No, PEDs make sport less safe for athletes

January 19, 2016

Drug Use in Sport“It’s my body. It’s my biochemistry.” These are the words of David Asprey as quoted by Adam Kreek in his article entitled, “Can PEDs Make Sport Safer for Athletes?

Are these the words of a true libertarian or just a person looking to increase his sales in his online business? And while Adam Kreek may not personally be promoting doping in sport in the article, he is promoting the beliefs of one man who thinks doping should be allowed. Both men in my view are doing a disservice to Canadian sport, clean athletes and the millions of youth who dream of becoming Olympic champions.

Let’s look at Mr. Asprey’s argument in light of the role sport plays in Canadian society and why the vast majority of Canadians and Canadian athletes do not want performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sport.

First and foremost, the use of PEDs is banned in sport because it is harmful to the health of athletes. Every substance and method on the banned list is there because of scientific evidence, not pseudo-science or urban myth, linking its use in sport to harmful health consequences.

It is certainly true that there are many pressures and temptations to use PEDs, including huge financial incentives. And there are far too many athletes who succumb to these pressures and temptations. However, it is not just the athletes who choose to cheat by doping and who might be willing to risk their health – indeed their lives – that we need to be concerned about. We know from research that the vast majority of athletes around the world do not want to be forced to take the health risks associated with the use of PEDs. If we let the athletes who are willing to take the risk do so, we place enormous pressure on other athletes to have to use PEDs to keep up. To do this would be to fail as employers, as sport governors and as public authorities to exercise the duty of care we have toward our athletes. We have recently seen how abysmally the IAAF failed in their duty of care to their athletes.

But there is an even more compelling reason to have rules against PED use in sport. And that reason is, quite simply, the impact our top athletes have, as role models, on the decisions and behaviours of young children. If the message we send to young children in sport is: “The only way to make it is to use PEDs,” then our children will become willing victims; too young and impressionable to know better.  This would unleash a public health problem around the world of untold proportion.

Yes, sport entertains us. But sport is about much more than just entertainment. Sport is an incredibly valuable public asset. It has the potential to produce enormous good in our communities and country. When we get sport right; when sport is driven by values and principles including staying healthy, respecting others and playing fair, then sport can instill character in our kids, strengthen our communities and increase our chances for excellence on the world stage. That is why PEDs have no place in sport! They rob sport and our athletes of these positive benefits.