Where's The Boundary Between Improving Performance And Cheating?

from the everything-on-steroids dept

As technology becomes increasingly capable of improving the capabilities of the human body, questions about what’s legitimate in competitive sports will become more difficult. One question that’s been posed before is why steroids are forbidden, but it’s fine for athletes to get Lasik surgery to improve eyesight. But these questions aren’t limited to (relatively) new technologies. The famed pianist Vladimir Horowitz was discovered to have modified his piano to reduce its action, allowing his fingers to fly faster than similarly skilled musicians. After his death the Horowitz piano went on display, and anyone was allowed to try playing it for ten minutes. They all realized that despite the easy action, none of them could come close to Horowitz’s brilliance, not even the trained pianists. The same is true in baseball; several players have admitted to using steroids in recent years, but only one hit 73 home runs. This doesn’t answer any questions, but it’s clear that the subject is complex — certainly more complex than politicians or “traditionalists” would have you believe. So, what is the boundary between technology helping an entertainer perform and cheating?

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Comments on “Where's The Boundary Between Improving Performance And Cheating?”

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Scott says:

Steroids versus Lasik

Not going to side either way here, but there is a tremendous difference between Lasik and steroids.

Lasik is correcting a defect, that requires 3 party intervention, i.e. contacts, glasses, etc.

Being a puny runt like myself is not really a defect, steroids would change something that is not truly broken.

chris says:

Re: Steroids versus Lasik

Poor eyesight is only considered a defect because we can fix it. Otherwise, it would be exactly like muscle mass. Why would we think that every person should have 20/20 eyesight? You could just as oddly assume that each person should be able to bench 200 lbs.

I think the real issue here is that there is no known upper limit to steroids, and some significant potential risk. The benefit of glasses/lasik is known and quantifiable. We just don’t know how much better you’ll get by shooting steroids, which causes fear.

Scott says:

Re: Re: Steroids versus Lasik

Actually no, there is a known error that causes near/far sightedness. There is a known error that causes dwarfism.

These are defects, simply not being as big as someone else is not a defect, it is a difference. There is a very fine line there.

My muscalature is not deformed, it is small. Someone who has a sight issue has errors with their eyes, be it pressure problems, misformed lens, etc.

WirelessGuy says:

It helps tweak the existing

Steroid use in Baseball allows someone with skill to hit a baseball traveling 90 mph to hit it a bit farther. Would any of the records on the books have fallen without it? More than likely, simply due to the fact that today’s athletes are stronger without steroids.

This isn’t like track where human performance is everything, this is about getting that 1% improvement. Most of the juicers out there who hit the news on the ones who could barely make it, while the superstars who have been busted were past their prime, trying to stay in the game.

The health issues on steroids has been made out to be more of hype that fact. Any drug, food, liquid used improperly can lead to death. Please see article on TVs and kids….

I can say this, without mcguire passing 61, baseball would be behind hockey and possibly soccer in the country’s eyes after the strikes and lockouts. They even said they “cooked” the balls so they would be easier to hit far, just to get more offense into the game to bring back the fans. As long as people are talking, no press is bad press in the eyes of baseball.

Erick says:

There’s a flaw in many of the comments here. The flaw is illegality as the argument. Imagine if you will, when refined strereroids that have little side effects – to help extend sports careers on the brink of it’s final end. And no more illegalities about it, what then?

Right now the issue with lasik is this. Everybody is allowed to do it. But, in many cases, it’s not frowned upon for some to do it because of deteriorating eyes, and have a better result after the procedure than many of it’s peers. Now, should it be frowned upon the player, who without lasik surgery cannot play at the level of it’s increasing peers with Lasik? Even though, he has not experienced any degeneration or fatigue that would require him Lasik, except to match the competative edge of his/her peers?

It’s a slippery slope. It’s inevitable that stereroids will be replaced with more refined substances of enhancement Anybody really ask what deems Stereroid illegal? And who instituted it? What if the certain flaws of stereroids, such as dangerous side effects, were reduced?

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Re:

Anabolic steroids will never be “refined” to reduce

the side effects. Perhaps genetic engineering will

produce bigger and better baseball players. I mean

some animals have much stronger muscles than

humans… who knows. I don’t see this question

going away any time soon. Until then the legal

barrier seems a sane one.

anon says:

So, if I was a talented golfer, and everyone of my competition has had lasik, would it be wrong for me not to have lasik, just to keep it level? It’s legal, and when do you consider performance enhancing, illegal? Who ever has to decide that, has a very sucky job.

For track, if I train in the high elevation, vs. somebody who’s taken a drug(no side-effect, non-illegal) to simulate a high elevation, should we be allowed to compete in the same race, as those who just run in a normal elevation. Should we also be considered equal?

NullBull (profile) says:

Health Benefit, Health Cost

Are steroids used to treat allergies? Yes. But just because 2 things go by the name “steroid” doesn’t make them remotely comparable.

I agree with the fixing a defect vs. enhancing something already perfectly functional standard, but I think we should add health cost vs. benefit into the equation.

Anabolic steroids used for performance enhancement are injected at toxic levels. You are using a chemical to enhance a specific trait at the cost of the rest of your body.

The line here seems intuitive. To put this on an analgous scale, consider that human performance and health can be enhanced through Gene Therapy Studies conducted on frozen embryos, but everyone knows a Dr. Mengele when they see one.

Does it make you frustrated that the right/wrong scale here isn’t completely rule driven and logical? Welcome to ethics.

Jamie says:

There is no easy answer

Cheating when it involves modifying your own body will always be hard to define.

All pro athletes modify their bodies in ways that are not normal for most of the population. Look at figure skaters with massively over developed legs and pitchers arms. Development like that isn’t “normal.” The ways they do it range from exercise and diet to drugs and surgery. There is nothing wrong with it. They worked hard to get their bodies in that shape (even the ones who took drugs). But the truth is that whether the mod is from surgery and drugs or from diet and exercise they aren’t “normal.” So it will never be easy to define what is cheating and what is not when you are talking body modifications. Your only guide will be current society’s views (accepted or unaccepted) of the modification.

jon says:

Enhanced performance

So, specialized training that increases a person’s ability is permissible [I don’t want to get into legality] but something that permits increasing ability by taking some pill or liquid is not? Vitamins are OK, but steroids aren’t? Special shoes or uniforms that aid running are OK, but something that allows the body to add muscle mass is forbidden? And what difference dloes it make anyway.

Today’s athletes have many advantages over the ones of even 50 years ago–that’s the way things go. Are racecar drivers compared with the drivers of 50 years ago, or limited by the technology that was available then? Let everyone have the advantages of whatever technology is available, or make sure that “modern” athletes be limited by the nutritional, medical, and technological that were available at some to-be-decided-upon date in the past. And if some sport needs the help of arguments about the activities of the sportsmen playing those sports, then either let them have the help or let the sport die the death it deserves. A sport should be driven by the players, not by the fans that have no capability themselves except to argue about the sport.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tell me, please, what the difference between getting lasik and wearing contacts. Same effect.

If you were to ban lasik I wouldnt only imagine you would have to ban contacts and glasses.

Making steroids illegal is like making it illegal to not wear a seatbelt. It is a way of protecting people from what could be (not will be) disasterous side effects.

For those players that contend steriods may have serious long term effects, they will stay away from them while the competition gains ground. This gives the players that choose steriods a perceived advantage and thus is considered unfair.

Anybody can receive lasik, but lasik does no more than contacts to improve your performance. So if a player deems lasik a health risk, he/she can obstain and lose no competitive advantage.

To the comment about gene therapy, once that happens, it becomes like breeding dogs to race, in my opinion, and I will forever stop watching sports.

billybob says:

“So, what is the boundary between technology helping an entertainer perform and cheating?”

The word “entertainer” is the key – IMHO pro sports should be a free-for-all, no-holds-barred world. If they are stupid enough to shoot themselves up with drugs or replace their limbs with Terminator cybertronics, fine – go for it. One way or another it happens – either through the slow process of evolution, or the quick process of technology. If an “athlete” is willing to be paid to be turned into a sub-species, I couldn’t care less.

Ben says:

It's legal, and its the rules

Why is Lasik not cheating? and why are Steroids cheating?

steroids are illegal, and are banned for All athleats in All sports. Also, the people who write the rules for the sport decided that roids are not aloud. If for some reason they were to make hats against the rules any player with a cap on would be a cheater, ultimately its not up to the fans, or the players, it up to the people who run the leage and make the rules. (and of course the gov’t as no players can do crack and play if cought)

Pseudonym says:

How about casinos?

There have also been some high-profile cases of people using tactics against casinos. The use of a computer to beat roulette is arguably cheating, but it’s not obvious to me why, say, using card counting to improve your blackjack play is classed as such.

The pseudo-libertarian in me says that casinos, being private businesses, are allowed to choose who they will allow in and who they will not, so from that point of view, it’s fine. But still. One person’s simply being smarter is another person’s cheating.

Greg Andrew says:

Steroids are not illegal in many countries that baseball players come from. So if the reasons steroids are different than lasik is because they’re illegal, everybody should be fine if players take steroids legally in the Dominican Republic. Right?

Obviously not. It’s more of a baseball crime to use a corked bat than to steal a million dollars. Baseball has its own rules and values, and they are separate from society’s.

So “because one’s illegal” is not a reasonable answer. Baseball should outlaw the use of substances that are legal and ignore the use of substances that are illegal if that is what’s good for baseball.

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