, we are free to train a particular way, adhere to a particular diet, and use a particular brand of equipment, which may or may not improve overall performance. But doesn’t this idea of God-given free will coincide with moral value? Yes, we have the right to choose whether or not, as an athlete, we want to risk our physical and mental health to achieve greatness, but at what cost? In previous posts and readings we discuss reasons why an athlete will participate in a competitive sport. I believe that it is not only for the love of the game but also for the love of competition. Athletes work hard, giving up luxuries of life, to compete. So if the opportunity to beat the competition arises, people will ensue. But is it morally ethical to make such a decision and to go to such extremes to beat out the competition? I think not.
We have rules and regulations so that each competition is fair and everyone has an equal opportunity to win. When an athlete agrees to consume steroids or any other type of performance enhancement drug they are producing an uneven playing field. In Hoberman’s article, an argument in favor of performance enhancers states “they yield improvement only in conjunction with hard training and demanding work ethic. In fact, they allow muscles to recover faster and therefore permit users to engage in more intense and more frequent workouts than nonusers are able to manage.” Though this is potentially a correct statement; there is no magic supplement to replace hard work, ALL professional athletes are working hard to achieve the same goal. What about the athletes who want to achieve athletic excellence sans external means? Is this fair to those who are prudent of their future? No, it is not fair. In sport we strive to make rules that allow a fair playing field and we occasionally adjust rules to add more dimension and/or overall excitement to the game, but in this instance the athletes still have equal opportunity to succeed. When you factor in performance enhancing drugs you are adding an element that is uncontrolled, unregulated, and unfair. While some athletes are willing to risk physiological damage for better performance now, others are not.
Hoberman also discussed the idea of coercion in sport. “Athletes may believe they are trapped because they are faced with the choice where neither option is attractive: Don’t take steroids and lose, or take them and remain competitive.” In this dog eat dog world we still must considered how our actions affect those around us. I would consider this a violation of ones free will. If an athlete feels like the only way to be a competitor is to take enhancement drugs, then they are unable to act using free will.
Although athletes are always reaching and searching for ways to improve the performance and catch an advantage over their opponent, it is important to have balance. Yes, it is healthy to have a strong competitive drive, but when does it cross the line to overly competitive? We must not forget moral obligation. We have free will to use however we choose, but we must become aware that our actions do affect others, and what we do unto others we do unto ourselves. Although it is the athletes’ choice whether they want to put their bodies at inherent risk by consuming performance-enhancing drugs, it is not ok for their choice to affect the will of others.