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ETHICAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH DRUG USE IN SPORT



The use of drug use in sport is both unhealthy and contrary to the ethics of sport..It is necessary to protect the physical and spiritual health of athletes, the values of fair play and of competition, the integrity and the unity of sport, and the rights of those who take part in it at whatever level. 

( IOC, 1990)


"Equal conditions for all", the most deceptively simple definition of fair play to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. The fundamental idea of sport is considered to be character building, teaching the virtues of dedication, perseverance, endurance and self-discipline.  Sport is suppose to help us learn from defeat as much as from victory, and team sports foster a spirit of co-operation, and interdependence, importing something of moral and social values.  It is also integrating us as individuals, to bring about a healthy, integrated society.  This would mean that drug use has no place in sport.

Equal conditions for all is the sports equivalent of the general moral principle of equal justice for all.  Equal justice for all implies that the same justice applies to everybody regardless of their class, race, origin, or gender with no special privileges or advantages.

Not only is drug use clearly cheating and an ethical dilemma for coaches, doctors and officials, but it also puts the health of the athlete at great risk.  It is believed that ethical problems arise because of many reasons such as:

# The competitive character of the athlete;

# Coaching practices that emphasise winning as the only goal;

# Media pressure to win;

# Prevalent attitude that doping is necessary to win;

# Public expectations about national competitiveness;

# Huge financial rewards for winning;

# Unethical practices condoned by national and international sports federations;

# Psychological belief in aids to performance (eg. The 'Magic Pill").


There are many influences on drug use.  There can be no justification for athletes to cheat in order to win or that the pressures and temptations are all the same for the athletes.  The problem of drug use in sport is not educational, economic or a social problem, but a moral problem.

The sporting complex is seen to have been replaced by a competition between doctors and biochemists on the ones side and the regulating authorities on the other.  The athlete becomes the "puppet" of this technology, health risks are then ignored, and other competitors cannot participate unless they too are prepared to use chemical substances to improve their performance.  In this era, where genetic and chemical manipulation is commonplace it is hardly surprising that many athletes no longer rely on their natural skills and abilities.

The preservation of sport is necessary, to keep the nobility and chivalry which have been distinguished in the past, so it may continue to play the same part in the education of people of today as it did in Ancient Greece.  This may have been so at the turn of the turn of the century, but in present day sport the pressured on all concerned is immense.  An athlete nowadays is faced with meeting expectations of the coach, teammates, family and friends.  Coaches are also faced with similar pressure, to produce the winning combination, coping with fitness levels and making demands on individuals, all of which may give the wrong signals in respect to drug misuse.  Doctors also face a dilemma when they prescribe drugs to athletes and monitoring their effects as a safe way of containing drug misuse rather than knowing an athlete will seek black-market sources and advice. 

There is also another perspective that constitutes drug misuse.  Some banned substances such testosterone, actually originate in the body, and it is an excessive level in which has been classified as a doping offence involving testosterone/epitestosterone ratios illustrates that the debate is also ongoing.  Other substances, such as ephedrine and caffeine, commonly occur in OTC medications, herbal preparations and even in social.   There is no doubt that athletes are prepared to make use of these substances to assist in their performance.  In many sports, increasing commercialism has seen a price put on an athlete's head; some cope better with this than others.