Post No.: 0218
This post relates to Post No.: 0115 but I’ll explore more the ethics regarding doping in sports…
Save for things that would be illegal if done outside of a sport too, what I’d personally say is – if a behaviour falls within the rules of a particular competition, and these rules are made fully available and clear to all of the competitors, then that behaviour is acceptable. But if a behaviour contravenes these rules then it’s not following the telos or purpose of the competition – no one is forcing anyone to play a particular sport professionally or to compete in a particular competition but if one chooses to do so then one must follow the rules. Either don’t do non-permitted things and do partake in these competitions, or do non-permitted things (e.g. take banned substances) and don’t partake in these competitions. The purpose of a particular competition is to see who is the best within the rules of that competition. You’re playing a different competition if you don’t follow them. Without these rules, it’s just war (yet even wars have some rules nowadays e.g. the Geneva Conventions)!
It’s like you’re not allowed to field two goalkeepers in your team’s goal in any FIFA football competition, but you can play with two goalkeepers in a goal if you’re just playing with your friends in your garden if you all want to and all agree to it. So fairness is about adhering to the pre-agreed rules, and if you don’t like those rules then don’t play the game or play something else. If you breach those rules then you know you’re cheating rather than exercising some moral position with regards to the freedom of doing whatever you want to your own body! People are not coerced to play in any particular tournament that’s really a part of the entertainment industry rather than anything truly life-or-death without viable alternatives. Woof!
Of course if there are legal issues regarding your country’s laws that prevent you from taking or doing something then you could go to jail for it according to those laws too, rather than merely penalised or fined by a sports governing body for breaching a rule. And here, some might likewise argue that if you don’t like a country’s laws then you should emigrate to another country – no one is forcing you to stay, but if you want to stay then you must obey the laws of the particular land. It’s not just your own land to freely do whatever you want. Maybe this is a little too glib though because not everyone has the equal means or opportunity to migrate to wherever they want, and they might not be accepted there either (although having enough money again helps). But regarding professional sports, you’re free to do another job if you don’t like the rules of a particular sport. (Although maybe one exception is if an authoritarian state coerces some of its people to represent their country, with possibly a state-sponsored doping programme on top too.)
If you believe that, in sports, people should be allowed to utilise what is currently considered doping because it’ll create a better spectacle (e.g. faster sprint records) then create your own sport with a governing body that allows all of that – and the market will decide its popularity and longevity. Do your own thing rather than demand some other party to change their thing. FIFA doesn’t ‘own the game of football’ and the FIA doesn’t ‘own the concept of motor racing’, for example – they just own their own tournaments and the related rights to those tournaments, and governs the rules for them. So you can set up your own tournaments. Okay this may be a little too glib again but in principle it’s true and the market decides.
Or because the market decides, if enough collective pressures are placed on existing sports governing bodies to change their rules then they might adapt or cease survival in the marketplace. (And it’s likewise in principle the same if enough citizens collectively pressure existing local or national governments to adapt their laws or cease survival in the political space in the event of an uprising or series of protests, demonstrations or rallies, which often happens – governments face survival pressures too.) The fact that these tournaments or leagues survive if they do means that the free market is sufficiently behind them; unless one thinks something is fundamentally wrong with the behaviours of free markets? If boxing fans hate the current rules – they shouldn’t watch the pay-per-view matches, for instance.
It’s therefore a matter of deception if one takes banned drugs but doesn’t declare it. Some argue that if it’s all very difficult to police then why not just let all doping or drug taking be allowed? But that’s a poor moral argument because e.g. just because harmful rape, murders, robberies, domestic violence, terrorism, the exploitation of underage persons, gun smuggling, addictive recreational drug dealing, etc. still keep on happening despite laws and law enforcement, it doesn’t mean that we should just surrender and let it all be legal – for this reason at least(!) And if people argue about a ‘slippery slope’ (allowing one thing will lead to allowing more things) for regulation then there’s also a ‘slippery slope’ for deregulation too.
Some people might be less interested in watching sports or caring if a team or person wins or loses if it’s about the drugs or overly about the technology (depending on the technical nature of the sport) because then it’d be just down to which team is the richest to afford the latest drugs and technologies. Some people may find it more interesting and some may find it more boring, but it won’t be about exploring and discovering naturally-honed abilities, capabilities and pushing a person’s unfettered limits anymore – it’d be just about who can spend the most money. (In some sports it’s arguably already very much about the rich versus the poor and, in general, such sports are boring to watch because one or two teams just dominate, and predictability is what makes a sport boring to watch more than mediocre performances.) Many ordinary citizens will also likely think ‘pah, I could do the same if I took those drugs too’, thus diminishing the value of an athlete’s own discipline to train for their successes. People may understand that one still needs to train hard even if one takes a performance-enhancing drug but that value of hard work and moral desert (deservedness) will be undermined.
The future, and even present, is currently unclear regarding the ethics of doping in non-sporting contexts (for both physical and/or cognitive enhancement e.g. to improve exam performance) and in particular the genetic modification of human beings. There could be, as some anticipate, a kind of apartheid between those who can afford it and those who can’t, or for some other reasons (like the tension between the augmented and non-augmented in the Deus Ex universe!) And who knows what the effects will be regarding the evolution of human beings as a result if such use became so habitual that they become over-relied upon e.g. the more clothes humans wore, the less humans needed fluffy bodily hair, and now humans cannot really survive in many places without clothes at all. Clothes are pretty accessible though but most drugs aren’t, and will the reliance on performance-enhancing drugs (or anti-rejection drugs for augmentation implants) mean that humans will gradually evolve to generally become dependent on drugs and less naturally smart or strong? A key reason for the immense adaptability of the human species is creating and using technology, but can it go too far?
As a thought experiment – in terms of taking drugs – imagine a world in the future where humans are only fit and/or clever because of the drugs they are taking (organisms are naturally lazy (or an alternative perspective is efficiency-seeking) e.g. if we’ve got smartphones to help us plot routes and calculate travel times then we’ll likely not bother practising how to use a paper map anymore, thus if drugs were available to help us do other things then a lot of us would likely over-rely on them like crutches too – just like a lot of people today couldn’t function well without caffeine, which is a legal drug). Now what if those drugs then run out and then future humans are revealed to be just weak and witless? The things a species does or doesn’t do that alters its survival chances will have an effect on natural selection and therefore the specie’s evolution and survival/extinction chances overall. Or at least, for humans, it’ll have a cultural effect (e.g. a generation of people not knowing how to socialise or remember simple things like the birthdays of even those close to them without social media). The dependence on artificial performance aids could inadvertently make a species more naturally fragile.
If the telos of a particular sport is about expressing human physical skill and prowess, then the freedom to dope will likely reduce it to who’s the richest to begin with (and then the rich will get even richer because they’ll keep on winning the prize monies and most lucrative sponsorships, etc.). Equipment is already about who can afford what in some sports (e.g. the latest suits or machines). It does ultimately depend on the telos of the sport e.g. compared to cycling, motorcycling is relatively more about the technological factors – in cycling, we want to talk about the rider’s athletic performance rather than their bike if they win, whilst in motorcycling, we want to talk about the combination of the rider’s skill and the machine if they win. So unless we want to talk about an athlete’s own performance in combination with what drugs or artificial assistances they took if they win, then drugs aren’t really a part of the telos of that sport. This is even if the entire field is more-or-less level in what assistances they take because that won’t mean these competitors will be level with what assistances ordinary citizens are or aren’t taking. And, once more, the other main consideration is would enough people care to watch such a sport?
This is not considered doping but another contentious topic is transgender people in sports (mainly male-to-female), where both sides of the debate have valid points – that it’s unfair on cisgender women when trans women are allowed to compete against them, yet it’d be unfair on trans women to not be able to compete amongst the gender they identify with. This is a highly complex issue (maybe one for another time) – there are rules regarding testosterone level limits, which some argue don’t currently go far enough, and adding more gender categories is so far considered unpopular or unworkable. It’s strange because if there were total equality or no discrimination whatsoever i.e. everyone, regardless of their gender identity, competed against each other without segregation – then women in sport would generally come out badly because in most sports men would simply dominate. True equality or a total absence of discrimination therefore cannot be the goal everyone is trying to reach for in sports – it’s a ‘kind of equality or absence of discrimination but with caveats’ where some lines are drawn to segregate people – but where? It’s fairness or no discrimination versus equality of opportunity. And this relates to doping too because some drugs are allowed (e.g. ibuprofen, which can cause kidney failure if taken too much of) so where should the lines be drawn?
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