1/25/2008

The future of athletics?

Marion Jones was recently stripped of her Olympic gold medals for her use of steroids.  It is terrible our talented athletes are being punished for using technology to enhance their performance.  Society has long accepted many advances in sports/athletics.  Newer shoes, caffeine, B12, light weight materials for bicycles, and helmets in football are all perfect examples of mainstream technologies that enhance performance.  Athletes should be use any technology available to increase their level of achievement.  Athletes have been able to break records because of technology in the past and should continue to do so.  There are risks involved by using these drugs but they are rewarded very heavily in the forms of multi-million dollar contracts.  Professional sports could be amazing and potentially tap into new markets of viewers, which would drive revenues even more through increased demand.  I, for one, would love to see the amazing heights that could be reached in these enhanced sports.  12 foot basketball hoops, 500 foot fences in baseball, 3 minute miles- who wouldn't love it?

15 comments:

binoculars said...

12 foot guys - 3 minutes track - would be awesome. It would be very interesting to watch. However, taking any kind of drugs, is kind of immoral you know - it doesn't matter if it is performance enhancement drugs or marijuana kind of drugs. Also seeing 12 foot basketball guys would be very fun to watch, or seeing a guy run a mile in three minutes - but then it would destroy the competition. Then almost everyone would have to take it, and the place would be filled with drugs-taking zombies.

Dr. Tufte said...

This is a tough one.

I find the moral position very hollow. At some level, food and water are performance enhancing. The moral position requires drawing lines in the sand to divide acceptable from unacceptable behaviors. This is a cop-out for weak minds: there's just got to be something deeper than that.

But ... I'm not sure what it is.

To turn this around a bit - how would you feel if some MBA students were taking (mentally) performance enhancing drugs. This hits close to home. Yet, you already do this: a physiologist friend of mine is fond of saying that caffeine makes a great neurotransmitter. What about stronger things - which are widely used in medical schools?

And then there are the unintended consequences. What if a medical student takes a performance enhancing drug, and uses the extra time not to be a better doctor, but to be a better spouse and parent? Is this wrong too?

Bottom line - I don't have a clue.

Trinity said...

I personally do agree that using drugs is an immoral thing for me but that (like Dr. Tufte said) is a weak argument in a rational debate. I find the point about MBA students using mind enhancing drugs fascinating because I think I would be ok with it. Many of the students our MBA program would benefit from them. (No offense) If a person can't take the pressure and be competitive with or without the drugs, they shouldn't be in the competition. This is a capitalistic society, when have we ever cared that some people might not win?

Matthew said...

I think a big problem with taking performance enhancing drugs in sports is that it seems “unreal.” Watching a magic show, looking at a beautiful bouquet of flowers, admiring a woman's long hair – one of the first things you think is, is it real? And when you find out it's not, it seems to lose that sense of wonderment.
Watching baseball stars from the earlier days was awesome. You had great respect for their talent, effort, and hard work to get to their level of success. Watching baseball stars today isn't so awesome when you know all they had to do was pop a couple pills to get there (though yes, they do have talent to actually be a professional). But with less work comes less appreciation. How can we compare athletes from today to the greats of yesterday? Yes, their have been great advancements in shoes, equipment, and nutrition, but if everyone started taking drugs, what would be the point? It would be a competition to see who came up with the best drug, not who was the greatest athlete.

Dr. Tufte said...

Agreed ... but

What we have is an absence of evidence that past athletes were abusing performance enhancing substances. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Emma said...

I have a slightly controversial perspective on this topic and I understand that some people may disagree with me. However, I'm going to voice it anyway.

As a former high-level athlete myself, I have a deep respect and passion for athletics and for what it can do for a person. To me, the beauty and greatness of athletics is not in winning gold medals, higher salaries, broken records, or fame. In my opinion, the great thing about being an athlete is being able to do what you love to do, day in and day out, improving yourself. It's about taking the discipline, commitment, perseverance, and work ethic you've learned through the years and using them to better yourself. You want to do better than you did last time every time you step out into competition. Of course you can use the medals and money and the drive to beat your opponent as motivation. However, I believe the true beauty of sports is that it betters you as a person. I think that using illegal performance-enhancing drugs will take away from that. It would kill what I think is the best thing about being an athlete.

Anonymous said...

Nice variety of shoes at discounted price are available at Nike store...

Trinity said...

Dr. Tufte said that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Thank you for supporting my position for the allowable level of technology in sporting events. Most of the arguments against this are either purely moral (which isn't really a point economically) or some kind of personal experience with athletics. I realize athletes work hard and put their heart and soul into what they do, but is still doesn't make a factual point. Does an athlete using steroids have any less drive, or ambition? They may even have more and are just seeking alternate methods to improve even further.

Gavin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gavin said...

Extra Credit - Dr. Tufte
The moral position does require us to draw lines in the sand. I don't think that moral thinking leads to a weak argument. The logic is presented as though there were no downside to steroid use. We need to evaluate the benefits and dangers of steroid use outside of our opinions on competition.

William said...

Dr. Tufte,
I think that using drugs is an added advantage and should be held illegal as it currently is. I think that it is good that Marion Jones got her medals stripped from her. She knew what she was doing was illegal and would give her an advantage that her competitors did not have and yet she still did it. I think that she should have to pay for the consequences of her decision. She outright knew that what she was doing was illegal and if caught could disqualify her.

I think taking drugs is ridiculous and adds advantages to the athlete that makes competing against them very different. What ever happen to you need skills and abilities? It seems that we are always looking for the easy way out. Where is the hard work in that? I am disgusted with our current morals and ethics. It seems that we are becoming more and more accepting of cheating.

In regards to your other comment Dr. Tufte, I would be completely upset if I knew that there where people in the MBA that were taking drugs to enhance their studying/ grades. All the work that I put in would be nothing. I put in many hours to be able to get the grades that I desire, now if I knew that someone got the same grades for no work at all due to taking a drug that would infuriate me. Also it would diminish our reputation as a school. The MBA graduates that took the drugs would be on the same level as those that worked their butt off to get those grades the hard way.

I have always been taught that hard work pays off. And I think that by taking drugs it seems to be another way for people to find the quick easy solution and get away from working.

Reagan said...

Dr. Tufte-Extra Credit

Putting aside the moral argument and looking just at the physiological and chemical affects of drugs I would say that they shouldn't be used. Each chemical has a possible positive effect and a possible negative effect on an individuals body. No one can use the argument that drugs can enhance performance without having any side affects. The side effect may not affect the person or it might kill them. Steroids make people stronger and faster but with extensive use many people experience harmful side effects. Many people use ephedrine or other uppers to give them energy but in some people it causes heart failure and death. The only way to find out how your body responds to a chemical is to use it and find out. Sane people do not play Russian roulette with a gun so why would you do it with a drug. So from a safety standpoint using chemicals to enhance performance would not be a good idea. In reference to athletes using drugs it comes down to a fairness issue. If all athletes could use the enhancement drug I believe they would become legal. However, because each individual does not have the same response to a chemical, some experiencing death, it creates an unequal playing field making the enhancement drugs unfair. The whole point of enhancement drugs in athletics is to gain an unfair advantage over an opponent so that is why they will never be legal.

TheFindlay said...

Dr. Tufte
I have a clue. Serious religious doctrines are challenged when a person alters the actual, physical body. If heroin makes greater musicians and artists, which has been claimed by successful songwriters and sculptors, then according to this post we should allow that use as well. It really goes beyond religion and enters into the realm of accepting things simply because they are out there. Our society has already done this with many things and, mark my words, such behavior will be the destruction of our civilization.

TheFindlay said...

Dr. Tufte
We do have evidence that people are living longer, better lives today than have existed for some time. Simple things like cleaner water, better food, and superior health care have helped people to compete with the past PID or not. Therefore we should not use the past as an excuse for the future. That would be a great tragedy given our current knowledge.

Dr. Tufte said...

-1 on William for a spelling error.

William: I agree with the part of Marion Jones knowing she was breaking the rules. As to drugs in the MBA program, don't people drink caffeinated beverages to sharpen their performance? I'm not happy about this, but I'm trying to be practical too.

After reading the other comments, there seems to be a vein in there that I support using drugs to enhance performance. As a general proposition, I don't. I do think, however, that a lot of viewpoints on this are based on lines drawn arbitrarily in the sand. Worse, a lot of times those lines are drawn by authority figures who we might not trust with other easier decisions.