If we take something to help us stay awake while driving, or to give us extra energy at work, or to power us through a night of cramming for an important test, why exactly do we punish world class professional athletes doing the same in order to do their jobs?
This month the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency published its report charging that Armstrong and his cycling teams engaged in a long routine of doping in order to win races. The report says Armstrong and his team took EPO before it could be detected and then changed to blood doping, among other things. This means athletes had blood withdrawn and stored for a time and then put back in. It was plainly against the rules, but also, the report says, the rules were widely flouted, as many of the podium finishers in the top bike races were implicated in doping scandals in those years. So it’s hard to see how the riders gained an edge on their competitors if pretty much everybody did it.
Bike racing at that level is the toughest sport in the world, requiring a degree of stamina and endurance that the rest of us can’t even imagine. So if there are ways to help your body stand the strain without harming it — what exactly is the harm? Watch TV for just a little while and you can’t avoid all the advertisements for chemicals and other substances intended to improve how the human body functions, or to let consumers enhance what they can achieve. So we have very little reason to look down on superbly trained athletes that employ a similiar approach so that they can do a better job. (hh)