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Ethics in Sport (Doping)

The use of drugs is not a new thing and it isn’t new in sport either, the question is what makes an athlete take a drug. Since the 1950s anabolic steroids have been used to gain an advantage over the competition. (Dawson, 2001) There is huge pressure to train longer and harder and to take a scientific approach to nutrition and fluid and electrolyte balance, to seek every biomechanical and psychological advantage. It is almost inevitable that some will seek an advantage through drugs. (Mottram, 1999)

In a professional team there are many influences, team mate, coaches and the pressure of winning are just some. A major influence is the player’s physician who is supposed to look after the players and get them to play at their best. “A physician has a primary obligation to the patient’s well-being, is challenged by the emergence of the doctor-patient-team triad, in which the team’s priorities can conflict with or even replace those of the patient-athlete”. (Dunn, et al. 2007) When does the chance of winning become more valuable than your health or enjoyment of the game? This is where the problem arises, if people are able to be given drugs from whomever they come into contact with and then they are able to taper off before competition and use a placebo during competition, what is stopping them. You would think that ethically the player/coach/physician would be thinking, is this right to be cheating my fellow competitors out of the game.

“The use of performance-enhancing drugs is no longer limited to the elite athlete. In 1993 the Canadian Centre for Drug-free Sport estimated that 83 000 children between the ages of 11 and 18 had used anabolic steroids in the previous 12 months. Recent evidence suggests anabolic steroids are now the third most commonly offered drugs to children in the UK, behind cannabis and amphetamines.” (Dawson, 2001)

With this research it shows how not only elite athletes are put under pressure to win and win at all costs. What may be worse is how would a child get their hands on such drugs, an outside source would need to provide the child with such things. Has the use of drugs in sport become common enough that everyone are being influenced to use them, or are drugs needed by everyone these days to perform to their best. Suvelescu, et al. (2004) said “The enormous rewards for the winner, the effectiveness of the drugs, and the low rate of testing all combine to create a cheating ‘‘game’’ that is irresistible to athletes.”

There are many ethical problems with using a drug which enhances performance, the drugs may not be available to everyone and therefore gaining an unfair advantage, The drugs may harm the user and the player may not know what they are taking if given by their physician or coach which would normally be trusted to be doing the best for the player.

How can this problem be solved, the easiest method would be to remove all drugs from sport, although as seen in the previous blog there are ways of getting around the drug testing such as using a placebo for competition which is not detected to be a drug. More testing could be used especially during the lead up to competition and throughout the off season, this would minimise the use of drugs as they are more likely to be caught no matter when they use the drug. Players that are involved in the reduction of drug use can be useful as a role model for the younger generation (Goldberg, et al. 2000). “For athletes who want to compete clean, the threat that they may be beaten by a competitor who is not faster, stronger, or more dedicated, but who takes a drug to gain the edge, is profoundly personal” (Murray, 2009)

“The role of the physician of today is to regain our position of impartiality and objectivity within both the sporting and general community. Only then will we be able to pursue a harm minimisation strategy designed to convince the public that it is better to be the best you can be naturally.” (Dawson, 2001) This is not always the case as explained earlier they are likely to be the ones giving the drugs to the players due to pressure put on them, this should be addressed in order to help remove drugs from sport.

With the help of all whom are involved, the coach, the players and the physicians the solution should be simple and the problem could be resolved. Players should be playing the game at their best and not there drug filled best, coaches should be coaching to help the players perform at their best and similar for the physician who should look to get the players to perform at their best with the use of legal aids and training.

Reference list

Dawson, R. (2001). Drugs in sport – the role of the physician. Journal of Endocrinology. 170, 55-61.

Mottram, D. (1999). Banned Drugs in Sport. British Journal of Sports Med. 27(1), 1-10.

Dunn, W., George, M., Churchill, L., Spindler, K. (2007). Ethics in Sports Medicine. British Journal of Sports Med. 35(5), 840-844.

Suvelscu, J., Foddy, B., Clayton, M. (2004). Why we should Allow Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport. British Journal of Sports Med. 38, 666-670.

Murray, T. (2009). Drugs, Sport, and Ethics. Exploring Bioethics. 1-7.

MacAuley, D. (1996). Drugs in Sport. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 313, 211-215.

Goldberg, L., Mackinnon, D., Elliot, D., Moe, E., Clarke, G., Cheong, J. (2000). The Adolescent Training and Learning to Avoid Steroid Program. Arch paediatric Adolescent Med. 154, 332-338.



This blog was started for a Uni subject, and has since evolved into a place where I can voice my thoughts, typically about coaching and sport. I grew up in Sydney, then moved to Canberra for some further study in 2011 and when I finished in 2014 I moved up to Brisbane. I have played, coached and generally been involved with volleyball since 2013. As of 2017 I am now the QAS Volleyball Assistant Coach.

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