Fairness in Sports

November 22, 2011

Political Theory


In lecture last week we discussed the roll that Adderall has had in the college lifestyle in the previous years. As a class we decided that the use of Adderall should be allowed in academic settings but only if an individual actually needs it. That is to say that the use of a drug as a  performance enhancer [in this case Adderall] should have no place in the classroom.

I now pose a similar question, but the lines here are slightly more blurred. In the realm of sports Blood Doping is becoming increasingly prevalent. The act of blood doping is one that merely allows an athlete to increase their red blood cell (RBC) count, and subsequently deliver more oxygen to muscles. This is most commonly achieved through the transfusion of blood– usually taken from the athlete at an earlier time.

The allure that blood doping has is one sought out by many endurance sports including, but not limited to, runners, swimmers and cyclists. Critics in the athletic world do not approve of this procedure, but whether or not it is exactly “illegal” is where the gray area comes up. Since no performance enhancing agents are introduced into the body it is often seen as a relatively legitimate means of increasing endurance.

Lance Armstrong at a press conference regarding accusations against him

Most recently this issue was brought up in the media due to accusations brought against cyclist Lance Armstrong. In a 60 Minutes interview, teammates of Armstrong admitted to seeing him partake in blood doping procedures. As a seven-time champion of the Tour de France if these accusations were proven to be true it would likely permanently tarnish his reputation.

Taking a look at Rawl’s argument of inequality and fairness we could assume that blood doping is ultimately unfair since the “most disadvantaged people” are not doing as well as possible. Armstrong already had a fair amount of talent as a cyclist, but by utilizing blood doping he gives himself an advantage above his competitors.

The supporters of blood doping then combat this by saying that since they are simply putting their own blood back into their body they can not be penalized.

I now pose the question of whether or not blood doping is in fact fair, and whether or not it should be allowed in athletics. And on a much broader spectrum should their be any type of regulation on blood doping if it is decided to be fair.

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15 Comments on “Fairness in Sports”

  1. parijog Says:

    I do not believe blood doping is fair in any scenario. The idea of blood transfusions was born out of pure medical need for patients who suffer injuries of conditions that lower their RBC count to dangerous levels. Using this technology for the betterment of those who are already very healthy is an abuse of that resource. For this reason, I agree with the author’s guess that Rawls would be against blood doping. The athletes are helping themselves go from very healthy to nearly super humanly strong, while that same blood could save someone’s life.

    This argument does not grapple with true nature of this debate however, which is focused only on the competitive sports community. To address this conflict I would bring up Marx’s arguments for a level playing field. To accomplish this in sports, either all athletes would have to engage in blood doping or none of them would. In this case, there would be no point in the taking the risk and effort of blood doping.

  2. jsimon99 Says:

    This is a very interesting topic to discuss. The argument can go either way here because it truly is not illegal if there is no substance like steroids in your body. Blood doping does enhance an athlete’s performance but so does working out with weights. As long as everyone can do it without an actual substance affecting the body, it should be legal. I believe that blood doping should not be a major issue with sports because there is no substance affecting your body. Some people may argue that blood doping should be completely illegal because it affects your body just like steroids would by enhancing your blood. Steroids enhance your muscles and blood doping enhances your blood so both should be illegal. Others may argue that if blood doping is considered illegal for changing your body, then working out to a certain degree might as well be illegal because you are expanding your muscles just like you would expand the amount of oxygen a person’s blood delievers. By working out, you are changing your body even though there is still no substance going in to your body as an athlete like steroids would. What if a bicyclist never worked out his legs by biking and another biker trained his legs by biking uphill every day, would a race between the two bicyclists be unfair to the one who did not train? No because he had the same opportunity to train and prepare for the race. As long every athlete, part of the same race/competition has similar resources to conduct blood doping, it is completely fair. You train your muscles when you work out, you should be able to train your blood with blood doping.

  3. chadmach Says:

    Let’s consider some of the other things comparable to blood doping that are allowed in athletics: training at altitude and hyperbaric chambers. Athletes who have the advantage of training at altitude have larger red blood cells and therefore able to carry more oxygen. When these athletes (specifically runners) have a race that is at sea level or around that elevation, they have a bit of an advantage because they still have the blood cells that are able to carry more oxygen. Why should athletes at sea level not be able to blood dope to carry more oxygen when those athletes who get to train at altitude can carry more oxygen?

    Hyperbaric chambers are something that, like blood doping/transfusions, was originally used for medical purposes. But now athletes are starting to get ahold of them. Hyperbaric chambers allow athletes to recover faster from workouts, games, meets, etc. than had they not used the chamber. Coincidentally steroids also help out in recovery processes.

    I do think that blood doping is wrong, but there are of course gray areas and the above things make the area even more gray.

  4. dkap7 Says:

    This is a very interesting discussion, because blood transfusion uses no injections or substances that change the chemistry of the body, but instead reuse the same blood that came out of the athlete in the first place. Therefore, there are both protagonists and antagonists that argue the legality of this method being used in sports. As one comment wrote earlier, this procedure was originally introduced into health as a means of curing a patient who had dangerously low levels in their RBC. Similarly to steroids, blood transfusion is a common practice used to help cure patients that are too weak and need assistance to help their body run properly. Although steroids is an actual medication and blood transfusion uses no outside substances, it is important to look at the initial use of these medical methods. Both RBC and steroids were used to assist a person in need of help. When you look at pro athletes, like Lance Armstrong for instance, it is important to note that these individuals are not in need of “assistance”, but instead are using the methods to get a leg up on the field. Whatever happened to hard-work and natural ability leading to success. In modern days, new drugs and procedures are being created to help these athletes take a step up in their performance, so that they can amass the other athletes they are competing against. In my opinion, since these athletes are not in need of assistance, no method nor drug should be legalized in any sport. Even if they are only transfusing their own blood, it is not a necessary process for them to compete. Athletes like Lance Armstrong would still be extremely successful without the use of blood transfusion. Instead of using these methods, they should compete on an even playing field with the rest of the competition. In a day, where competition among sports has become more even, athletes are attempting to do whatever they can to give them a leg up on the competition. To kids, athletes are seen as role models, however, if they are doing all of these sketchy practices to improve their skills, kids should not be looking up to them, but instead be looking down upon these specific athletes.

  5. Jordan Wylie Says:

    I completely agree with the previous comment. The use of steroids, blood transfusion, and even the use of hyperbaric chambers is wrong when it comes to training for athletic events. Anything that people put into their bodies or do to them that doesn’t come from hard work and training shouldn’t be allowed in my opinion. I think that blood doping is just another way to cheat the system.

    I don’t understand why athletes feel that they can’t compete the fair way anymore – with hard work. Working out, practicing, and training aren’t enough anymore. It is true that young children and even adults look up to these athletes as role models, and if they see that the athletes can get away with cheating and not doing the hard work then why should they need to in their lives?

    I completely agree that Rawls would be against blood doping. I also find it interesting that someone brought up Marx’s idea of leveling the playing field, which in this case blood doping would no longer be helpful if everyone is doing it.

    Athletes are still normal people so they should have to adhere to practices that are right.

  6. mimirofl Says:

    I agree with the many points of view that have been brought up with the previous comments, but until the officials can develop an accurate blood test that can show elevated levels of red blood cells used by blood doping, I think it is ok for athletes to use it for competition. Comparable to the use of Adderall, a lot of students use it for the case of helping them focus better in order to study better to be more prepared for exams or anything else. Even if they don’t need it, they still use it to their advantage to get ahead in school and is that necessarily moral? Not exactly but I say hey, if the process gets you a good outcome then might as well keep doing it.

    Many athletes also have naturally higher levels because of legitimate training regimens and diets so more accurate tests for blood doping should be in development. Currently the practice is most often proven through circumstantial evidence or eyewitness testimony from those who actually performed the transfusions or administered the synthetic EPO to an athlete already under suspicion of blood doping. Thus, I believe the use of blood doping is ok until it is illegalized, or until it has accurate tests to prove that athletes have it.

  7. lkpeacock Says:

    I think most of us would agree that there is something illegitimate about blood doping to enhance your performance. It may not be “illegal”, but since the cyclists accused of partaking in blood doping are ashamed and tried to hide it, they must feel it is not completely fair. I saw the 60 minutes interview with Lance Armstrong’s teammate, Tyler Hamilton, and he had a very difficult time sharing all of the information about his experience blood doping because he felt remorse for enhancing his performance (and for telling on Lance too I’m sure). Although, he said a lot professional cyclists blood dope, or it would be impossible for them to complete in such races. I am not sure how true that statement is, but I think it does not condone the act of blood doping.

    If not everyone has the ability to blood dope, no other racer should be able to. Everyone (officials and cyclists) would have to agree that it should be allowed in racing. Racers do not need to hide their workouts, so they should not have to hide blood doping. Since it is a controversial topic, it most likely will never be allowed, so a select few racers should not be allowed to either. Marx would want the equal playing field suggested in the previous comments, and I think eliminating blood doping all together would resemble his idea and lead to more fair races.

  8. Danielle Studenberg Says:

    I agree with you that, no, blood doping should not be allowed by athletes. Anything athletes could use to enhance their performance, whether it is steroids or other performance enhancing drugs should be illegal. It’s interesting to compare this act to taking Adderall since taking Adderall is seen by college students as much more casual. I do believe that Adderall should be allowed to be used by students with actual disorders, but in comparison poor athletes still should not use blood doping.

    If blood doping were to be ruled “fair game” in athletics, there should be regulation on its use. This is tricky to decide since whose to decide what the legal amount one should take? Overall this would just be a growing spiral of drugs, with athletes doing as much blood doping as they could afford.

    Rawls would definitely be against blood doping since everyone is not on an equal playing field. Like you said, Armstrong is already a strong competitor and blood doping only puts him higher compared to the rest.

  9. isobelkraft Says:

    When I read or hear stories in the news about doping scandals in sports, it makes me very upset. Many times, like with Lance Armstrong, it is about athletes that I look up to and admire for their talent and hard work. However, I do believe that the fans (like myself) have something to do with this doping issue. It has become apparent to me while watching sporting events such as the World Series or the Olympics, that the public expect a lot out of athletes. These people who have amazing talent and work ethic are pushed to the limits of their capabilities for their sports, and apparently feel the need to drug themselves in order to perform even better. Unfortunately the public gets used to the new athleticism, the bar is raised, and those who don’t dope seem less impressive than those who do. Being noticed in sports is all about impressing the public with your skill and perseverance. If the public expects you to be better, some athletes may feel that they have no other option but to dope.

  10. marckarpinos31 Says:

    I am not familiar with the true history of blood doping but is it possible that it is a form of medical treatment for a specific disease that athletes have learned to transfer to high endurance sports? Realistically, our obsession with sports and being the best tends to taint our visions and cloud our judgements. If Lance Armstrong did in fact use this technique did he really do anything wrong? He enhanced his blood with his own oxygen enriched blood! There is nothing illegal about this! He did not go to a foreign country and get an unknown substance to make him superhuman, he simply used a medical technique to help him go harder for longer.

    In the sporting world, I believe this is unfair but as I touched upon earlier, our judgements tend to get clouded when it comes to sports and being the best. I believe that this technique should be legal in endurance sports and it makes viewing these sports much more interesting for the fans. Lance Armstrong single handedly increased the popularity of cycling in the United States and if blood doping is what needs to occur for that popularity to continue and grow then so be it and keep it on a regulated scale; allow everyone to partake in it as there appear to be no true health risks.

    As a result in the sporting world I believe what he did was wrong and unfortunately it will most likely taint his legacy but in reality, Armstrong did nothing wrong and these sort of techniques should be implemented into endurance sports in a fair and regulated manner.

  11. jrsmyth177 Says:

    This is a very interesting topic that has been around sports for a long time now. Honestly I am completely against blood doping. Sports are huge in our culture and many people look up to these athletes. There are millions of kids who want to be just like his or her favorite athlete. When scandals, like the Lance Armstrong one, get out these kids are devastated to hear that his or her favorite athlete has cheated. The actions of athletes influence so many of these kids to do the same as they do. These athletes should feel obligated to show there fans that the only way to become the best is through hard work and dedication, not doping. Therefore I believe that any type of doping in athletics is wrong.

    Sports should be played on an even playing field. No athlete should be able to cheat the system. I agree that Rawls would be against doping because he would probably say that every athlete should have the same opportunities as their opponent. He would think that it is wrong that one athlete has better opportunities than the others through doping. If all of the other cyclists aren’t doping, then Lance Armstrong should not be allowed to dope.

    Sports are about working harder than one’s opponent. Beating one’s opponent through hard work brings the greatest satisfaction to athletes, and influences many kids to work just as hard as that athlete, so that one day they can accomplish the same goals. That is the greatest thing about sports, and no single athlete should be allowed to cut corners to accomplish their goal.

  12. tchung22 Says:

    I agree that Rawl’s would likely be against blood doping, based on his arguments of inequality and fairness. However, it does not necessarily mean the “most disadvantaged people” aren’t doing as well as possible because even the poorer athletes may blood dope. There is so much pressure in professional athletics to be a step above the competition. I believe that blood doping is fair since it is not using any outside substances and it is considered legal. Thus, any athlete can utilize blood doping and is fair game.

    As long as blood doping is not dangerous to one’s health, I don’t think there should be any type of regulation. I believe that proving a person blood dopes would incredibly difficult since the individual isn’t using any outside substances. The previous comment said that blood doping is just cutting corners. However, I disagree with that statement. I think that blood dopers still work just as hard, but are trying to utilize all their resources to get that additional step above the competition. Just because someone engages in blood doping does not mean that he doesn’t work just as hard, or even harder, as someone that does not.

  13. Jason Cohen Says:

    It sounds as if you have perceived Blood Doping as a parallel to steroid use. However, it also sounds like people who partake in high endurance sports (mostly every sport) can use it as a form of medical treatment. It is almost impossible to put oneself in the shoes of a professional athlete, but it seems as if this is a healthy approach to improving at their specific craft. Steroid use, however, seems to be a more appropriate parallel to Aderall use. Students who are not prescribed to the ADD medication “juice” to get that extra boost of studying or that second wind in finishing that paper.

    I believe at Duke University, if you are caught using Aderall without a prescription, you are subject to being expelled. I completely agree with this notion because in most cases, in high school students do not have the same accessibility of the prescription medication and its rarely abused. Therefore, it seems the “steroid” use is almost non-existant, thus leveling the playing field. Students were accepted to their respective Universities because those universities believed they have the NATURAL intelligence and hard work ethic to succeed academically. Not because they have found a substance that increases their performance. Aderall use will not help you after college when you are hired for a job, whichever field it may be. I believe all schools should follow in the footsteps of Duke and protect their academic integrity.

  14. beaurh Says:

    This is an extremely interesting topic especially in the midst of such a prevalent and controversial topic such as adderall abuse. I agree with marckarpinos31 in that these athletes are not doing anything illegal, or abusing a medication. They are simply adding blood that betters their endurance. This is a natural treatment with no synthetic characteristics or anabolic uses. Blood doping is in no way akin to steroid use. Steroids are extremely detrimental to the body and gives an advantage that greatly surpasses the advantages of blood doping. In my opinion, blood doping is similar to eating advantageously and working out. It naturally makes your body efficient, the same as increasing protein intake and eating in a way to boost metabolism.
    The grey area surrounding blood doping is caused by the actual blood transfusion. People believe that because a procedure is involved that increases a body’s efficiency it must be similar to steroids. This is not the case. Blood doping is not illegal and is seemingly healthy to athletes. As marckarpinos31 said, it simply makes athletes better in a natural way.

  15. #jasonschwartz Says:

    Im afraid that you have been unable to acknowledge a HUGE difference between the use of adderall and the use of blood dopping methods. This being that people who have a mental disability have a mental disability and need adderall to perform on the level of their peers. This is very different from blood doping in that people who use performance enhancing drugs do it to get ahead of their peers that they are already on an equal playing field with. Doping is cheating and taking adderall is not. This is why adderall use needs to be perscribed, it is NOT for everyone. If normal people take adderall to perform better than other normal people than it is not ok, it is cheating. However, at the same time it is HIGHLY illegal for people whom are not approved to take adderall to consume the drug. Whereas taking a performance enhancer does not require a perscription.

    Take a look at my post: “THE ADDERALL ISSUE” as it may help clear up some of the confusion here.

    Furthermore, to answer your second question, if blood dopping is made legal then how can there be any regulation against it? all people who abuse it will continue to abuse it, and all others will be forced to start to abuse it because of the disadvantage they will be at if they don’t do anything.

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