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Why Lance Armstrong’s Doping Doesn’t Matter

John Niman

January 20, 2013

Manny Ramirez. Mark McGwire. Barry Bonds. Baseball is no stranger to superstars using steroids. Sprinter Ben Johnson was disqualified from an Olympic victory decades ago. More likely than not, every sport has players who use ‘performance enhancing drugs’ – it’s just that the player’s performance is not generally enhanced to superstar status. Now Lance Armstrong has admitted to doping, and once again the world is shocked.


Complete entry


Posted by SHaGGGz  on  01/21  at  01:20 AM

Let me engage in some diabolical advocacy for a minute.

Maybe imposing vague, barely meaningful rules delineating the “natural” from the “unnatural” could be a way for sports to produce something of actual use to technological progress: the endless cycle of finding new ways of enhancing, having them be discovered, banned, and the cycle repeating provides a self-sustaining way for us to exhaust the enhancement possibility space in this domain.

If enhancement is legal, then eventually some method will be found that is “good enough” and the costs of finding a potentially better method are outweighed by the loss of abandoning the current method. Thus, we could stagnate at a local maximum, failing to reach a global one.

At the other extreme, if any and all enhancements are allowed then the inherent absurdity in the sporting pursuit is put in stark, comical display. At some point, “people” that are indistinguishable from contemporary human-automobile systems will participate in races, or be shot out of (“slough off”) cannons, etc.

Posted by John Niman  on  01/21  at  01:32 PM

I see where you’re going, but I think allowing enhancements would do more than banning them to push technological progress.

I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘good enough’ in competitive sports. If you’re not #1, it’s not good enough. People will continuously push for better results, furthering technology in the process.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  01/21  at  05:23 PM

But all sorts of other elements could creep into the equation. Maybe a consensus chemical emerges, becomes a corporate sponsor and provides incentives to continue using it, maybe even raising penalties for using non-approved ones.

Posted by John Niman  on  01/21  at  06:01 PM

Maybe. But I expect there will be competition among chemical makers to vie for the ‘consensus chemical’ status (much like, say, Gatorade and Power Aid). Endorsement deals are highly likely, and particular athletes may be held to non-compete clauses, but I doubt they’d gain the sort of stranglehold over the sport that I think you mean.

Have we seen that with any other non-doping enhancers?

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