Against Anti-Doping

It’s time to end anti-doping efforts. They have failed. More than that they are immoral.

Anti-doping regulations apply to all levels of sport, from junior, to elite professional, to masters. Yet we only test a small group of our elite athletes. Elite sport is only a tiny proportion of the actual sporting community. Who is checking that a junior soccer player isn’t being given a performance enhancing substance? Who is checking that a local B grade rugby league player isn’t taking performance enhancing substances.

I am an administrator of swimming at the masters level. We are an amateur sporting organisation, providing age group competition from ages 18 to 100 and higher. We are also covered by anti-doping rules. Just recently Lance Armstrong was prevented from competing as a masters swimmer because of his life time drugs ban.

Yet it’s likely that many masters athletes are taking prescription medications from the banned list. The banned list includes many medications such as vasodilators, stimulants, asthma treatments and growth factors.

Technically they’re supposed to provide us evidence of a medical need, but rarely do we get such evidence. Athletes could be taking a performance enhancing substance for a medical reason or not, but we have no way of knowing.

Why should we anyway? The medical conditions of amateur sports people should be their own business, nothing to do with us.

Advancing medical technology is one of the biggest arguments against our current anti-doping efforts. Several billion dollar companies are now working on anti-aging technologies and early indications are promising. In the past year Google has started a subsidiary named Calico Labs with the sole purpose of extending the human life span.

Already several medications are in testing that slow effects of aging. By definition these will be performance enhancing, allowing athletes to continue to perform like a young person as they age.

For instance, currently there is research going on into anti-aging effects that may be attributed to the diabetes drug Metformin. Belgian researchers found that mice treated with it lived 40% longer. The studies showed reduction in age related illness.(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/worlds-first-anti-ageing-drug-could-see-humans-live-to-120/)

How could we possibly deny our athletes access to this technology? Are we going to say that if you want to be an athlete, sorry you have to age naturally? It would be absurd to even ask athletes to deny themselves access to anti-aging treatments that the rest of the community can access.

How is this any different to athletes using performance enhancing drugs available now?

One of the arguments often cited is the dangers to the athlete, particularly in relation to drugs that are not highly tested or administered in ways they’re not listed for. This is a case where the prohibition creates additional danger. If such drugs were not being administered secretively, proper clinical research could be undertaken and everyone would benefit.

It’s time to end this expensive, failing and misguided war on doping. We can replace it with scientific advancement of performance and anti-aging science that can benefit everyone.