Drugs, Sport, and Ethics

When the Olympic Games return to Greece this summer, the results at the drug testing laboratory may get as much attention as what happens at the Olympic stadium. The history of drugs, and drug control, at the Olympics is discouraging - a farrago of ill-informed rules, outright state-sponsored cheating, and half-hearted and erratic attempts at enforcement.

A new model has recently revived hope for effective drug control by moving testing and enforcement from the direct control of the International Olympic Committee and the national governing bodies to the World Anti-Doping Agency and similar organizations at the national level. The US Anti-Doping Agency, for example, played a central role in uncovering a new synthetic steroid known as THG linked to a California firm catering to Olympic and professional athletes.

But the renewed hope will be frustrated unless we can respond effectively to the ethical challenge. No amount of interdiction will suffice if we do not explain clearly what, precisely, is wrong with using performance enhancing drugs in sport.

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