Since Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal and world record after the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, drug taking in sports has become a major issue. Johnson was not the first athlete to be caught using drugs, but has become synonymous with this shady practice. Although the majority of people agree taking steroids to win is illegal and unethical, there are a growing number who are making arguments in the other direction.
Athletes take drugs, such as steroids, to gain an unfair advantage over other competitors. This can be in terms of falsely improving performance, quicker recovery from injury or prolonging a career. This misrepresents the nature of sport itself which is supposed to be about determining who the best at a certain competition is naturally.
The only way taking performance enhancing drugs is suitable in sport is if all athletes are under a mandatory obligation to take the drugs. Coaching and training also improve performance but are available to all sportspeople whereas the majority will not take drugs for ethical and medical reasons.
Many athletes in all sports have received bans and fines for taken illegal recreational drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. These are still drugs, but are performance reducing rather than enhancing. Although obviously drug taking should not be encouraged, there is a difference between taking something illegal to win and other rationales.
As drug testing has got more sophisticated, the drugs athletes take have got ever more complicated to avoid detection. This has meant a dangerous practice has become even more dangerous. Some sports scientists argue that drug taking should be legalised to stop the more dangerous aspects of this habit. This argument has also been used for the legalisation of recreational drugs and has not been successful.
Reputation of the Sport
Athletics, cycling and baseball have all had reputations shattered by competitors taking illegal drugs. As the athletes were role models for a younger generation it is important that the athletes not only obey the laws of the country, but the unwritten laws of good sportsmanship as well so as to set a good example. Attendance and participation do not necessarily decrease, but any sportsperson involved will lose sponsorship deals, awards and will face a ban or fine.
Prolonged use of performance enhancing drugs shortens the athlete's lifespan. It is the duty of any sport governing body to protect the athletes playing the sport in the same way that American football players must wear helmets.
Legal but Illegal
Some of the most famous sportspeople to be banned for taking drugs were in fact taking something innocent like cough medicine without realising it contained a controlled substance. Regardless of whether this excuse is true, it could be seen as unfair to force an athlete to battle through a cold without relief just because of his job.