I really enjoyed reading Simon Outram’s balanced, realistic assessment of the impact on legalised doping in sport. And, if the health impacts of it were possible to avoid, then I’m sure that the usage of it would be a much more reasonable prospect.
As an athlete, there are two things about the legalised usage of performance-enhancing drugs that bother me. The first is that I would feel like I was required to take them in order to be competitive, and that if I missed a dose or a cycle then I would be behind my competitors. Even if the drug might not have helped me that much, the fact that I may perceive that I was at a disadvantage could pile a psychological limitation onto a physical one.
The second, and more important, thing that bothers me about performance enhancing drugs is that they would take something away from the athlete. If they were legal, sniping spectators could always say that it was the drugs and not the athlete that got that victory. One of the things about rowing that I love is that it’s hard. It hurts, and the challenge of focusing through the pain yields rewards when you’re able to overcome it. If you take some of the difficulty away, you take something away from the athlete. In a drugged world, the victors would still claim the spoils, but the intangible rewards, the pride in success, the sadistic joy in hard work, would fade away. There would always be a question in the back of my mind – was it me or the drugs?
I know sport is a spectacle, something that we all love to watch and comment on, but there is also a private aspect to it for the athletes involved. If you take away some of the difficulty, some of the struggle and strife, you may improve a time or distance or height, but you also take something away from the athlete. Perhaps I’m too sentimental about sport, a modern echo of the purists who first deemed that the Olympics should be an amateur endeavour. Perhaps my views will be similarly consigned to history in the future. But I just wanted to note the loss that could come with widespread doping, and acknowledge that a reward is all the sweeter for the difficulty in reaping it.