August 02, 2007

Giving Doping a Sporting Chance

Cricket ballNature has an editorial A sporting chance (Nature 448, 512 (2 August 2007)) that is amazingly positive to enhancement. It makes the same argument that I have made previously:

"As more is learned about how our bodies work, more options become available for altering those workings. To date, most of this alteration has sought to restore function to some sort of baseline. But it is also possible to enhance various functions into the supernormal realm, and the options for this are set to grow ever greater.

The fact that such endeavours will carry risks should not be trivialized. But adults should be allowed to take risks, and experience suggests that they will do so when the benefits on offer are enticing enough. By the end of this century the unenhanced body or mind may well be vanishingly rare.

As this change takes place, we will have to re-examine what we expect of athletes. If spectators are seeking to reset their body mass index through pharmacology, or taking pills that enhance their memory, is it really reasonable that athletes should make do with bodies that have not seen such benefits? The more the public comes to live with the mixed and risk-related benefits of enhancement, the more it will appreciate that allowing such changes need not rob sport of its drama, nor athletes of their need for skill, training, character and dedication."

It does not duck the issues of cheating or health risks, but points out that rules change as a response to culture:

"To change the rules on pharmacological enhancement would not be without precedent. It was once thought that a woman could not epitomize the athletic ideal as a man could, and so should be stopped from trying. Similarly, it was thought proper to keep all payments from some athletes, thus privileging the already wealthy. These prejudices have been left behind, and the rules have changed. As pharmacological enhancement becomes everyday, views of bodily enhancement may evolve sufficiently for sporting rules to change on that, too."

Maybe our current anti-doping rules ought to be regarded as anti-transhuman prejudice? While there are a rational side to reducing doping (risk, fairness) there is also a dark undercurrent of dislike of the "artificial", of people modifying their own bodies and trying to become something more.

Posted by Anders3 at August 2, 2007 06:50 PM