The Post Lancegate Era. Plea to allow doping in pro sports.

Doping in sports - ©

Doping in sports – ©


I guess anyone knows the story of Lance Armstrong by now. Just for the sake of ease I’ll refer to it as Lancegate and it points to “an all-American hero that fell to earth”.

Lance Armstrong’s recent doping confession to Oprah revamps an old discussion about doping (or the usage of banned performance-enhancing drugs) in professional sport(s).

What is the problem with doping?

The use of drugs to enhance performance is considered unethical by international sports organizations and especially the International Olympic Committee. The reasons why we ban those substances are related to health risks, the noble idea of equality for all sportsmen and the desire of the public to think of sportsmen as heroes – doing all these spectacular things in a “clean” fashion.

I believe exactly those same arguments can be used to state that doping shouldn’t be a problem. And why there shouldn’t have been a lancegate.

Why doping shouldn’t be a problem. A plea to allow doping in pro sports.

First of all the unethical aspect. Why is doping labeled as not ethical? Frankly I don’t know. And it doesn’t make sense. All things mankind has ever done in medics and pharmaceuticals are equally performance-enhancing drugs in the sense that they clearly enhanced our life time. Our timely performance of living is enhanced due to drugs. We didn’t label that as unethical. Additionally, we drink wine (alcohol is a hard drugs people, it’s just socially accepted!) to enhance our dining experience. There’s hardly anyone labeling that as unethical.

Second, the health thing. It just might be that doping isn’t healthy. True. Nor are alcohol, cigarettes and medicines. Can we allow people to decide individually what they take and for what reason? I guess most smokers do know they are having an unhealthy habit. I guess all sportsmen using performance-enhancing drugs equally know they are messing up their bodies. Additionally, one could state that doping are in this respect little different from the use of new materials in the construction of e.g. swimming suits or Formula 1 cars. Those things provide a similar unfair advantage over other competitors. What’s the difference between a substance and e.g. better equipment?

Further more, the way we feel about doping today reflects our culture of “equality”. Everybody is the same. We all have the same opportunities. That’s a great idea. However, we all know that’s not true. With regards to professional sports, it’s quite clear that someone born in the e.g. USA has a way better environment to grow up in to become a sports hero than e.g. somebody in Angola. Just think about sports education, sports infrastructures, etc.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Asterix potion made him heroic.

Finally the argument that the public (“we”) has the desire to believe the sport is “clean”. More important however is that the public wants to look up to sportsmen. They are heroes. They inspire people. Do we really care that the hero plays according to the rules? I believe we don’t. Let’s go back to the origin of the word “hero”. A hero was originally a courageous figure in a legend or a myth that did spectacular things throughout the story. Not rarely those “heroes” had a (semi-)divine origin and their acts exceeded the human capabilities. Just think of the Greek Heroi or the modern Spider-man and Superman as an example. Or one of my favorites: Asterix & his potion!

If we want sport heroes we’d better frame “doping” differently. And that’s exactly what Lance did. He framed doping differently.

And that’s exactly why there shouldn’t have been a Lancegate. Your thoughts?

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