Artificially Excellent Athletes

Jan 23 2013 @ 4:01pm

Jeremy Rozansky claims that athletes who took performance-enhancing drugs have “diminished the humanness of athletics by choosing to technologically enhance their bodies”:

One cannot be personally, fully excellent if the excellence stems, at least in part, from a chemical intervention. Rather than cultivate his own individual gifts, he has chosen to have different gifts. Rather than “stay within himself,” he has chosen a different self. So when [former MLB pitcher] Dan Naulty exclaims “Look, my fastball went from 87 to 96! There’s got to be some sort of violation in that,” he is intuiting how athletic achievement, once the prize of a full self who toils away at his own betterment in this activity, is corroded by the innovations of laboratories.

One might argue that chemical intervention is less morally arbitrary than genetic inheritance. Some seem born to play or run or jump or catch. Are we celebrating their skill when they win or their genetic luck? Both, of course. So why not celebrate skill and chemical balance? Samuel Goldman reframes the debate:

Many fans claim to prefer the “clean” game they’d like their children to enjoy. Their behavior, however, suggests that they actually like super-charged competition among super-humans. In this context, open doping under expert guidance is preferable to the cynical, unfair, and dangerous pursuit of competitive advantage. Consistency demands that we either accept what professional athletics is–a mass spectacle of nearly gladiatorial intensity–or reject the whole nasty business.