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