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Articles > Sports & Fitness October, 30, 2013

The Meta-lympics: sports where drug use is compulsory

David Lamb
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The Olympics provide a rare opportunity to see what human beings are capable of. We marvel at what is possible when humans push themselves to the edges of their ability. Most people consider performance enhancing drugs to be antithetical to the notion of sport, as they create an uneven playing field. But could they be utilized to usher in a new era of sport, and scientific discovery?

On the surface, I agree with those who seek to ban drugs from sport. The fun of sport lies in the knowledge that every competitor is on a level playing-field, this is vital and ensures that the winner has fairly defeated his opponents. If it transpires that the winner has secretly used drugs to gain an unfair edge over his opponents, the joy immediately evaporates. Hence why a great effort is made to prevent performing enhancing drugs from ruining what is so central to the essence of sport.

Why not have an olympics where drug use is compulsory

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But what if we created a new playing field, a new sporting class, where participants are allowed to utilize everything science has to offer them in developing their skills, without fear of penalization? Think about it, what would it be like to watch someone run the 100m knowing they have done absolutely everything in their power to be as fast as possible? Utilizing a spectrum of performance-enhancing drugs, gene therapies, modified diets in conjunction with sophisticated training regimes.

What would it be like to watch a race knowing that every competitor has done this? There would be no inherent unfairness in this; they could have chosen to augment their body in any way they wished, with any combination of drugs or therapies. The brilliance of science married to the determination of the athlete, with the common pursuit of glory…

Some people may object to this on the grounds that an athlete would become only as good as the team of scientists and doctors behind him, but there is another sport where this is obviously true, and it doesn’t seem to hinder the enjoyment of millions of fans; racing. Formula 1 drivers do everything they can to develop their reaction speeds and driving sensitivity, but they are hugely dependent on the quality of their equipment, and by extension, the abilities of a team of mechanics and engineers that work for them behind the scenes. Does this make racing a joyless sport? Not at all, it is thrilling, made all the more exciting for knowing there is nothing hindering the speed of the winner except the laws of physics, and the sometimes frustrating progress of science.

Why do we arbitrarily limit the speed of our runners, or the distance of our jumpers, the strength of our weightlifters and throwers, by banning drugs from ALL sport? Obviously I’m not supporting the notion of introducing performance enhancing drugs to every single sport; I’d still like to watch events in which the competitors could only use natural means to succeed. However, I very much desire to watch a different Olympics, alongside the traditional one, a new Olympics, a meta-lympics, where records are obliterated with regularity, as athletes attain near super-human levels of physical proficiency and skill.

Think what the meta-lympics could accomplish for science to this generation. Who is to say that the cures for muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy wouldn’t be discovered by doctors and scientists working in the meta-lympics? Or a panoply of new drugs for neuro-muscular diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s, being developed by the same labs that worked for a team of athletes? I see no convincing moral argument against such a sporting event, as long as the doctors and scientists were competent and the athletes were consenting, and understood fully the nature of the risks associated with each drug and treatment they were offered.

Some people may object on the grounds that it “encourages drug use”, however this is spurious, I think it more likely that it would reduce drug-abuse in regular sport. Suppliers of growth hormones, EPO and other drugs would have been just given a massive new (legal) market in the form of the meta-lympics. Why would they choose to deal underhand to regular athletes for little profit when they could simply focus their energies in making, and researching, drugs for the meta-athletes? Could there be a Lance Armstrong in the age of the metalympics? I think there’d be no market for him, no reason to aid him. If he wants to use drugs he could join the meta-lympic cycling team, and if not, stick to regular cycling. There’d simply be no reason to cheat in the conventional sense of the word.

By ‘legitimizing’ the drug culture in sport, and giving it an outlet, we would not only create a new era of sporting glory, but protect regular sport from deception, whilst also furthering the goals of medical science. Here’s to the meta-lympians!

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  1. Abbi Crawford

    If this was introduced into society, it would encourage people of all ages to take drugs and this isn’t the message sports want to be giving off. Imagine a young 6 year old watching his favourite runner on the TV and only striving to be able to take the drugs he does one day, the ambition of talent would be completely ruined, only the ambition of substance abuse would remain!
    Also the manipulation and use of mechanics is much much different to the manipulation and damage to ones own anatomy… It’s people’s job to fix and improve cars and motorised vehicles – without working vehicles F1 drivers simply wouldn’t have a car to drive! Where’s sports people should, and do, have a raw talent in their own ability (the drivers of F1 cars do also of course)
    Why would you want to make everyone on the earth have the same physical ability, it would remove the pride of any intense lifelong training made by successful athletes to just make anyone who wants to be as good, as good by taking drugs. Very unfair concept.

  2. Ben Pascoe

    This has been talked about before, and personally I think it would also be brilliant, to watch the evolution of man and physical achievements controlled directly by us. However I don’t think it would actually be all too different to what we can see in current professional sports…

  3. Aimee Gunshon

    I believe that a ban to all substances which are used to enhance a persons ability when doing sport should be put into place. I believe that a person can not be truly recognised for their true abilities if for one.. There is a person in the competition that has used enhancing substances as they would normally perform better and have better confidence. Also if the person is on enhancing substances then they are not showing their true ability therefore if once doesnt take these substances then they become weaker when performing. I think many athletes train and work hard to become the best they can and its unfair that enhancing substances can be used instead of hard work.

  4. Leanne Bettis

    How can true talent be recognised if we don’t push forward for a ban to all substances in sport. The opening of this article is correct- the olympics did give us an opportunity to see what people are capable of and how hard some people work to get to that level of competition. However if performance-enhancing drugs are not banned, then people wont have to work as hard to get to that level, which is unfair.