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Current anti-doping in competitive sports is advocated for reasons of fair-play and …

Biology Articles » Bioethics » Current anti-doping policy: a critical appraisal » Background

- Current anti-doping policy: a critical appraisal

Since the inception, in 1999, of the World Anti Doping Agency – Agence Mondiale Anti-Dopage (WADA-AMA) and its anti-doping regulation, athletes in several sports are obliged to keep the authorities informed of their day-to-day whereabouts so that they can be obliged to urinate in full view of another person for sample collection, without prior notice (see the website of WADA-AMA [1]). In accordance with the WADA-AMA "athlete whereabouts information guidelines", the websites of national anti-doping agencies now provide athletes with forms to fill out with daily details of where the athlete stays overnight and goes during the day (for example the USA anti-doping agency website [2]). Similar forms are being used in other countries. This practice seriously impinges on personal privacy and is unacceptable in any other setting except, perhaps, imprisonment. Yet it is considered ethically acceptable in elite sport, since it is meant to protect the noble principles of fair competition, which therefore trump the value of an individual's private sphere. Indeed, it is commonly argued that athletes must relinquish some personal privacy, in order for fair competition to be possible. Our inquiry draws on a developing body of literature within medical ethics that discusses sports related enhancement issues [3-6]. We raise questions about the degree of privacy violation that anti-doping organisations are entitled to request from athletes, on the basis of this sporting norm. We are doubtful about the rule that fair competition should trump fundamental liberties in the majority of cases and are concerned about the escalation of this requirement in contemporary elite sport. The implicit normative framework of elite sports is itself a complex ethical and ideological construct, whose analysis lies beyond the scope of this paper. However, we argue that this normative framework currently plays out into costly surveillance and medical testing practices that are increasingly at odds with the norms of medical ethics and with received notions of personal privacy.

Since the medical profession plays an important role in the war on doping, we need to analyse this situation in order to assess whether the physician's role in anti-doping is compatible with prevailing medical ethics. In this article we will argue that the moral and ethical foundations of the war on doping are doubtful at best. In response, we advance both theoretical and pragmatic arguments that oppose the current trend of intensified and increasingly costly efforts to limit the use of doping in sports. Specifically, we critically explore four main ethical justifications for anti-doping: 1) the level playing field argument, 2) protecting the athlete's health 3) the concern for professional integrity and 4) the concern about unnecessary risk taking. In response to these arguments and in view of fundamental inconsistencies within current anti-doping policy and its limited effectiveness, we propose a model of medically supervised doping which takes into account the moral responsibility of medical professionals.

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