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The politics of performance enhancement in the Olympic Games

The positions in the politics of drug use in the Olympic Games seem to be crystal clear. The Honourable Charles Dubin, conducting a federal investigation into the use of drugs in sport following Ben Johnson’s disqualification for a positive test at the 1988 Games opened his report with the following: ‘The use of banned performance-enhancing drugs is cheating which is the antithesis of sport. The widespread use of such drugs’, he continued, ‘has threatened the essential integrity of sport and is destructive of its very objectives. It also erodes the ethical and moral values of athletes who use them, endangering their mental and physical welfare while demoralizing the entire sport community’ (cited in Beamish and Ritchie, 2006: 111). Some 15 years later, theWorld Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) supported those

sentiments: ‘Anti-doping programs seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. The intrinsic value is often referred to as “the spirit of sport”.’ That spirit is characterized by ‘ethics, fair play and honesty; health; excellence in performance; character and education; fun and joy; teamwork; dedication and commitment; respect for rules and laws; respect for self and other participants; courage; community and solidarity’. WADA continued: ‘Doping is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport’ (cited in Beamish and Ritchie, 2006: 111). On the other hand, former International Olympic Committee (IOC) Pre-

sident Juan Antonio Samaranch offered the following assessment during a ‘doping crisis’ in the 1998 Tour de France. ‘Doping is everything that, firstly, is harmful to an athlete’s health and, secondly, artificially augments his performance.’ However, he continued, ‘if it’s the second case, for me, it’s not doping. If it’s the first case, it is’ (cited in Beamish and Ritchie, 2006: 1). More recently, Kayser and Smith (2008: 85), with the support of more than 30 other sport scientists, have argued that ‘there are compelling reasons’ to question WADA and UNESCO’s current efforts in ‘the globalisation and harmonisation of anti-doping’. The division seems clear, but it is still somewhat murky. Using ‘banned

performance-enhancing substances’ is cheating; if certain substances are against the rules then their use cheats other competitors staying within the rules. That much is not contentious.