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Biotech Science Technology

An Olympic Games For Enhanced Athletes? 245

ananyo writes "With the Olympics due to kick off on 27 July in London, Nature has taken a look at how far science would be able to push human athletic abilities if all restrictions on doping were lifted. The article mentions anabolic steroids (up to 38% increase in strength), IGF-1 (4% increase in sprinting capacity), EPO/blood doping (34% increase in stamina), gene doping and various drugs and supplements, as well as more 'extreme' measures such as surgery and prosthesis. Hugh Herr, a biomechanical engineer at MIT, says performance-enhancing technologies will one day demand an Olympics all their own. But is that time already upon us?"
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An Olympic Games For Enhanced Athletes?

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  • Re:What for? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @08:59AM (#40696947)

    No, the point of olympic/professional sports is making money via entertainment.

    Not all drugs that increase performance will kill or even harm the user. I take a drug daily(prescribed by a doctor) that measurably improves the quality of my life and the length of it. It also improves my performance in some physical tests.

  • Re:Not your choice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by siddesu ( 698447 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:02AM (#40696985)

    Wait. It isn't moral when the government says something, but it is moral when a human being is fed hormones and drugs so that the sponsors can peddle the next tennis shoe to a million voyeurs in front of all those TVs?

    You have some morals you can be proud of.

  • Re:Not your choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:07AM (#40697081)
    Right, because I remember the time I was almost forced by the NFL to be a starting quarterback, was almost forced by the NBA to play professional basketball, etc.

    Its their choice to:

    A) Play their chosen sport professionally
    B) Play in a league that allows it
    C) Participate in taking those drugs/hormones
  • Re:Health issue (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:09AM (#40697099) Journal

    Unless they want to die at 35 of a cancer or something, I wouldn't advise it. One of the reason those kind of things are banned is because they are dangerous

    On the other hand, the present regulatory state(where even using the ones that are legal by prescription can get you tossed right out of the sport) has unfortunate side effects of its own: since development of assays for novel drugs tends to lag behind, but not too far behind, development of novel drugs, there is a strong incentive for people to move away from drugs with the most testing and data available and toward novel ones with poorly characterized risks, to avoid being caught. Also, because the doping is largely clandestine, society at large is denied a valuable source of information about the effects and risks of performance enhancing drugs.

  • No. never. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquareNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:10AM (#40697109) Homepage Journal

    The idea of athletic competition is to hone the mind and body to win. Yes, there are genetic aberrations, but this natural and normal.

    But when you make the competition about the tech, there is no human element in the drama. The human does not even matter. Only the tech does.

    Except for the fact that you are talking about horrible consequences for the human lab rat in the equation with any cutting edge biotech.

    So you have:

    1. no human drama. it's about the tech. race robots or cars or boats instead
    2. destroyed human bodies. the price is too high

    Are we going back to the gladiator days of Rome next? Why don't we do that? Because in modern civilization we are suppose to have some morality and decency about what we consider fair game for spectacle.

    The Olympics is primarily entertainment. Nothing justifies a Hunger Games disregard for the health of the competitors in an effort to create diversion. To cram cutting edge biotech into the human body, with unknown consequences is a dystopian, amoral, and frankly, evil suggestion.

    So we will simply have to safeguard against human biotech mods in normal Olympics competition forever. It won't be easy, there will be cheats that get through against all best possible effort. And this is as good as it can or should ever get.

    To cross that threshold into accepting body mods is to accept destroyed human bodies for the sake of entertainment. Not going to happen in a moral world.

  • by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:12AM (#40697129)

    Olympia has long since ceased to be a sports event. This is entertainment delivered by modern day gladiators who sacrifice health and life in a quest for money and immoratility through fame.....

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by openfrog ( 897716 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:14AM (#40697169)

    Mad Magazine had this a long time ago. Pretty funny.

    You will be modded funny, but I would mod you insightful.

    Beside prior art, you may also look at other capital and publicity intensive spectacle sports, like Formula 1. You would have a few well funded stables, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer; and commentators would speculate non-stop whether which athlete is going to be recruited in which stable. Newspapers would delight in the gore of overdoses, deaths and bio-mechanical accidents of all kinds. Truly dystopian and I hope never to see pharmaceuticals get their way with such a monstrosity. It takes a mobster mentality to think of such a thing, even half seriously.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday July 19, 2012 @09:40AM (#40697577) Homepage Journal

    The rest of us idiots can watch normal people play sports.

    Normal? You consider Shaquille O'Niel or Babe Ruth to be "normal"? I guess you'ld consider Einstein normal as well? Hell, I wouldn't even consider myself as "normal".

    Why is it OK for a baseball player with 20/20 vision to have LASIK surgery to improve his eyesight to above normal so he can hit more fast balls and make more home runs but not OK for him to take steroids to make his strength above normal to hit more home runs? I just don't see the difference.

  • Re:Not your choice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2012 @10:21AM (#40698141)

    Maybe if we stopped watching pro sports, the sponsors and the money would go away, and this sort of stuff would never happen.
    Then sports could be something people do for fun, not a way to get into college (?) or a way to make a living (?!).
    But as long as pro athletes are getting paid millions upon millions of dollars, I demand that they take on a proportionate level of risk, say at least roughly 100 times the risk that active duty deployed combat troops face (based on the wage ratio).

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @11:18AM (#40699099)

    It's a funny cartoon, but not funny when you look at the actual athletes. These people destroy their bodies pushing themselves to the limit. Even in ice skating which looks like a nice "easy" sport, people tear-up their knees or hips, and have permanent pain for the rest of their lives. In running Florence Griffith Joyner pushed herself so hard, she died before age 40. She had been training for the next olympics.

    Let's NOT have an olympics where athletes use steroids and other enhancements to kill themselves prematurely.

  • by orgelspieler ( 865795 ) <w0lfie.mac@com> on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:14PM (#40700999) Journal

    Athletes of all stripes push their bodies to the limits, whether they're doping or not. That's sort of the point. Anything less than "to the limits" is considered half-assing it. Of course, they used to have football coaches that wouldn't let their boys drink water on the sidelines, so maybe what "to the limits" means could use some refinement.

    I don't know about you, but on the rare occasion that I bother to work out, if I don't ache the next day, I feel a little bit cheated.

  • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @01:52PM (#40701553)

    Why shouldn't one be allowed to choose what they do to their body?

    As long as there is no coercion to the individual ("do this or we send you and your family to the rape pits") and it truly is that individual's choice what they do to their body, I don't really care what an athlete does to themselves.

    Maybe put restrictions - no modifications allowed until after the age of 18 and then after that they can consent to whatever - so that children aren't being damaged any more than they already are by being pushed to hyper-competitiveness.

    Now, I do feel bad for people who have wrecked their bodies in the name of sport, but by and large, it's their choice to do so. I work with an ex-football player who, at the ripe old age of 50, has severe arthiritis in knees, hips, elbows and shoulders, has had multiple back surgeries, and who, when it's cold and damp out basically needs Vicodin in order to function through the pain, but he has said he wouldn't have given up playing even if he knew just how bad he would feel now, and that it was worth it. I feel bad for him, but I'm not going to try and protect people from themselves as long as they're capable of making a relatively informed decision.

  • by rachit ( 163465 ) on Thursday July 19, 2012 @02:18PM (#40701927)

    So you would fully support blood sport where two gladiators willingly fight each other to the death?

    There is a line where we should not cross, and I find allowing a "drug olympics" is crossing that line.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead