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Drug cheats

August 29th, 2010

Everybody hates drug cheats. But that doesn’t seem to stop it happening, and it’s easy enough to see why.

I just finished the Bridge to Brisbane 10km fun run. I was doing really well on my training, and seemed certain to beat my personal best when I started getting knee pains – nothing really bad, but enough that I stopped before it got any worse. I got some help from the physio and did lots of stretches, but it was still a problem. So, on the day, I just took a couple of ibuprofen, and did my best to ignore it[1]. And, if I could have taken a pill that would fix my knees for me, I would have done so.

Am I, then, a budding drug cheat?

fn1. updated My friend and colleague Flavio Menezes (who beat me by 3 minutes) advises me that my time was 53:20, which is (just) a PB. My knees advise me that they will forgive me just this once. And, I should mention that, thanks to a series of miscalculations, i did the run with no assistance from caffeine, the wonder drug on which I rely for all things. So, with good knees and strong coffee, I can still hope to break 50.

Ibuprofen is on the approved list, but on some of the more puritanical views of the question, taking it before a run/race is morally dubious performance enhancement.

More relevant than the official classification is my motivation. I don’t want to get an unfair advantage, just to do the best I can without being hampered by injury. But of course I wouldn’t have the injury if I hadn’t trained for the race. And the main function of a lot of the banned drugs is to allow you to recover faster from training injuries, and therefore to train harder. If I can justify taking a drug to achieve a PB in a fun run, how much stronger is the case as it would present itself to a full-time athlete, even leaving aside the financial rewards of success.

Then there’s the question of long-term damage. In my case, the big risk is not that I will suffer ill effects from drugs but that, if I ignore the warnings from pain, I’ll wreck my knees. That raises some questions about the most reasonable argument for laws against performance-enhancing drugs, namely that they have bad long-run effects on athletes’ health. The problem is, so do a lot of the sports themselves, and the training required for them. Up to a point, that’s obviously outweighed by the health benefits of physical activity, but I suspect a lot of training regimes go past that point.

I don’t really have an answer for this. I think it would probably be better to allow some supervised use of recovery-promoting drugs, while recognising that this wouldn’t stop people going outside the rules. The idea, as with drug policy in general, would be to focus on harm minimisation.

Hopefully, with limited drug use permitted, the additional benefits of unauthorised drug use would be small enough that the deterrent effect of penalties would be enhanced. On the other hand, I expect that if some drug use were legal, detecting cheating would become harder. Any thoughts?

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  1. Joseph Clark
    August 29th, 2010 at 12:16 | #1

    I always drink half a bottle of scotch before a race and nobody’s ever called me a drug cheat.

  2. jquiggin
    August 29th, 2010 at 12:36 | #2

    Better still, I forgo my usual glass or three of wine the night before, and thereby obtain an unfair advantage.

  3. Chris
    August 29th, 2010 at 12:38 | #3

    I don’t have any problems with recovery drugs being used in sport. The telos is what’s important here, and I would argue that the telos of athletic competition is to contest skill and conscious effort, not natural endowments such as lung capacity, testosterone levels, and avoidance of knee inflammation. Most people would agree that a less skilled or dedicated athlete who wins because of a genetic gift is meritorious.

    My solution in practise would mean isolating the elements within the athlete’s control, and keeping all other factors as even as practical. Given that the other factors would be genetics, performance enhancing drugs should be made available to aid competitors to reach an accepted standard, but should not be used otherwise.

    There was a similar US supreme court case to do with Golf, where a handicapped competitor was granted the use of a cart in competition – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGA_Tour,_Inc._v._Martin

  4. August 29th, 2010 at 13:03 | #4

    Personally, I favour open slather. If a person being not less than the age of majority thinks a drug will help, I’m in favour of him/her being allowed to take it. If however, (s)he suffers some harm associated with the use of the drug, then that’s their tough luck and they don’t get to sue anyone not involved in supplying the drug to them for damage.

    I’m opposed to state cooperation with WADA or similar organisations and would not pass on customs information on this. I’m also opposed to subsidies for elite sport in general.

    Then again, I am not a supporter of elite sport or the moral virtue of competition and this does rather colour my view.

    In my view, one’s body is one’s own domain and nobody ought to be able to prevent you from innovating with it. Individual sports could, one suppose, have their athletes consent to constraints, but that would have nothing to do with the state, and the state would not assist them in enforcement.

    Personally, I don’t see what you were doing as cheating. In the context of elite sports, I see the distinction between drugs for medical purposes (recovering from injury) and for performance enhancement as being entirely arbitrary.

    I’d also deny elite sports any public subsidy.

  5. Louis Hissink
    August 29th, 2010 at 13:31 | #5

    Known as getting old John, the pain is a warning sign by your body that it is being stressed. Alleviating the pain with a drug is simply the ego overiding the physical for egotistical reasons.

  6. dez
    August 29th, 2010 at 13:41 | #6

    Regarding drug-testing, I am on the national board of management for a small sport and we find the cost of the compulsory drug-testing for our national (and 2-yearly international) championships is prohibitive. Last year we nearly went bankrupt trying to pay for the drug-testing, yet there are no drugs known to be of any value in this sport.

    My experience is that drug-testing of elite athletes harms the grass-roots level of the sport by taking up so much of the monies collected from those ordinary participants and leaving little to develop the sport. No government support of course, most of that goes to the big (relatively) wealthy sports.

  7. August 29th, 2010 at 15:04 | #7

    Drugs Rubric:

    Enhance Gain – No
    Relief of Pain – Yes

  8. August 29th, 2010 at 15:12 | #8

    Fran Barlow @ #4 said:

    In my view, one’s body is one’s own domain and nobody ought to be able to prevent you from innovating with it. Individual sports could, one suppose, have their athletes consent to constraints, but that would have nothing to do with the state, and the state would not assist them in enforcement.

    Fran,

    Let me get this straight: you are a

    - rampant individualist in matters personal ie civil liberty
    - raving collectivist in matters professional ie economic equity

    I don’t say this is wrong or incoherent, Mill was obviously heading in that direction, especially after his “association” with Ms Harriet Taylor.

    Obviously you are assuming that the boundaries between personal and professional can be fairly easily circumscribed for someone of your political comittments. Maybe they can.

    Its just that the fervour of your Left-liberal commitment will sometimes make that circle difficult to square when distinctions are not so clear.

  9. August 29th, 2010 at 15:14 | #9

    Fundamental consideration is :Would your finishing time be different if you had not taken the drug?

  10. PeterS
    August 29th, 2010 at 15:15 | #10

    Sounds like time to take up something more knee-friendly. Swimming, perhaps?
    Personally, I prefer armchair riding.

  11. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 15:16 | #11

    John, congratulations in finishing the fun run.

    Years ago, on a sports page of the SMH, I read a summary of a statistical investigation of drugs in sports using the gap between men and women in sports where power mattered.

    Many illegal drugs make you stronger.

    This strengthening closes the performance gap between men and women because women were using drugs to become physically stronger.

    Up until about 1992, the performance gap between men and women in power sports was closing.

    After the crackdown on drugs in sports, the performance gap between men and women gap stopped closed, and indeed widened, with many women’s sports records from the early 1990s standing for several years rather than hours or days at major meetings.

    The recent decision in some sports and events to keep blood samples for 8 years may see similar reductions in cheating and male-female performance gaps, but if you are caught many years later, do you have to pay 8 years of sponsorship money back?

    Sports can use private contracts to deter drug cheating by requiring as a condition of entry that athletes sign a statutory declaration before each race that they did not take any prohibited drugs. This would make lying about sports doping a criminal act.

    The ultimate problem is the not uncommon attitude among elite athletics that if you are not cheating you are not trying hard enough. The inability of the Melbourne storms players to accept that breaching the salary cap invalidated their premiership wins is an example. Breaching the salary cap was no different from bribing the other side to throw the game or bribing the referee.

    Sports cheats break their promises to compete to win under the same rules. The other competitors would not tun up to race without this promise.

  12. David Barry
    August 29th, 2010 at 15:41 | #12

    Fran Barlow :
    Personally, I favour open slather. If a person being not less than the age of majority thinks a drug will help, I’m in favour of him/her being allowed to take it. If however, (s)he suffers some harm associated with the use of the drug, then that’s their tough luck and they don’t get to sue anyone not involved in supplying the drug to them for damage.

    What about the rights of athletes who want to compete and have a chance of winning, without turning themselves into mutants? A majority of elite athletes would take an Olympic gold medal (or their sport’s equivalent) even if it meant that they’d die a few years later (“Goldman’s dilemma”).

  13. Alice
    August 29th, 2010 at 16:00 | #13

    After I saw photos of the East German ladies relay team many years ago – I realised that some drugs do horrible damage to athletes. Ive never seen such neanderthal jawbone structures on women. I dont think this sort of damage is “undoable”.

    Id like to know what HGH does? Body builders seem to like that one and they can end up looking pretty weird and pretty obvious too.

    Personally, whilst I have huge admiration for JQ in actually finishing a 10K run (call that fun?) – Ive decided to scarifice my comparative advantage for my good reputation. I prefer to put both legs up on a comfy chair and then enjoy three glasses of wine. No-one can ever call me a drug cheat. If I was going to cheat Id do it properly and catch a taxi for the last 9.5 ks.

  14. Alice
    August 29th, 2010 at 16:04 | #14

    That was the ladies swimming relay team that had the huge jaws….

  15. August 29th, 2010 at 16:10 | #15

    As someone who is quite an advocate for the use of steroids under certain circumstances, my opinion is that the morality of such things is solely determined by what is and what is not on the list of approved substances.

    You as a participant agree to play the particular sport according to the rules of that particular organisation/governing body.

    It has nothing to do with the ‘substance’ and everything to do with the agreement participants make.

    As such you did nothing wrong in my mind.

    As for the wider issue of what should and shouldn’t be allowed, I for one would not have any legal sanctions/bans at all. Individual competitions would be free to create their rules as they see fit and be praised or damned for it.

    I persnally think the issue has become so sensitive/alarmist that rational discussion is impossible. I am reminded of the time when a Richmond Tigers player (can’t remember who) was on one of the AFL related football shows on Foxtel, and he suggested that players with certain injuries should possibly be allowed to use steroids to improve injury times. He was hounded for what was something that should at least be openly debated. His crime was merely suggesting the idea.

    Until such a time as the irrational hysteria on the issue is gone, drug policies (in terms of what is banned) will probably go too far.

  16. Donald Oats
    August 29th, 2010 at 16:16 | #16

    Once money become the dominant mechanism for incentive in professional sports I think that the ethical question changed from one of unfair advantage against other competitors to the modern one of managing a career with the best prospects money can buy.

    The old style sporting competition involved some atheletes who had day jobs, and earnt diddly-squat from their after hours training and competition. In that context, taking drugs to enable advantage over the other atheletes did exist, but was certainly not considered to be the done thing. Taking an aspirin for lingering pain from an injury might have been considered quite acceptable, but steroids no dice. That would have been crossing the ethical line by a country mile. More to the point, it was okay to get wrecked the day before an event though! As an example, Grenville Dietrich in North Adelaide Football Club (NAFL) – a long time ago, which is my point – made local headlines by having a huge drinking binge the night before (at the Welly, no doubt), still up and going at 3:30am, and later that day kicked nine goals! He carried a bit of extra padding too, I seem to recall. So in the context of the early 80′s, footy could still tolerate a post-party, probably hungover, player on the field, and it didn’t seem to stop him playing a good game! Then again, he didn’t earn $500k+ for his efforts either – unlike now.

    Cricket is another great example of the before money / after money comparison. Test cricket earned the cricket players a few jugs of beer and a schnitzel for tea, if they were lucky. They all had day jobs in the early 70′s, until the Goanna, aka Kerry Packer, entered the scene. Lillee (I think), Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell, and a few other cricket players agitated for a reform to salaries, which the Cricket Board rejected comprehensively; as they refused, Packer recruited, and ultimately he won with his World Series Cricket. Both Aussie and international cricket players, for the first time, saw serious money on the table in exchange for their talents, while Packer secured a much more watchable (ie televisable) and intense cricket mode for his television station. I’ll wager that a number of sophisticated pharmaceutical products are available to cricketeers today, and some would aim to benefit from these products. On the other hand, in the early 70′s the talk would be about the big session Ian Botham had the night before, or whether to play South Africa or not, due to the issue of appartheid there.

    My feeling on this is that prior to the advent of money, the use of performance enhancing drugs – legal or not – is considered unethical. Once serious moola enters the scene, the ethics concerning performance enhancing drugs shifts to the ethics of managing the individual’s career and future prospects: it is no longer directly about the unfair advantage against other competitors, except indirectly. The immediate goal is about the individual’s performance, and so other atheletes think of it in those terms too. Is it unethical to use such a common method to obtain or maintain a good professional career as an athelete, even though it is usually banned – in principle, at least? A lot of atheletes seem to vote that it is okay to do it. Money talks.

  17. Donald Oats
    August 29th, 2010 at 16:32 | #17

    Another issue is that what is considered to be performance enhancing. An athelete who has ADD needs ritalin – a stimulant – to function “normally”. An athelete with severe seasonal depression – appropriately abbreviated as “SAD” – cannot play at their best in winter competitions unless they are taking antidepressants. How can anyone reasonable decide whether the ritalin user is assisted by the drug beyond the elevation to “normal”? A perennially depressed athelete suddenly breaks their personal bests and reaches the highest levels of their sport – once they are prescribed an appropriate antidepressant; is this a case of going from long-term depressed to normal, or of going from normal (but dour) to better-than-normal? Who can tell?

  18. frankis
    August 29th, 2010 at 16:56 | #18

    [one shallow opinion]

    Professional sport’s a dubious thing that only exists where there is a large enough number of ticket-buying, ad-watching, brand-sellable folk who find it sufficiently entertaining to watch.

    The folk who are happy to pay for their sporting entertainment (or buy the brands that it sells) often also are inclined to feel that some rules and some prohibitions on cheating should be enforced at least to some degree; hence the drug bans.

    As it’s just another form of entertainment, not of great import, the audience and its voluntary gladiators should be mostly left to their own devices to set the rules.

    Children are a special case but probably shouldn’t be playing pro sports anyway and certainly ought to be being taught to be sceptical about them.

    Surprising endnote: no I don’t spend much time watching sport :)

  19. Donald Oats
    August 29th, 2010 at 17:55 | #19

    Speaking of cricket, good to see (yet another) bribe and bet scandal in the making. At least it knocks the three amigos (Windor, Oakshotte, and Katter) off the first news story spot for a bit.

    On the note of wanting to compete on the merits of natural ability and hard work, rather than on the best pharmaceuticals a sponser can supply, there is an all natural body building competition. It runs mainly on an honour system, IIRC. Which is just another way of saying that there is little money in it :-P

  20. August 29th, 2010 at 18:21 | #20

    to fix your knees & everything else as you probably know a light swim will help a million

  21. conrad
    August 29th, 2010 at 18:34 | #21

    “Personally, I favour open slather. If a person being not less than the age of majority thinks a drug will help, I’m in favour of him/her being allowed to take it.”

    This isn’t really the issue in professional sport — the issue is sponsorship money, and most sponsors don’t want to be associated with drugs of any kind, which is why non-performance enhancing drugs that people don’t like are still on the drug list (e.g., marijuana). There are one or two sports that have clean/dirty leagues (body building), so I assume the dirty leagues can get sponsorship in some limited cases.

  22. Anthony Obeyesekere
    August 29th, 2010 at 19:12 | #22

    Congratulations on completing the run!

  23. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 19:23 | #23

    @frankis
    on children and drugs in sport, the testing of adults is pushing the drug abuse down to the teenager level such as with the growth stimulants because there is no testing at that level, as far as I know.

    I remember a story about super tall american basketballers being the only member of their family that is particular tall at all. ramdom chance or growth stimulants?

  24. August 29th, 2010 at 19:38 | #24

    @conrad

    the issue is sponsorship money, and most sponsors don’t want to be associated with drugs of any kind, which is why non-performance enhancing drugs that people don’t like are still on the drug list (e.g., marijuana).

    Indeed, which is why this is not properly the business of the state. If some business sees “drug-free” sport as commervially useful, let it police the boundaries.

    @David Barry

    What about the rights of athletes who want to compete and have a chance of winning, without turning themselves into mutants?

    This is not a right. Rights are enforced by the state. It’s a negotiated claim in the same way that one may claim pizza on a Friday night. One has to make one’s own arrangements.

    A majority of elite athletes would take an Olympic gold medal (or their sport’s equivalent) even if it meant that they’d die a few years later (“Goldman’s dilemma”).

    Which rather supports my point.

  25. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 19:42 | #25

    @conrad
    Good point on sponsors not wanting to have anything to do with drugs and cheating.

    It is hard to pitch yourself as a family friendly product or company when the sporting spokespersons and related endorsements you have hired turn out to have the taint of illegal drugs. That is not what you buy from elite sports performers.

    To qualify the point just made, actors and singers can endorse products despite the high level of drug and alcohol abuse common in those professions. What do sponsors get from their endorsements from actors and singers for whom drug and alcohol abuse is a professional rite of passage?

    Perhaps entertainers and sportsmen and sportswomen offer a different form of endorsement and celebrity?

    The participants in open-slather take drugs freely sports competitions would be lucky to win their return airfares as first prize. Who would sponsor the drugs are ok sports events?

    What spectators want from sports are fields of dreams, heroes, great skill, hard work, real contents, and something for which they and their children can well aspire to be. Sponsors fund these events to gain attention for their products.

    The baying crowd does not want to see drug tainted nightmares.

  26. August 29th, 2010 at 19:44 | #26

    @Jack Strocchi

    Obviously you are assuming that the boundaries between personal and professional can be fairly easily circumscribed for someone of your political comittments. Maybe they can. It’s just that the fervour of your Left-liberal commitment will sometimes make that circle difficult to square when distinctions are not so clear.

    I’m happy to clarify. I often self-describe as a left-libertarian. I’m strongly in favour of individual rights and personal space, wherever no serious collective action problem arises.

    Save as entertainment, I see no warrant for elite sport. If we aren’t drug-testing actors, I see no reason to drug test sports folk.

    The idea that there’s a bona fide job watching people naked folk at close quarters urinating into a vial does strike me as one of the more absurd features of contemporary life. That the state should be supporting that seems more curious still.

  27. August 29th, 2010 at 19:46 | #27

    @Jim Rose

    The baying crowd does not want to see drug tainted nightmares.

    They don’t care if they are drug-tainted. They just want the fantasy — three wise monkeys Mr Rose.

  28. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 20:00 | #28

    @Fran Barlow
    Just googled Goldman’s dilemma – an interesting survey:

    “Bob Goldman began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were quite ready to take the bargain.”

    Do you know if they tested for differences in answers from those athletes who had children?

    Goldman’s dilemma does not support your points.

    Drug taking is fraud on those who fund and organise sporting events, be it professional or not. Athletes enter conditional on promising to comply with the rules.

    Sports drug agencies act to prevent fraud on those sporting rules, including winning prizes through deception, as well as for public health reasons about use of controlled drugs. that is why sports drug takers are known as drug cheats.

    Sports associations that are employers of athletes have a health and safety duties to their employees.

    the suppression of dangerous drugs in the workplace is the statutory and contractual duty of every employer. the hazard can be to the employee or to others. voluntary employee assumption of risks does not get employers far as a defence against prosecutions under H&S law.

  29. August 29th, 2010 at 20:31 | #29

    Fran Barlow @ #23 said:

    Save as entertainment, I see no warrant for elite sport. If we aren’t drug-testing actors, I see no reason to drug test sports folk.

    Your analogy is close, but no cigar.

    We don’t, as a rule, bet on the outcome of artistic performances.
    Most of which are not competitive and not amenable to scientific control through pharmaceuticals.

    We do, quite often, bet on the outcome of athletic performances.
    Many of which are close-run competitive things, which can be materially affected by drug usage.

    Athletics, being a competitive money-making business, thereby overlaps the boundaries between personal and professional. And should therefore be subject to regulation on standard liberal grounds, prevention of fraud etc. Plus the usual ones of prevention of bodily harm.

    More generally I find your attempt to combine hard Leftism with vigorous libertarianism pretty implausible. Lets allow that you can be a libertarian whilst strictly applying gun control (although I think this does violence to the term “libertarian”, at least as far as law-abiding gun users are concerned.)

    You still have huge problems going the other way, trying to reconcile Leftism with libertarianism, say in the area of drug prohibition. Its perfectly obvious that drug prohibition improves the position of the lower-status (battered wives, indigenes, homosexuals, down-and-out working men and so on) and is therefore a Left-wing policy. (The Temperance movement were in no doubt about this, as are the modern day paternalists among indigenous policy reformers.)

    Its also self-evident that drug prohibition is anti-libertarian.

    So you cannot reconcile fervent Leftism and a genuine libertarian with any kind of out-comes based social policy.

    Consider yourself wedged!

  30. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 20:54 | #30

    @Fran Barlow
    If, as you say, the public don’t care if athletes are drug-tainted, who do they end the careers in disgrace and lose amany of all of their endorsements? No one wants to buy a product endorsed by a sports drug cheat.

    On actors, you say: “If we aren’t drug-testing actors, I see no reason to drug test sports folk.”

    Film-makers buy cast insurance:
    • Cast Insurance provides coverage for additional expenses if an insured actor cannot begin, continue or complete their duties in a production as a result of death, injury or sickness.
    • Insured persons are initially covered for accident only, until such time as they are medically examined and complete a medical questionnaire.

    See page 130 of The Complete Film Production Handbook by Eve Light Honthaner on google books.

    If cast insurers suspect drug problems, insurance premiums go up, baby-sitters might have to be hired or there can even be a requirement for daily drug tests!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See page 127 of the Guerilla film makers Handbook By Genevieve Jolliffe, Chris Jones on google books.

    Some big stars must cast without insurance if they recently left rehab. Eg. Robert Downey Jr. for the singing detective in 2002. Mel Gibson was the understanding producer.

  31. August 29th, 2010 at 20:56 | #31

    @Jack Strocchi

    We don’t, as a rule, bet on the outcome of artistic performances

    Relevance? Bets are not enforceable at law and even if they were, the prospect for cheating ought to be contemplated.

    And should therefore be subject to regulation on standard liberal grounds, prevention of fraud etc.

    Nope … I don’t care about fraud in sports. It’s entertainment.

    Its perfectly obvious that drug prohibition improves the position of the lower-status (battered wives, indigenes, homosexuals, down-and-out working men and so on) and is therefore a Left-wing policy.

    Even though drug prohibition results in massively increased imprisonment, failure to get treatment by users etc mostly by the disadvantaged? It may be “obvious” to you, but this is a parallel universe you are in, Jack

    The Temperance movement …

    was a rightwing christian movement …

    Implausible attack, Jack.

  32. August 29th, 2010 at 20:58 | #32

    @Jim Rose

    If, as you say, the public don’t care if athletes are drug-tainted, who do they end the careers in disgrace and lose amany of all of their endorsements? No one wants to buy a product endorsed by a sports drug cheat.

    Because they found out and their delusion was shattered. Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue …

    I know when at seven I found out ninjas weren’t magical I could never watch the samurai again …

  33. Jim Rose
    August 29th, 2010 at 21:01 | #33

    @Fran Barlow
    A friend of mine studied film-making.

    He said that the whole idea behind films, plays etc., was the suspension of disbelief.

  34. BilB
    August 29th, 2010 at 21:41 | #34

    As my Dad would have said JQ, “well it all depends”. To which I would have said “on what”?

    In this case it all depends on what is to be gained.

    If you are a lawyer in a difficult case you might seek advice from colleagues. This is fully consistent with what is expected of a professional at work. If a law student on the other hand seeks advice from another in an examination then this is called cheating. Both situations are contests, each with a different purpose.

    In the case of the “run”, if you were competing to compare or test your performance against others in your class then your knee improving performance enhancing drug might have been cheating, whereas using foot powder for tinea may not be. In the case of an all in fun run, you are only competing against yourself. Do you feel as though you cheated against yourself, or would you have felt more cheated by the loss of fun by staying home on the couch?

  35. August 29th, 2010 at 22:50 | #35

    @Jack Strocchi

    Upon reflection, Jack, it seems to me that I owe you an apology. It is not the case that my answer was wrong. Rather, it was grossly inadequate.

    In my haste to dismiss your claim, I avoided the more compelling reason that drives me to reject your claim.

    In the end, I am not really that much interested in whether, on balance, it is somewhat in favour of the immediate interest to those of plebeian social location to be coerced by the state into “not hitting themselves” with mood-altering drugs.

    Capitalism winks at the destruction of all individual humanity — that of oppressor and oppressed alike. In the oppressor, it engenders hatred, disgust, fear and indifference to suffering. In the oppressed it engenders passivity, alienation and anomie. Whether someone from either group will survive or be destroyed and if so, in what ways, none can say.

    Yet it is not the duty of communists to run after the working masses with the cosh of the capitalist in one hand and an NA booklet in the other preaching moral salvation. Not at all. It is our duty to have the workers recognise in capitalism the instrument of ther social and cultural dispossession and to locate their acquisition of their full humanity in the struggle for its overthrow, and the institution of inclusive governance on a world scale.

    That way lies the path to the relief of the working people from the harms of capitalism, rather than the maild fist of the capitalist state.

  36. andrewt
    August 29th, 2010 at 22:57 | #36

    Its hard to see where you propose drawing the line, could you examples of drugs which you would remove from the banned list, and you would leave banned?

    Incidentally I’m a little doubtful your race day ibuprofen is performance enhancing at least not more than a placebo – although there is no shortage of runner who believe otherwise.

  37. peterm
    August 30th, 2010 at 13:28 | #37

    John,

    Your last point reminds me of the controversy on the use of beta blockers in the marksmanship sports. (Even Golf!) See the following article in The Atlantic:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/08/in-defense-of-the-beta-blocker/6961/

    The urban legand has it that when it became evident that these drugs improved perfromance, the ISSF ,(actually it was the UIT in those days), made it requirement for anyone using Beta Blockers to have a medical certificate that the drug was necessary for their long term health. At the next World Championships, (or Olympics depending on which urban legand you choose to follow), all the finalists were using Beta Blockers and had the appropriate medical certificate despite most being under the age of 30. So the drugs were banned outright despite the risk to the health of genuine users. See the following URL for an example:

    http://www.targettalk.org/viewtopic.php?p=74962

    The Alantic article’s position is: Given the drug is necessary for the health of a significant number of middle aged and elderly competitors and it has no signifcant side effects, it makes sense to allow anyone who wants to use the drug to use it and not risk the health of genuine users by banning it!

  38. Ikonoclast
    August 30th, 2010 at 19:20 | #38

    My recent experience has shown me that drug free I can ignore enough pain while jogging to give myself a semi-chronic ankle injury. Then again, I’ve never had a knee injury and ankle pain may be kid stuff to knee pain.

    Serious drug cheating has made competitive sport so dishonest that all professional sport without exception is now morally bankrupt and socially worthless. Boycott it. Don’t give it a dollar. That’s my stance.

  39. Donald Oats
    August 31st, 2010 at 00:51 | #39

    @Ikonoclast
    In one event I ran down a hill which was mainly loose, bare soil, so to avoid slipping my fellow team-mates and I ran sideways, if you can picture it, down the slope. The next day my knee would simply lock when in the straight leg position – and hurt like hell. Was barely able to walk, and certainly running was out of the question because of the locking of the knee, assuming the pain was bearable.

  40. paul walter
    August 31st, 2010 at 16:25 | #40

    Donald Oats, it is part of Grenville Dietrich folklore that my team, Central District, who had tried to recruit him themselves, is alleged to have encouraged Grenville to get blotto the night before that match which is, of course, a slur- CD would have known that Grenville functioned best on a full tank, even though his lifestyle eventually cut short a likely stellar career.
    I see Fran Barlow is having a lot of fun with this thread, but if I find a flaw in her reasoning, it’s with the possible exploitation of younger people thru their inculcation into something self destructive, for illusory reasons.
    JQ, keep it for a bit more, but if your knees are like mine you may eventually find it more profitable to change things down to to a good long walk with the dog.

  41. MH
    September 1st, 2010 at 12:31 | #41

    JQ that was a very respectable time indeed for the distance.

  42. Jim Birch
    September 1st, 2010 at 17:08 | #42

    From a biological perspective, sporting prowess is a fitness indicator, that is, the winners represent a better mate choice. This may not actually be true in each specific instance – ask an AFL wife – we intuit it from our biological programming which has been formed over millions of years. Loosely, it is statistically correct over the period of our evolutionary memory.

    A competitor may have a narrative about wanting to win, and a spectator may have a narrative about the qualities of a particular winner, but these stories would just sound foolish without the more fundamental biological mechanisms underlying them.

    One key feature of fitness indicators is that they must have a real biological cost that cannot be faked. Consider the the peacock: it must spend a lot of time preening it’s tail, the tail makes it easier to predate, and so on, but the bird with the biggest tail with the brightest eyes gets the peahens. If peacock were able to purchase fake sick-on eyes and tail extensions at negligible cost, the tail would be rendered useless as a fitness indicator. It would still attract peahens for a time, but eventually tail-attraction would evolve out of peahens, since it picks duds, and useless big tails would evolve out of peacocks when they no longer attract peahens but still attract bird eaters. Something else, perhaps long beaks, could take over as the fitness indicator. Maybe male peacock would have to duke it out, like a lot of other species do.

    However, if peahens were smart enough to detect fake tails, the genuine tail would still work. Peahens probably aren’t, but we just might be.

    This is analogous to what’s going on with drugs and sport. We recognise that sport is a kind of fitness indicator, but we know that we must guard against fakery. Performance-enhancing drugs may produce the requisite sporting result, but our revulsion with them – as spectators – indicates that we want the performance be natural, arising from qualities of physique, mental skills, and the ability to persist through the training schedule, things that we might call the “real” qualities of the competitors.

    As performers, the equation is a little different: provided the target audience don’t realise you’re faking it, it’s ok. But you wouldn’t tell them. Athletes generally deny taking drugs, and they continue to deny it after retirement when it has ceased to matter career-wise: we would still feel revulsion, and they would feel shamed.

    The equation for the rentseekers sports administrators is different again. If their code becomes known for drug-based fakery it looses it’s “sexual” relevance – it is no longer a fitness indicator. So administrators generally want to stop drug use, or, failing that, cover it up, and if that fails, have a program or two in place that indicate you’re dealing with it so it can’t be a big problem. I’m being a little cynical here, administrators are spectators too, so will want to eliminate drug use to make the game “real”.

    Of course, all this describes some basic drivers; it doesn’t really tell you what’s right!

  43. Alice
    September 1st, 2010 at 19:16 | #43

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikono = my recent experience is that with a single panadol on board for a heavy cold, and a cuppacino – I can ignore the pain of doing 120 laps of a twenty five metre pool .

    This is a good thing! I used to know a swimmer who took catovit and then swam 5ks in a single session (vitamin tablet for old people) – she used to swear by it and one day she gave me one and lo and behold I did a 5 k session as well painlessly.

    I think it was taken off the market long ago. It was just too effective.

    I wouldnt run out to get the newspapers – I hate running – you get very sweaty!. I congratulate the Prof nonetheless…its damned hard work to pull out a respectable (pretty impressive) time like that for 10 ks run – but each to his own. I can only swim about 2.6 to 2.8 ks (maybe 3 if I didnt stop at a push) in the time he ran 10ks.

    Whereas if I didnt have that panadol and cuppacino when I had a cold – I might feel “what am I doing here? This really hurts… especially when I feel bad from a cold.”

    Does that make me a drug cheat or did it make me do the exercise which might have done more good than taking some caffeine and a panadol did bad?

    Hard call. I think the marginal benefits of the exercise may be greater than the marginal costs of some pharmaceutical assistance, but as usual its a question of degree isnt it?.

    Id take the Ibubrufen and not worry about it and anything else that makes it bearable except anything like those drugs that are systemically addictive eg steroids

    (muscle and joint strain is a bit different if you are running than swimming – there is not too much can go wrong to joints in the water – except shoulders and only after you get old – sore knees and pounding pavements and panadols may not be inherently wise – even though the panadol is fairly innocuous – it can mask warning signals?).

    Depends a lot on the drug and the nature of the exercise.

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