Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Head To Head

Should athletes be allowed to use performance enhancing drugs?

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 22 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6150

Rapid Response:

Re: Should athletes be allowed to use performance enhancing drugs?

Athletes take performance enhancing drugs to gain an advantage on their competitors. One consequence of allowing performance enhancing drugs would be that everyone competing as elite level have no option but to use drugs just in order to keep up. Sport, especially cycling has suffered dreadfully from the scandals of drug use. Allowing drugs would mean that drugs and sports would be as inseparable as ecstacy and raves. Drug use remains highly stigmatised and like ravers, athletes would be seen as druggies.

Given that many elite sports would necessitate the use of 'sanctioned' drugs, none of the athletes would have a drug assisted advantage, so the use of alternate, banned substances would continue unabated in order to give the users advantages their competitors do not have. Wealthy teams and nations would extend the advantages they already have.

It might lead to alternative leagues of conscientious objectors who [say that they] do not use drugs. It would be interesting then to see which leagues attract most interest and/or commercial success.

Creaney and Vondy are right that the present situation puts a lid on the pressure cooker and holds off the dystopian future Savulescu advocates.

Competing interests: No competing interests

28 October 2013
Jonathon P Tomlinson
The Lawson Practice, N1 5HZ