Doping Regulations Are A Matter Of Scientific Perspective

A lot of people get very upset about doping in sport. They may well have a point — but maybe a little scientific perspective is required. Randal Monroe puts the issue well in the alt text of today's XKCD cartoon:

"A human is a system for converting dust billions of years ago into dust billions of years from now via a roundabout process which involves checking email a lot."

We are a all just complex assemblies of chemicals which ingests and expels other chemicals. It's not necessarily clear why some of those chemicals are unacceptable. Discuss. [XKCD]


    If there were no side effects to 'adding chemicals' then I am sure it would be ok. The side effects damage too many lives in an attempt to belong to the elite. It's the same reason we need to wear helmets on motorbikes - without helmets too many people end up dead or with life-long problems so the government makes that behaviour illegal.

      No, The danger of using PES has little to do with it (generic) being banned.

      It is an over developed sense of British sportsmanship which has permeated international sport, with some sense of fair play.....

      Those who cheat by eating (ingest/inject) chemicals from a slightly different source, are penalised for performing too well, while those who take the chemicals on the approved list are held in high esteem.

      It has gotten to the point with sports science, that those who have the resources and training techniques are unfairly advantaged over those who have less access to resources... But Sports science is regarded as Good, and necessary, while "alternative" sports science, (the inherently chemical and transfusion based) is out of favour. The latest saga in Australia with the AFL clubs doping (allegedly) are evidence of sports science overlap...(lol)

        except that most PES have serious short and long term side effects. the whole idea is that one shouldn't have to sacrifice long term life for short term glory. there are enough pressures on young athletes as it is

          Putting aside the issue of drugs, the training regimen that pro athletes engage in (e.g. training for the olympics) is sacrificing the long-term (not life, but in some cases health) for short term glory. (e.g.

          Last edited 15/02/13 8:19 am

          Who gives a crap...

          Intensive training also has the same side effects...

          "Its all about a level playing fiend" It is a bull crap ideology about fairness and sportsmanship... Somehow taking a drug to increase your potential isn't sporting.. Poor Lance.... after-all who else has his testes chopped and then wins 5 or 6 tours.... Drugs aside it still takes Hard work to be the best.....

          Last edited 27/02/13 1:12 am

          "sacrifice long term life for short term glory"

          And yet we still allow boxing, grid iron etc that are proven to be major contributing factors to long term brain damage.

          (And yet those specific sports also ban other, less damaging chemicals, WTF?)

      What I'm more surprised about, is how so many people are naive enough to think that sports at elite level aren't fueled by performance enhancing drugs. I've been telling everyone I know for 15 years that pretty much every sport at the elite level is full of drugs. When millions of dollars is on the line, why would the sportsmen/women NOT take drugs? They can't be detected. They know that their competitors are taking them, so they take the drugs as well.

      That's not why Governments make that behaviour illegal, if that was the case they'd ban smoking, it's a lot more dangerous and kills more people than riding a motorbike or taking steroids.

        if smoking was invented 10 years ago they would have. same with drinking. this isn't entirely a good argument anyway seeing as they DID ban alcohol and there are tons of laws restricting smoking.

        fact is the only reason they are still around is cause they are so inbuilt into society that we would never vote for a gov that would do it. (times are of course changing).

        the other thing to discuss here is that PES is designed entirely to enhance physical performance and indeed in order to get enough of an advantage to be worth it you need to take a lot of it over a period of time which nearly always results in damage to the persons body which in competition means that EVERYONE needs to follow suit to compete therefore also damaging their bodies. it shouldn't be a requirement to hurt yourself to compete on this level.

        by contrast of alcohol and cigarettes don't need to be forced on you in order to join in a night out. you have a choice if you don't want to drink when your mates are.

        its interesting to point out that there are a group of drugs which are considered "smart drugs" they can be used literally to increase the cognitive ability of the person who takes it and many dont have any hugely terrible side effects that we know of. science isnt a competion and these arnt band is it ok for people to take them on a regular basis? who knows

    Literally every single thing ever can be reduced and simplified in the same way, meaning that this sort of perspective is extremely trite and pointless.

    Ironically the sentence above is an example of sort of the same thing ^_^

    Last edited 14/02/13 6:40 pm

    I agree with ozoneocean, if you zoom out far enough, even the most serious of matters can be put in 'perspective'.

    I've had this argument many times over sports. Some athletes naturally produce higher levels of testosterone and other "chemicals" than other athletes. This means no matter what they have an advantage over other athletes. If sport is so fair that you can't use chemicals on a certain list, then surely there should be some handicap given to those that naturally have higher levels of performance enhancing chemicals in their body. Just like horse racing where there are weights applied to faster horses, there should be similar disadvantageous applied to those athletes who have naturally higher chemicals that are performance enhancing.
    Another aspect of this is not just chemical enhancements but natural body advantegous. Ever looked at Ian Thorpes feet? He's got flippers on his feet! Accordingly any competitor swimmer against him, should be allowed to have some kind of flipper's attached to their feet so that each swimmer has EXACTLY the same size feet. Otherwise it's unfair. No matter how hard you train the guy next to you have bigger flippers (feet). So there should be little flippers applied to each swimmer in a race so they all have the same size feet to make it fair.
    At the end of the day no matter what Lance Armstrong took, he still rotated his legs on a bike faster than the guy next to him. And isn't that the point of the race? Who can rotate their legs faster for longer?
    As for Craggs argument above, that the bans are in place so that athletes have longer lives, ummmm, ever looked at how short the professional career of an athlete is? without drugs? It's short, it's always going to be short. That's not why the drug bans are there.

    And there it is, this crap spread to Gizmodo.

      Of course. Gizmodo is legally obligated to repost every XKCD comic, don't you know. It's in their staff contracts. Why else would they recycle content from another site without adding anything meaningful to it at all? I mean, it's not like they earn ad revenue from reposting someone else's content or anything...

    i just wish they'd hurry up and bring on the "Drug F...d Olympics" and be done with it.
    The contest that pits drug fueled athlete against drug fueled athlete.
    Then at least we'll be able to see which chemical works best for which sport an no one will be silly enough to believe that high end athletes are anything but walking (running, jumping) lab rats.

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