Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Dopey Debate over Steroids

There's a firestorm raging now over an incredibly boring topic: is it okay for athletes to use steroids? Strangely, this question seems to be much more hotly debated by loafer-clad academics than anyone who really cares about sports. But that aside, these are the two camps:

1) Sports are a great opportunity to test the limits of the human body. And how will we know those limits if we don't supplement our bodies with performance-enhancing drugs? Besides, they'd go along with the "natural" enhancers we already have, like weightlifting and protein shakes.

2) As Aristotle said, the human body was only meant to work within certain limits. If we tamper with those limits, we—like Eve or Prometheus—aspire to be something that we're not. That's an offense against nature and something we should steer clear of.

Both of these positions are off the mark.

Doping, in the first place, is currently against the rules of most sports. If I use steroids, I'm breaking the rules of baseball or curling, and the league has every right to punish me—or collect my urine to find out if I am. Using steroids is no different from corking a bat, and Aristotle aside, that's just cheating. Ecch.

Ecch on both counts.
The question at hand, though, is: should there be an anti-doping rule? And to that I say: who cares? The rules of baseball are what they are, and the only reason they're not otherwise is that they're not. Should a basketball hoop be 9.57 feet tall instead of 10? I don't see why not, though I don't see a reason to change the rule, either.

It's the same with steroids: the rules of baseball could be easily adapted to suit either modified or unmodified human bodies. Baseball has a rule against doping just like it has a rule against balking, even though it could very easily allow either one.

So if the IOC is made up of Aristoteleans who only like natural, pesticide-free athletes, they should go ahead and ban steroids. And if they don't care, they should do whatever they want. It's on the players, though, to respect whatever the rule ends up being.

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