The ethics of performance enhancing drugs

Competition has been a part of humanity for as long as humans can remember. Through the history books we have found evidence of athletic competition, beginning with the Greeks, who competed against each other for the pursuit of excellence. The Greeks, in order to become close to the gods, would do everything in their power to in order to win. They believed that the sweat from the athletes held medicinal power and was sold to the genera public. They put so much value in athletic competition that losing would be a symbolic death. Losing was highly frowned upon. The Greeks was also known to eat foods that were though to help them win. This value of competitiveness, one would argue is innate. It is human nature to want to compete against one another, to establish dominance, and to display athletic prowess in order to attract others. This potency for athletic excellence, or agon, as the Greeks called it has not waned in its potency throughout the decades. The Romans Empire as well as the British Empire continued the tradition of athleticism to modern day sports and games. 

Although modern day sports are not martial or religious, the pursuit of excellence still holds true. Today’s athletes compete for different reasons but the nature of competitions are very much the same. Todays, participants contend for fame, fortune, records, and quantification but all have the same desire to win. This desire to win is not modern, as we have discussed above with the Greeks. This desire to win is a very powerful factor and has much force behind the drive. The athletes of ancient Greece would do everything within their power to win, because winning is everything and losing brings ultimate shame not only to the athletes but his hometown and family as well. In order to help them win, Greeks would eat foods that they thought would help them win. They knew about resistance training and at the time they were looking for anything at all to help them gain a competitive edge. If this sounds familiar it is because it still happens today.

Today’s athletes are arguably much stronger, faster, and agile compared to the athletes of ancient Olympia. Competitors today, thanks to the Greeks, know how to train their bodies to unprecedented heights. Since the beginning of the scientific revolution in Great Britain, the knowledge humanity has gained from the human body is astounding. Coaches and trainers today know so much more information about how to train an athlete that Greeks did not know about in the past. Contenders today have the best equipment, such as altitude chambers that simulate oxygen levels at high altitudes, statistical measurement machines to show strengths and weaknesses, and so much more technology to help them excel in sports and competition. But what happens when hard work, diet, training and dedication is not enough?

History has an unusual way of revealing its past. Athletes in modern time, too, look for aid to gain the competitive edge over their opponents. The competition today is at the highest level and the road to being number one is an arduous task. Players will push the boundaries of what is legal in order to distinguish themselves from their opponents. When hard work and dedication is not enough people will look for ways to improve their athleticism. One of the ways competitors have done this is through the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Performance enhancing drugs is currently deemed illegal by the World Anti-Doping Agency. These illegal substances, such as steroids and growth hormones, can increase a persons muscle mass, strength, speed, and agility in ways training alone cannot. These drugs allow an elite athlete to transcend to a level that is not possible without the illegal substance. WADA disapproves of such chemicals because it takes away from the spirit of the sport. Contenders that use illegal remedies to gain an advantage create an environment that is unfair and unequal to both the athletes and the fans. 

In present competition equality is a big issue, equality in competitiveness and in the environment. Although bureaucracies test athletes for drugs, procedures to detect foreign chemicals are not one hundred percent effective. Players may slip through loopholes and continue to dope. But what about the majority of the players that do follow the rules and train as hard as humanly possible to reach the level they are in? These athletes are at a huge disadvantage because it is highly unlikely that they can keep up with someone that is doping. It takes harder work and requires disproportionately more time to build the body needed to outshine rivals. Furthermore, dopers would recover significantly faster from muscle tears while non-users are still healing. This would mean that users would continue to widen the gap between enhancement drug users and honest athletes. As this gap widens it becomes increasingly harder for others to catch up without using the drugs themselves.

Enhancement drugs also create an unfair environment for the fans. Sports is one if the biggest American pastimes in the world. It is also a business that builds huge revenues and therefore it is natural that gambling takes place in the context of competition. A fan that is betting on his/her favorite team against a team, which contracted an athlete that is using drugs, could lose the bet because there is an unfair playing field against the two teams. One team maybe is following the rules while someone in the other team is secretly dropping. If the team that contains the substance-abusing athlete wins, then arguably he has cause someone to lose money and this is not fair because the fan may or may not have known about an enhanced athlete.

Doping not only creates an unfair advantage but it also puts unfair amounts of pressure on other athletes to use. When an athlete is over performing everyone else through the use of enhancements, other athletes will feel like they cannot compete if they do not dope themselves. This is unfair because if the honest competitor remains honest then he/she will feel like he can never catch up and therefore remain in the shadows of more noticeable prominent athletes. The athlete will also lose money as well because the best teams will want the top players. The non-doper therefore will not be chosen as quickly as the enhanced athletes and will have to settle with a lower paying contract. While this may not affect the honest top elite players, as much it will definitely affect the lower tier professionals with greater force. 

Some may argue that performance enhancement is not too radical from what athletes already do today. Pro enhancers have said that people already alter their bodies when, for example, they do altitude training in oxygen chambers. The chambers decrease the amount of oxygen and the body starts to produce more red blood cells to carry more oxygen. This is similar to the effect athletes are trying to gain from blood doping but in a different way. While others have aid that people are putting different foods into their bodies in order to get the desired effect. An example of this is carbohydrate loading. Long distance runners load up on carbohydrate generally about a week before a race to retain the most effluence amount of energy available for the run.

These arguments do make some valid arguments but enhancing drugs are still dangerous and there is still much to learn about the long affects. Proponents have answered by suggesting that a medical profession administer the dosage and monitor the athlete so that it is under surveillance, but this will open up a whole new door to medical professionals because their primary job is to increase health. 

The question society must ask about sports and competition is what humanity wants. Do people want the sport to be all about smashing records and pushing the limits of the human body? If this is the answer then maybe performance enhancing drugs do have a place in competition, but if the question is about the spirit and ethics of the game where equality is key then enhancements remains illegal. Perhaps WADA should just allow all players to be able to use growth hormones and steroids legally, then the there would be no clear advantage. 

As we have seen from the ancient times of the Greeks to modern day athletics, much have not changed. People are still fighting to win and gain the attention of the people. Winning has become so important that competitors are willing to use substances to change their body in order to gain their desired affect. These substances include many types but the most prevalent and common is steroids and growth hormones. These substances are banned by WADA because it takes away from the spirit of the game. It creates an unfair environment where there is a gap that separates honest and dishonest athletes. This gap pressure fellow contenders to use illegal methods in order to stay competitive. It is wrong to use illegal substance because when it comes down to it, its cheating. Cheating is using a method that is now allowed by the rules of competition and according to WADA enhancement drugs are not allowed. Perhaps somewhere in the future these rules may change, but as of this moment they performance drugs are illegal.


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The Balance Between Risk, Wellbeing, and Living the Good Life

Human beings are very unique creatures in contrast to other living life forms on earth. One such feature that we posses, as humans, is a large brain, which is highly developed and complex. We know that animals have basic emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger and love, but they are very primitive feelings. Human emotions are so much more complex than any other life. One example is the feeling of wellbeing.

 Wellbeing is very often mistaken for health. While both are important, it is imperative to distinguish the difference between the two. Health has more to do with physical quantification of the human body. For example, if a person is healthy then his/her body is working properly, the heart pumps blood normally, arteries are free of blockage, bones are strong, cells are strong and the body free of sickness. If someone is playing sports and got injured, or develops cancer then we can say that their health has declined. Wellbeing when juxtaposed to health has to do with the emotional state of mind of the person. How the person feels at a given point and time is their wellbeing. When someone is doing something they love, whether it is art, dance, sports or solving math equations, if they are happy and enjoying it, their wellbeing is high. In a way health and wellbeing resembles mind/body dualism. Health is the body and wellbeing is the mind but also resembles holism, they work harmoniously to benefit each

 Although health and wellbeing are different, they have a close relationship with one another. When a person’s health is high their wellbeing is high as well. The opposite is also true; when a person’s health is low their wellbeing is also be low. However, if a person’s health is low their well-being can be high and vice versa. But how do we find the balance between risk taking and wellbeing when it comes to physical activity?wellbeing

 People need balance in their life to help them make the best decisions for their lives. Without balance the path to wellbeing can be dangerous. For instance, if a person is only looking for wellbeing and not worried about the risk associated with the activity, he can end up very injured or worst, dead. But on the other end of the spectrum if someone is constantly being overly cautious about the risks then he will not experience wellbeing because he is confined to a limited number of activities. So there needs to be a certain area where balance can be skewed a bit.

 But the question still remains unanswered. First of all we must educate ourselves about the physical activity we are thinking of partaking. We must find out what equipment are needed, where the activity takes place, how to develop the skills to perform the activity safely and most importantly the risk and dangers of the activity. Take for example white water rafting. We know that we need the basics, a raft and paddles. We also need to know the skills to paddle the raft so that we can maneuver turns and banks on the water. But we also know that we should wear a helmet as well as a life jacket because the chances of falling off the raft are high depending on the level of the ride. Then there are other factors that present dangers to us. The river could have many jagged rocks that could cut us, the river could be really strong and we could be drag under the water if it is deep or we could collide with big rocks that could break our bones. We could possibly die from this activity but still it is attractive to many people. white-water-rafting-2

 Second, we must determine how enjoyable is the activity and what role does it play in our lives. If it is something that we are passionate about or really enjoy then more than likely we understand the risk that are associated with the physical activity. For many people this physical activity is a way of life. Professionals bank their careers on such physical activity as sports. Furthermore, if we have done it often enough we probably would have developed the skills and experience necessary for our safety but still understand that accidents can occur that is not in our control.

 Third, we must be ready to accept the consequences of the activity if something goes wrong. We must be able to live with the decisions we make and sometimes they are not the best, but if we have thoroughly thought it through and can justify why we are making the choice to take part in the activity then ultimately the choice is our own.

 If the three points above are understood then a balance can be made between the risk, wellbeing and living the good life when it comes to physical activity. If the positives of the activity outweigh the negatives then a good balance is established. An example of this is swimming. In swimming people benefit from the excellent aerobic exercise that expands the lungs in ways that cannot be paralleled on land. They also benefit from building endurance, stamina, and help burn fat. It is also a full body workout. Many seniors and people recovering from rehabilitation use swimming as part of their therapy because of the low impact resistance of the water. The risk of swimming is drowning if one becomes too tired or cramps in the middle of the pool. As we can see there are many benefits that outweigh the negatives to swimming. But there are also many some physical activities that are too risky.

 A physical activity is too risky if the negatives are close to the positives and definitely if the negatives outweigh the positives. An example of this is bull riding. Most people would not think to become a bull rider. In bull riding a man is paired against a bull that weighs thousands of pounds. A bull rider has a very high chance of getting thrown into the air, breaking bones, getting run over, or attacked by the bull yet some people still do it. For them they may rationalize that the positives outweigh the negatives or that they achieve high wellbeing from such sport. The risk is definitely too much if the chance of permanent injury, disability, paralysis, and death is certain. The more dangerous the activity the less control we as humans have. The less control we have the greater the risk and the greater the risk the increase chance of injury. However risk does seem to appeal to many people when seeking enjoyment.GR0109BullRiding16

 Enjoyment of a physical activity outweighs the risk if it increases health, wellbeing, is durable and controllable. It is obvious that enjoyment outweighs health if it increases health and wellbeing. The activities enjoyment also outweighs the risk if it is durable. This means that a person can do over and over again this activity for a long period of their life. In many case this can prolong people’s lives depending on the activity. An example is bicycling. Riding a bike can increase aerobic fitness, strength and endurance that lead to a healthy lifestyle, wellbeing and are enjoyable. There are still risks of falling and being knocked off the bicycle, but it is durable. The rider can get back up and continue riding. Enjoyment can also outweigh the risk if it is controllable. This can be in a form of protective equipment, medical staff, trainers, coaches or skills. All of these things can minimize the risk, prevent injury, and help a person heal if anything goes wrong.

 Human emotions often lead us to different desires that must be fulfilled. These fulfillments increase our wellbeing and enjoyment of things but sometimes they also lower our health. We as humans can choose what we want or not want to do. If we choose to do something there are always risk but we can take measures to minimize the risk to maximize our enjoyment. There should be a balance between risk and enjoyment but there is no definite measurement of where this balance is because different people rationalize differently. We understand that the risk is too much if it results in injury and the enjoyment outweighs the risk if it is durable and controllable. Ultimately the choice is up to the individual to balance the risk and wellbeing. 

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Dualism, Materialism and Holism’s Influence on Future Professions

We as humans often live our daily lives, doing routine things day in and day out, working our jobs, eating, cooking and so on without thinking about how the it is that humans are able to perform these tasks and what it means to be a human being. It is true that we know the brain is the control house and therefore distributes information to and from the brain to the body and vice versa. If we go further into the question and ask how the brain then operates to distribute information, majority of the population would most likely have a scientific answer that is based on neurons, synapses and electrical impulses. Philosophy however, presents a different approach to analyzing the way humans operate and what it means to be human. Philosophers generally look at three main ideas to explain this phenomena, dualism, materialism, and holism. These three perspectives of human performance provide some cross similarities but ultimately they are very different in the way they examine and explain people.

The first concept is dualism, which views the person as two separate but important parts, the mind and the body. There are different types of dualism which Kretchmar explains in his book Practical Philosophy of Sports and Physical Activity. Those five types of dualism are substance, value, knowledge, behavior, and language. Substance dualism recognizes the mind and body but as two separate things, value dualism also views a person as separate mind and body but the mind is more important than the body, knowledge dualism is knowing how to do something and knowing something in terms of knowledge, behavior dualism emphasizes that the mind is the driver and the body is the machine, and language dualism, which separates intellectuals like math symbols and non intellectuals like sports.

The second concept is materialism, which states that everything comes down to the physical aspect of a human and does not recognize the mind as a separate matter. According to Kretchmar in the book Practical Philosophy of Sports and Physical Activity “scientific materialism can explain everything down to physics and math”. There are four types of materialism are measurement, monistic, reductive, and physicalism. The first type, measurement materialism deeply rooted in quantifiable data and use this data to explain the human. The second, monistic materialism views the world as one substance, physical affecting other physical things. The third is reductive materialism, which looks at the picture from large to small, for example from the body down to the genes. The fourth, physicalism everything is a part of everything else, according to Kretchmar “everything is atoms and what we do is just a secondary product of evolution”.

The third concept is holism, which views the mind and body as a whole and not parts, each function are connected to one another. Holism looks at other the bigger picture and causes different from materialism and dualism. They can view a problem or solution as broad as life style or as narrow but abstract as learning. It is a flexible concept of viewing human behavior and performance. Intelligence is not based on the mind but movement as well, such as sports. Sports require a high level of skill; this is also viewed as intelligence. There is however a distinction of sedentary intelligence likes problem solving and motor intelligence like martial arts. These three concepts are just a very simple and brief overview of the popular philosophical perspectives to human performance and intelligence. Now we will examine how dualism, materialism and holism may affect the way we view things in future professional behavior.

As mentioned earlier, dualism recognizes the mind and body as two separate entities but both perform a function. This concept can be life changing because it puts your perspective different from others. One views the body as a physical and the mind as an intangible but very much real. A basketball coach, for example might look at the athlete’s performance and try to decide what is wrong with him/her so that the problem may be corrected. He may first ask the question, how does your body feel? Is there any pain, discomfort, or injuries? If the reply of the athlete says no there is no pain or discomfort then the coach, with a dualistic perception may move onto the mind and try to inquire if the athletes head is in the right place, is it depression, fear, or emotional? Personally if I took a job as a physical therapist or a gym trainer and had a dualistic perception it would then persuade me to evaluate my client/patient in two parts. I would first check the body and anything physical to see if that’s where the problem is. If not, I will then ask questions about how they feel mentally or if they have any issues that affect them emotionally.


Materialism is another aspect of philosophy that attempts to explain human performance and intelligence. People who are schooled in materialism will say that everything is physical, even the mind, and anything that is not readily explained by science is only because technology or information has not yet presented him or her to do so. Many scientists like physicists and chemistry will tend to hold more of a materialistic outlook. People with this type of view will narrow, for example a headache or pre game anxiety down to the material matters in the brain and even down to the atoms. If I held a materialistic perception of a human in a kinesiology related job it would incline me to use more physical tangible means of resolving a problem. An example is looking at a patient and determining where the pain is physically and trying to fix it through surgery or prescribing medicine for depression instead of trying to search for other reasons why they feel the way they do.


Last, but not least we have the idea of holism, as mentioned earlier, which views the mind and body as a whole. These are interconnected and one affects the other. As a professional with a holistic perspective It would be important for me to look at people from a variety of angles to determine what causes what and how. If someone has an injured leg we might look what else the injury and not just the leg itself affect because everything is connected. A nutritionist can even say that eating the wrong foods is not good for your brain and so affects the whole body. One might prescribe running for depression or meditate to feel stronger. There is no specific area but rather the whole area.


As we can see people with different perspectives of how the human works and operates will employ different strategies. A dualist will look at the mind and body separately, a materialist will look at only the tangible all the way down to the atom, and a holist will look at the person as a whole. These views will influence us in our professional careers and how we relate to people and their needs. There is no right way or preferable methods but rather a personal preference and individual belief. All three views have their valid points and weaknesses as philosophers and scientist move closer to a more definitive answer to the human.

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Philosophy and Science in 21st Century Kinesiology

In today’s technologically advanced world we live in, knowledge is something we as humans take for granted. In the days of the past, such things as the computer, internet, tablets and smart phones were only a dream compared to the reality today. One could not simply enter a few characters into a technologically advanced device and expect to obtain answers they seek. It was a different time, a time of library and literary research, as well as information passed through word of mouth and credibility. One group of people to have such credibility would be philosophers; another group of people would be scientist. Although philosophers have been around longer throughout history to answer life’s questions, science is making a strong argument that its scientific knowledge and facts prove useful.

When we think of philosophers today and the questions they answer, for many of us, the first thing that comes to mind are Aristotle, Plato and Confucius among others, but what about modern day philosophers of our time. Many of these philosophers have great things to say and some do not but very often we do not hear much about them unless we are part of that group or have interest in philosophy or their literature. Either way philosophers are highly intelligent people who think differently than the rest of the world to provide society with a different perspective of life’s value. Then there is the form of discipline that many of us are familiar with, science.confucius

Although science has not been around as long as philosophy, it has provided us with many answers to questions that were unclear to us in the past. Through the scientific method of testing hypothesis, science can give a definitive answer to the world’s phenomena’s. When we speak of science today, much of society can relate to science even if they are not interested in the subject. One can say we live in a world of science. When we sit at home to watch our favorite shows, television is a result from science, photons, neutrons and electrons work to give us images. Many of us have smart phones which is a product of science. Electric cars and email are all products of science. If science can do and answer so much then why would we even need an outdated subject like philosophy?science

The answer to this is complex and is subject to much arguments and debates but with reason and logic one can begin to understand. Philosophy use to answer much of the world’s questions and problems before science became ubiquitous. Today philosophy still answers such questions as meaning of life, values, morals, religion, decisions, rationality among others. It is even used in the area of kinesiology, a fairly new Major in many college campuses dealing with human movement. There are areas such as axiology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics which kinesiology deals with. Philosophy enlightens us on subject matters that explain why people move, dance, and perform athletics such as martial arts. The use of logic, which many can relate takes examples from and examine them from a large perspective to a small and vice versa called deductive and inductive reasoning. One can argue that philosophy can even be used as strategy through intuitive description to run through different scenarios and outcomes. As we can see, philosophy in general likes to look at the picture from a broad perspective and at all angles where as science likes to get down to the root, the fact of the matter.

Whiles science can give definitive answers and philosophy can give general malleable answers, it is evident that both sides have an insatiable quest for knowledge. It would seem that with all the worlds’ unanswered questions, science aims to answer as much as it can to eliminate ambiguity. This seems to conflict with philosophies though process of operation but that does not mean that they cannot become allies with a common goal.

Some philosophers argue that science does not belong in areas of philosophy while science argues that they can help rule out possibilities of doubt and therefore both can mutually benefit. The ideal relationship between philosophy and science in 21 century kinesiology is the explanation of why humans move and perform the way they do. Why do humans dance, play sports, perform martial arts, climb rocks are all questions that both humanities/social science and physical science are trying to solve. The answers to these questions have a much deeper meaning than fun, excitement and enjoyment. These are areas from which a partnership can benefit. Philosophy can generalize possibilities from many points of views to provide logical reasoning to help us better understand the meaning and the bigger picture. Science on the other hand can examine the many possibilities provided by philosophy to determine which are facts and fiction It is true that science cannot answer everything and the knowledge that it cannot answer can be reapplied to philosophy to explore what is already known and what needs to be discovered. For example, the world was known to be flat for many years according to philosophers but science has proved that to be false as a result philosophers are now more intelligent and can move on to other issues. In this way both sides benefit from the knowledge.sicence and philosophy

It is understandable that in this give and take relationship there is also the fear of one side gaining much power over the other; in this case science answering all of philosophies questions, but the world is constantly changing. Together philosophy and science can influence each other’s minds to uncover new and exciting phenomena’s. For example, because of science, we know that health and exercise is good for us but there is still room for philosophy to step in and explain why humans value health. The ideal between philosophy and science in 21 century kinesiology is that of brother and sister, they are the same species but yet different (in ideals and values), but both need the basic sustenance, (knowledge) to survive.

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Kevin Lam
Kinesiology 380 Philosophy of Human Movement

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