Pros and Cons of Using Dopings as Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sport

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 890 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Words: 890|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: May 24, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Pharmaceutical Enhancement
  2. A Case Supporting the Legalisation of Doping in Elite Sport
  3. Conclusion

Pharmaceutical enhancement in sport is a widely discussed topic with arguments both for and against. Pharmaceutical enhancement is a specific form of enhancement in sport and what I will narrow my focus down to due to a constraint of space. This paper will look at the effects pharmaceutical enhancement has on sporting performance and the perception of athletes who enhance themselves. I will claim that pharmaceutical enhancement undermines sport as a test of natural ability. That by enhancing their performance above and beyond the genetic potential that they are born with, athletes undermine the challenge sports present to us and violates the ‘spirit of sport’.

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Pharmaceutical Enhancement

Pharmaceutical enhancement in sport has dated back as far as the Ancient Greeks where they would consume animal organs in the aim of gaining a physical advantage. Recent high profile cases such as Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal have ignited debates over doping. The creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999 led to a prohibited list of banned substances that enhance performance being formed. If any of these substances are found in an athletes drug testing samples they will have committed an anti-doping rule violation and will face disciplinary action. Substances are placed on this list as a result of WADA deeming them to produce “performance enhancing effects”. WADA believes that using banned substances to enhance performance violates the ‘spirit of sport’. They claim that an important part of this spirit is the quest of excellence that is achieved by perfecting a person’s natural talents. Many people stand by WADA regarding the ban on performance enhancing substances, although some people do think this ban should be lifted. Savulescu is one of these, and I will now discuss his views on the topic.

A Case Supporting the Legalisation of Doping in Elite Sport

Savulescu’s paper argues that performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) should be allowed in sport. He aims to show that biological enhancement does not undermine sport as a test of natural ability, or violate the ‘spirit of sport’. Savulescu points out that “the use of PEDs should not turn a race into a ‘drug race’ any more than different training methods would turn it into a ‘training race’ or ‘money race’.” This touches on the idea that “The same biomechanical processes targeted by doping substances and methods are targeted through training”. Training is by definition a way to enhance the performance of a person. If pharmaceutical enhancement undermines natural ability then it seems Savulescu believes training also does. He adds to this point by showing how there are three different ways an athlete can increase their red blood cell count. Two methods, altitude training and hypoxic chambers, are legal but the use of EPO is banned. There is no difference in outcome between methods, but the pharmaceutical enhancement method is banned.

In addition to this he also states that “money buys success”. In the Athens Olympics the gold medals won by Australia “cost $32 million dollars each” due to the $547 million of funding. He aims to show with these facts that richer sporting teams or countries are able to afford and “embrace strategies and technologies that are inaccessible to the poor”. This leads him to claim that if athletes have the ability to choose what types of training, diet and other strategies they use which results in inequality amongst athletes, they should then be allowed to choose to take drugs or not. He believes that pharmaceutical enhancement doesn’t actually violate the ‘spirit of sport’ but “embodies human spirit allowing us to improve ourselves on the basis of judgment and reason”.

Savulescu also uses classical musician’s consumption of beta blockers to aid in their performances as a comparison. He claimed that classical music is as competitive as sport is with both having similar rewards. But there is a stigma attached to sport regarding the use of drugs to aid performances, whereas there is none attached to the use of drugs in classical music. If a musicians performance is improved through the use of drugs we judge the substance to be “enabling the musician to express themselves more effectively. People watch sport to enjoy the competition but also to appreciate “extraordinary performance”.

Savulesca believes enhancement would ensure that the winner was not determined by who was born with the highest genetic potential and the level of training they could afford. Instead the winner would be an athlete who held a combination of “genetic potential, training, psychology and judgement”. What he tries to show in his paper is that pharmaceutical enhancement should not be considered to undermine sport as a test of natural ability if other strategies to enhance performance are still present in sport and promote inequalities amongst athletes.

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High-profile cases such as Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal and the increase in the number of elite athletes being caught doping has made pharmaceutical enhancement an important topic for debate. Doping, or the use of pharmaceutical substances or methods to enhance performance, has been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Questions have been raised about lifting this ban however, in an attempt to ‘level the playing field’ from the genetic inequality that is present in sport currently. Others stand by the idea that the enhancement of an athlete reduces their responsibility for the performance they produce, and should not be allowed if we want to preserve sport as a test of natural ability.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Pros and Cons of Using Dopings as Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sport. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Pros and Cons of Using Dopings as Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sport.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
Pros and Cons of Using Dopings as Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sport. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
Pros and Cons of Using Dopings as Pharmaceutical Enhancement in Sport [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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