Performance-Enhancing Drugs, Sport, and the Ideal of Natural Athletic Performance

American Journal of Bioethics 18 (6):8-15 (2018)
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Abstract

The use of certain performance-enhancing drugs (PED) is banned in sport. I discuss critically standard justifications of the ban based on arguments from two widely used criteria: fairness and harms to health. I argue that these arguments on their own are inadequate, and only make sense within a normative understanding of athletic performance and the value of sport. In the discourse over PED, the distinction between “natural” and “artificial” performance has exerted significant impact. I examine whether the distinction makes sense from a moral point of view. I propose an understanding of “natural” athletic performance by combining biological knowledge of training with an interpretation of the normative structure of sport. I conclude that this understanding can serve as moral justification of the PED ban and enable critical and analytically based line drawing between acceptable and nonacceptable performance-enhancing means in sport.

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