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Biotech Medicine

Let the Games Be Doped 773

Hugh Pickens writes "John Tierney poses the question in the New York Times 'what if we let athletes do whatever they wanted to excel?' Before you dismiss the notion, consider what we're stuck with today — a system designed to create a level playing field, protect athletes' health and set an example for children, that fails on all counts. The journal Nature, in an editorial in the current issue, complains that 'antidoping authorities have fostered a sporting culture of suspicion, secrecy and fear' by relying on unscientifically calibrated tests, like the unreliable test for synthetic testosterone that cost Floyd Landis his 2006 Tour de France victory and even if the authorities manage to correct their tests, they can't possibly keep up with the accelerating advances in biology." Read on for more.
Hugh Pickens continues: "Bengt Kayser, the director of a sports medicine institute at the University of Geneva argues in an article that has been supported by more than 30 scholars in the British Medical Journal that legalizing doping would "encourage more sensible, informed use of drugs in amateur sport, leading to an overall decline in the rate of health problems associated with doping (pdf). In the competition between increasingly sophisticated doping — e.g. gene transfer — and antidoping technology, there will never be a clear winner. Consequently, such a futile but expensive strategy is difficult to defend.""
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Let the Games Be Doped

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  • by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:36PM (#24589561)
    Have 2 classes, stock (unmodified) and top fuel (no limits or restrictions).
  • by colmore ( 56499 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:37PM (#24589583) Journal

    that what might, in some argument be a sensible behavior for a professional athlete or a full time adult amateur athlete is in no way sensible for young athletes who are essentially practicing in a very publicized hobby.

    Calling open season in the upper tiers of athletics would certainly have the effect of more young folks (and hell even that guy who cares too much about company soft ball) doing more drugs, and that isn't healthy and it isn't good.

    I don't believe in the criminalization of drugs myself, but for something so explicitly about the body, athletics should really not be helping sell young people on the idea of dangerous chemical recreation.

    I hate the drug war, but it is important to note that our world would be a lot better without certain drugs.

  • by anselmhook ( 962411 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:42PM (#24589681)
    Children of doping athletes have a higher incidence of deformity: [] The point of the olympics includes an ideal of finding out our limits, and improving them. The problem with doping is the same one with modern news: it favors the individual instance instead of favoring the system. It is not sustainable, nor durable over the long haul... and by long haul I mean multi-generational.
  • by Denger256 ( 1161267 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:43PM (#24589713)
    Could it not be argued that doping is just the next step? Think about it these athletes use all kinds of technology to improve why draw the line at drugs?
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:44PM (#24589733)

    The test that cost Landis his victory and title is actually very well calibrated - he got tripped up by the amount of testosterone in his blood that is not produced by his own body, as identified by carbon-isotope markers.

    That said, legalized doping will still lead to issues, as there will always be something that is unsafe and illegal to take, and which will be taken by unscrupulous athletes. Sadly, there is no way to prevent cheating, unless you simply say "no rules". And then I expect someone to show up with an aircraft carrier at a water polo game.

  • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:47PM (#24589805) Homepage Journal
    Here [] is a pretty good analysis from game theory on what we could actually do to reduce doping. Bottom line - increased penalties.
  • by eagee ( 1308589 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:51PM (#24589897)
    This reminds me of a quote from Einstein on prohibition: "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this." thoughts?
  • by Black-Man ( 198831 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:53PM (#24589929)

    Face it. They say the gene splicing will be untraceable so it will be a moot point to attempt to screen athletes. It will infiltrate all sports... not just the Olympics. And if this is the case, then shouldn't droids be allowed to compete?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:54PM (#24589933)

    Permitting doping in any sport is the road to that sport's ruin.

    How do you explain the popularity of football in America, then?

  • by srmalloy ( 263556 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:55PM (#24589961) Homepage

    And establish a rule that, once you compete in the Unlimited Games, you are forever barred from competing in an unaugmented event, regardless of sport.

  • Re:Garbage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:55PM (#24589967) Journal

    Doping, the lack of sportsmanlike conduct, and all the other problems in high level competition--the way I see it these things all stem from such a strong emphasis on winning over simply playing the game for its own sake.

    Well, first off, the reason to play a competitive gamre is to win, not to play the game. That's why it's called a competition. I, for one, do not relish the thought of a "group swim for the fun of swimming" event at the olympics :)

    That said, I recently read a piece in NJ Monthly about the Special Olympics, where a young girl with Downs Syndrome & some other issues was winning a race, and slowed down to hold hands with a competitor to cross the finish line together. Somehow I can't imagine that happening at the regular Olympics, but boy would that make me start to view the world with a little optimism.

    another example is of a softball player who hit a home run, but blew out her knee, in her last college appearance. Members of the opposing team picked her up and carried her around the bases, since the rules forbade members of her own team from doing so.

    Sportmanship is hard to find in professional sports (and yes, for the most part, olympic athletes are professionals), but it exists at other levels. Sometimes it even exists at the professional level, like in soccer... an example would be when a player is injured, and the other team kicks the ball out of bounds to give a stop in play... and then the favor is returned whenthe injured player's team gives the ball back when play resumes. I just wish it were publicized better, and given attention at the professional level.

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @04:56PM (#24589987) Homepage
    Michael Shermer, a competitive cyclist and "Skeptic" columnist for Scientific American wrote an article called The Doping Dilemma [] on this very subject. It examines the doping issue using gaming theory to analyze the costs and payoffs of doping and suggests ways to make doping never pay off.
  • by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:03PM (#24590099)

    Yes, given your example I wouldn't let my kid take these drugs, if the side effects overshadow their life. But the drugs that are banned go beyond ones like steroids and into the realm of performance enhancement.

    For instance Creatine. Would I let my daughter take it if she wanted to use it to better her work outs? Scientifically I have no reason not to. Ephedrine? I got a problem with it. Steroids? Never. There is a huge difference between them all though. You can't just say "drugs bad" and then move on. And that is my point. What drugs are we talking about? People think it's all steroids and you end up with "Bob had bitch tits". But that's not true. These anti-doping organizations are going the extra mile and saying anything that isn't on the approved list is against the rules, regardless of scientific merit in using them. Why? Because the bogeyman that's why.

    If anything it's simply patronizing us all putting them all under the controlled substance label or insinuating that anyone that wishes to take a chemical is somehow a dirt bag, well that's nonsense imo.

  • by pthisis ( 27352 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:06PM (#24590145) Homepage Journal

    Wrong direction, everyone should be riding the exact same bike. The Tour is about the athletes not the equipment.

    It's a bicycle race. The equipment is a huge part of it (it's what the sport is named after). Foot racing is all about the athletes. Cycling, by its very nature, is about both.

  • Re:Garbage (Score:4, Interesting)

    by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:10PM (#24590199)

    Oh bullshit. So if you love your job, and you're getting paid to do it, you don't really love it. Being an athlete is their job. Guess what? If I don't do what I'm asked to do at work, I get fired too, yet I still follow the rules.

    I know some professional athletes (I used to work for a pro football team), they love the sport, they live it, they breath it. They have a passion for it that trumps about anything else.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:35PM (#24590577)

    What about Shark Skin? It was about which company had the best coefficient of drag through water. There were numerous world records broken at Sydney because of Shark Skin.

    And steroids aren't the only 'performance enhancing' things you can do. What about the biathlon, I've heard reports of people undergoing LASIK for no good reason other than they wanted better vision.

    Although they have gone overboard when they stripped the gold medal from the Canadian when he tested positive for Pot. Seriously, Pot as a performance enhancing drug?

  • Karma to burn... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HungSoLow ( 809760 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:37PM (#24590597)
    I debated on whether to write this, since I cherish my karma oh so much...

    What difference does it make? Doped or not doped, the entirety of professional sports is a sham. These people are treated with far greater respect, given far more opportunities to excel and far more financial compensation than any scientist, engineer or teacher ever will. Someone making 30 million a year for what amounts to being lucky to have their genetics is ridiculous (sure, training is involved, but training without supporting genetics means squat).

    And I say all of this as an avid sports enthusiast: lots of mountain climbing, hiking, soccer, cycling, etc... but none professionally. People in science, education, arts and entrepreneurial business have to work their asses off to achieve something tangible as opposed to one of these "sports professionals" who have trained themselves to run REALLY fast in a straight line (sometimes in an oval too!)

    I say fuck the games, let's simply let professional sport die as it should and leave sports as an enjoyable hobby / past time; not the enormous waste of time, money and space that it currently enjoys.

  • by Red Alastor ( 742410 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:52PM (#24590837)

    I'd love if we created "The People's Olympics" where we draw at random who is going to participate. If the people in your country are more fit than the others, you have more chances to collect medals. No proxy to do all the competition for you.

    We just have to draw lots of names to account for people who won't come.

  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:56PM (#24590879) Journal

    I say let's create a new set of games specifically for this reason. Let the "all natural" athletes have their own games, and we'll hold separate ones for those who sacrifice their own bodies for their performance.

    And why limit it to drugs? I say let them include anything and everything they want so long as it meets two requirements: First, it must be entirely self-contained (no power cables or wireless control links). Second, it must be operated directly from the user's nervous system (eg no buttons or switches - direct wetware interfaces only).

    Just think of the medical advances a pharmaceutically and cybernetically enhanced olympics could produce once it catches on!

  • Re:No (Score:1, Interesting)

    by glm8709 ( 785413 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @05:59PM (#24590919) Journal

    Is it true that PRACTICING (a sport) was considered cheating by early atheletes?

  • Achilles' Choice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:00PM (#24590935) Journal
    Larry Niven and Steven Barnes wrote a novel on this very subject, "Achilles' Choice" - do you want a long, boring life or a short, glorious one?. Interesting and involving read. You could compete in the Olympics in one of two classes - natural, or augmented. Augmented atheletes Gold Medals offered very substantial perks. The games themselves had an intellectual component as well as a physical one, so the augmentation had to be mental as well.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hitmark ( 640295 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:03PM (#24590983) Journal

    kinda like what formula 1 had for car development in the early days?

  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:04PM (#24591009)
    Once you start taking any drugs to compensate for physical deficiencies, then where do you reasonably draw the line? What about taking body building supplements to combat your physical weakness? Or, in other words, what conditions are allowable for compensation and which are not? For example many athletes take asthma medication to improve respiration because they get out of breath after heavy exertion.

    BTW Using a steriod cream for psoriasis is very different to taking the amounts used for body building/weight lifting, though the steroid cream would possibly trigger first-level tests.

  • by Hektor_Troy ( 262592 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:14PM (#24591115)

    One of the Danish commentators for the swimming events is Mette Jacobsen []. She is a former European champion swimmer, and I believe she managed to get in the finals of at least one of her events in each of the five olympics she participated in.

    She hasn't tried the suit, but has spent a lot of time talking to the swimmers, and the general consensus is that it will cut your times by about a second every 100 meters in the short evens, half that in the longer events. And interestingly that also seems to be the case when you look at the new records. Especially the olympic records, as they were all set before the suit.

    Now, while 1 second on 100 meters sounds like a lot - after all, a sprinter does that in about 10 seconds. But take freestyle - the fastest of the disciplines. World Record for 100 meter freestyle, set in 2000, is 47.84 seconds,or 2.09 meters/second. With the suit that should change to about 46.84 seconds or 2.13 meters/second. A "measly" 4 cm/second advantage.

  • Re:Garbage (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @06:20PM (#24591201) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, do not relish the thought of a "group swim for the fun of swimming" event at the olympics :)

    I, on the other hand, think you just came up with a fantastic idea for a new event. All female swimmers have to wear bikinis and group-swim. It's a requirement.

  • Re:No (Score:-1, Interesting)

    by ccarson ( 562931 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @07:00PM (#24591661)
    I watched a great documentary recently (maybe one of my top 3) called Bigger, Stronger, Faster. It takes an unbiased look at doping, sheds light on this debate as well as provide some common misnomers about performance enhancing drugs. One point from the movie worth mentioning was that athletes who withdraw blood months before and inject it back into their body prior to a competition is illegal. However, the same effect can be obtained by training at high altitude which is legal. There are grey areas in this debate.
  • Re:already the case (Score:5, Interesting)

    by berashith ( 222128 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @07:55PM (#24592321)

    Except for the recent US team at the Tour De France that volunteered for extra testing and established personal baselines for all their hormone levels. They signed a pact with each other that they were all willing to lose on their own merits, but to complete cleanly. This actually led to bigger sponsorships as they were clear of the cloud of suspicion. Ya, cycling is hard, but just because you lose doesnt mean that the guy who bet you cheated.

  • by AdamHaun ( 43173 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2008 @08:31PM (#24592689) Journal

    Because there isn't anything to "solve". We already know plenty of great ways to move people around faster, and none of them involve running. So if you're going to add the arbitrary restriction that people have to race on foot, what's wrong with a few more rules? While you may find it boring, a lot of people obviously don't. The problem isn't the arbitrary rules, it's the win at all costs mentality. Put it this way -- would chess be more fun if people tried to knock each other's pieces off the board while their back was turned?

    (That's not even getting into the health effects of unrestricted doping on the athletes, mind you.)

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller