I have been plotting an article about the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports, but I haven’t written it as I couldn’t figure out a way to not make it overly inflammatory. However, the Stephen Dubner over at the Freakonomics blog beat me out so I decided to unload all of my pith.
I fail to see what the big deal is about these drugs in professional sports. The most common complaint is that sports are about pure natural competition. OK, then all athletes should compete stark naked on the African savanna because that is where nature designed the human body. But now that I think about it, bicycles aren’t particularly natural. Neither are helmets, shoulder pads, chemically refined protein shakes, contact lenses, and shoes.
Actually, the whole of modern medicine isn’t natural, so athletes shouldn’t take use antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, or Ace bandages. I promise you, cortisone, a drug, improves an athlete’s performance if they have knee pain.
The extreme physical regimes that professional athletes use are anything but natural. It is only the apparatus of modern society that enables them. Athletic performance has been on a steady incline for at least one hundred fifty years and drug use has played little part in it.
The second complaint is that use of such drugs is dangerous and results in bodily injury. True, but sports in general are dangerous and result in bodily injury. Most professional athletes, especially football players, retire from their sports with life long injuries and chronic pain. Yes, steroids can lead to permanent injury. So can repeatedly being punched in the face in a boxing ring.
Sitting in front of a computer screen punching keys on a keyboard for twenty years can lead to poor eye sight and carpal tunnel, yet there is no outcry for the hordes of programmers disfigured to the point they can’t unlock their own front doors. And generally speaking coders make a lot less money than pro basketball players.
Also I fail to see why sports are singled out. We welcome most technology that enhances our ability to do our jobs. If there was a drug someone could take to make themselves a better trunk driver, we’d be all for that. We in general, and programmers in particular, routinely take stimulants (usually caffeine) to improve our performance and it is down-right celebrated.
The human body is natural. It was forged in a place and time to perform a strikingly few kinds of tasks. We have taken that body, twisted it and contorted it through stress and harsh environment to make it perform an unholy number of feats. And it has made us great. Drugs are a recent addition to this process. Its hypocritical to have an attitude about it now.
Now cybernetic implants are totally different…