With the conventional media swirling around the news that popular American cyclist Lance Armstrong may have come clean about allegations of doping and use of performance-enhancing drugs in a recently taped interview with Oprah Winfrey, a lot of people are once again getting up in arms about what is fair and what is not in professional sports. We are quite used to hearing this argument in the baseball debate, with figures like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being left out of the Hall of Fame for now based on their “ethical” lapses in judgment. However, even as Lance tries to set the record straight and we hear different talking heads offer up either excuses for why these things are necessary to stay competitive or to condemn him for it, it’s time for the question to be asked that is the subject matter of this article. Where is the line? What is ethically wrong to get an advantage? And as technology and medical science continues to provide the human race with marvelous upgrades and discoveries, how do we determine what types of “performance-enhancing drugs” are unethical and which ones are a no-brainer. And are we purists? Do we want to see what the human body is capable of without any doctoring of its abilities, or do we want to see what the human body is capable of if we let human minds get involved as well?
We all hear the arguments that athletes have no choice but to do everything they can to get an advantage because in the professional ranks, the competition is so stiff that you simply can’t afford to be left behind. But this will only be more of a problem in the future as more and more of these things are introduced? Already, professional sports have a problem with keeping up with new innovations. Often, players indulge in new inventions to get an edge only to find it banned years after half of the league has partaken in it. Does that make them all guilty of unethical behavior, or are the rules just being too silly about what is what?
Let’s face it. People like home runs. Performance-enhancing drugs provide the fans with more of them. People like the star players to play, and if they use means that may or may not be available to the average person to come back from injury faster, most fans are happy about it. People like to see human beings do extraordinary things that they can’t do themselves, and these athletes create millions of dollars surrounding their ability to deliver on that day in and day out. They face all sorts of adversity in doing so, from lag from travel to the physical demands on their body perpetually.
This is not an article to defend Lance Armstrong. If he did indeed use any of these methods to get an unfair advantage that was in violation of the rules of his sport, then that is unethical by definition. Ultimately, it is on him to follow the rules of the game and that is the first tenet of sportsmanship. As a role model to America’s youth (regardless of whether he willingly accepts that role or not), he has now introduced a culture of lying and manipulation (and our favorite, conspiracies) to children and others that watch and revere him. For that, he is and was wrong. However, there comes a point in an technologically-advancing society where we must all stop and take a good hard look at where we go from here. Because the one thing we know for sure is that these advancements in medicine and technology are not going to stop; actually, they will probably occur exponentially more frequently in the decades to come.
What do you think? Are you a purist? Or do you want to take it to the max and see what humans can do with every tool at their disposal? Are the rules helping level the playing field or holding people down from what they otherwise might be able to achieve?