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Should we legalise performance-enhancing drugs in sport?

Using drugs to cheat in sport is not new, but is becoming more effective. Here, we discuss whether we should legalise banned drugs in sport.

Despite the health risks, and despite the regulating bodies’ attempts to eliminate drugs from sport, the use of illegal substances is still occurring.

Is cheating here to stay? Drugs are against the rules, but we define the rules of the sport – if we made drugs legal and freely available, there would be no cheating.

Arguments for legalising performance-enhancing drugs

Arguments for legalising performance-enhancing drugs include audiences being able to see the best performances possible – as athletes approach the limit of what can be achieved, further improvements require performance-enhancers.

Clothing and equipment are being specially designed for athletes, and some argue that there should be no distinction between the equipment and an athlete’s body.

Others argue that drug testing does not work – most athletes are relatively unlikely to ever undergo testing and so it does not always catch the guilty (fewer than 2% give a positive result).

Arguments against legalising performance-enhancing drugs

Arguments against legalising performance-enhancing drugs mention the health risk to athletes, that allowing drugs promotes unhealthy behaviour and that athlete safety must be our prime concern.

Some say that taking part is what counts, not the winning and that drugs are against the spirit of sport, that celebrates fair play and honesty. Presumably, this would then lead on to drug advertising and sponsorship?

So, what do you think – should performance-enhancing drugs be accepted in sports?

Analysing the evidence

We have seen the importance of using mass spectrometry to analyse organic compounds, including identifying banned drugs.

Take a look at this short clip about the research interests of Professor Jane Thomas-Oates, which shows some of the specialist kits and equipment in modern biological mass spectrometry.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

This article is from the free online

Exploring Everyday Chemistry

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