Daniel Engber, of Slate, asks the question: What if Doping Were Legal?
Our attitudes may be changing. A few weeks ago, freakonomist Stephen Dubner proposed on his blog that cycling might come up with a list of approved doping agents. And on Thursday, the respected science magazine Nature published an editorial calling for similar legalizations in all sports. “The transition would not be painless,” the Nature editorial says. “Some people will undoubtedly harm themselves through the use of enhancements, and there would need to be special protection for children.”
…Some sports might not be so different. It’s hard to imagine that professional cycling, for example, would show any noticeable effects. In a sport like boxing, the system of rigidly defined weight classes would make it impossible for fighters to use steroids to bulk up beyond a certain point. They might use drugs to train harder, enhance their endurance in the ring, or recover more quickly from injuries. But those would all be plusses for the fan—we’d get to see more and better fights.
The effects of decriminalized doping would be much more apparent in a sport like baseball, where relatively small differences in individual ability play out across long seasons, and fans obsess over statistics. What would happen to the numbers if everyone in the Major Leagues were on the clear?
The author has a very limited understanding of what doping is and what doping does. It’s not all about gaining muscle mass through the use of steroids.
He also understands remarkable little about the sport of cycling. Baseball has no proprietorship on the “relatively small differences in individual ability” that become distinctions between athletes. A gain of, say, 5% in O2 uptake translates directly into an increase in climbing and time trailing ability. The Oxygen Vector drugs are what completely changed the sport of cycling over the last decade.
And I mean completly_changed_the_sport.
I also take issue with his conclusion that two with two doped athletes, “the relative difference between them would be diminished” with the their shared and equal drug use. No. The difference between them would be the same. The same rider would cross the finish line first, the group would collectively be going 5k an hour slower.
And that’s the problem with legalizing doping. The best riders are still the best riders, as long as everyone is doping. It’s the ones who do not dope who suffer. If they all doped, one could argue that it would level the playing field and therefore make it all somehow more fair. But that is one hell of a stretch. You really gotta twist it around a bit to get to that point.
You could argue that better drug testing and a governing body who actually does their fucking job could get you the same result. And with that latter, you avoid what the author refers to as “awful tragedies”, where “a few players might die of heart attacks, suffer career-ending injuries, or otherwise flush away their talent with the wrong doses of the wrong drugs.”
He may accept those “awful tragedies” as so much collateral damage, but I don’t. How about drugs remain illegal, the testing protocol is upgraded to bulletproof, the UCI gets turned over on its head and complete restructured, and no one has to die to satisfy the base need to break records at any cost?by
Legalizing doping will create a slippery slope. Once taking drugs is legal where do we end up in the quest for bigger, better and faster? Genetic engineering. Think “Gattaca.”
Human sports than becomes like horse racing.
Ask Tommy Simpson about how well the no holds doping system works
there’s nothing wrong with a nice tuneup from your Doc but where does it stop?!?!?
Unless you legalize everything, people will still cheat to get an advantage. And if you legalize everything, whoever take the craziest risk with his body wins.
And that’s what the sport should become? Seriously?
Yo motherfuckers I have been pushing for weight class cycling for years.
I had once assumed the position of “legalize but force riders to declare what they’re on”…and then one Saturday I raced the Cat4’s at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I watched a guy I’d already previously raced with show up one day, rocket off the front while we were doing 24 MPH up a hill and just keep on going. He almost lapped us on a 3.5 mile course. The race was just 30 miles.
Fuck that. I would like to have thought he was just a “sand-bagger” and racing out of category, but he had a higher winning MPH than the Pro/1/2 field. He cheated us all so he could win a fucking folding tire and a seat pouch. It was his greed to feel like a winner that motivated him. And the real winner of that race was cheated out of the feeling of winning. we don;t race for the money. We race because we want the feeling of winning a damn race.
I’m 100% with colin.
Legalize doping and the riders with the best drugs win. The riders with the most money win. The riders with the best doctors win.
It doesn’t just go 5k faster. The richest, biggest risk takers with access to the most advanced medecine will win more often than anyone else.
Personally, I don’t really care to watch the “anti-aging” doctors of the world fight a proxy war through cyclists. Clean sports are more fun. With drugs, cycling starts to look a lot more like horse racing, where it’s the trainers and doctors who get all the glory.
woops. didn’t see the first comment that already made the horse racing analogy.
I knew a dude who won the morgal-bismark two day race(both days) back in ’94 or ’95…He actually bragged to me about using cocaine to do it and tried to encourage me to join him (I don’t use any drugs)…A-CAT-FUCKING-4…What a fucking loser. For real, 12 years later, his life is totally destroyed from bad descisions like that