I haven’t closely followed the drug scandals that have respectively plagued baseball in America or seemingly every Olympic sport in the world. That’s largely because I only follow cricket and tennis, sports that haven’t had much to do with steiroids (so far). But with the WADA-India controversy, I have to ask: is the real problem here not what’s banned, but what isn’t? And should there be a problem anyway?
Again, my first question may only betray my ignorance on the matter, but why should we ban, say, a steroid (or whatever Mohammad Asif was taking), and not the daily injections Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff and Brad Haddin all have recently needed? Why is fake cortisone OK and something else not? I’m not trying to make a slippery slope argument here, but I only want to know: what’s the deciding principle here?
Say you ponder the question and you don’t arrive at an answer. Here’s my second query: what’s wrong with doping? As The Economist recently noted, critics offer two arguments, one based on fairness and the other on safety. Both make a lot of sense: doping is cheating, since it, say, allows one player a superhuman advantage others cannot attain unless they also take a certain substance. The second principle also appeals intuitively: steroids and other drugs have serious physical consequences.
But both principles are less persuasive than they seem. For one thing, what’s fair in sports about matching players with different innate skills against each other on an equal plane? And as for safety, one look at cricket’s recent spate of injuries shows us we’re comfortable asking inhuman things of players, who are more than happy to oblige for higher salaries.
I’m afraid I don’t have a conclusion here. Doping makes the whole enteprise seem artificial and cheap, though I already know in many respects, even cricket is riddled with discrepancies that don’t always make for fair match-ups.