An Ethical Analysis of the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport Essay Example


Ethical Analysis of Usage of Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Sports


Ethics refers to organized and in-depth study that equips an individual with the comprehension of what can be judged as either right or wrong with reference to given moral principles, while sport is a terminology that refers to an exercise in which the mental and physical capability of the individual is involved. Ethical performance in sport thus has an inclination towards upholding of morality in sport. According to Mcnamee, (2008), in view of morality, two general viewpoints are realized; the mood surrounding the sport environment and the motivation of players which is driven by the desire to emerge winners. The use of drugs with intent to boost performance in sport has been attributed to the atmosphere and motivation involved in the sport activity, which has been described as an ethical deed. Among the measures taken by the sports officials to discourage this unethical act include disqualification and banning of victims of drugs enhancing drugs, dropping their titles and fining them. With close consideration of this sport menace, this read presents an ethical analysis concerning the use drugs that enhance performance in sports.

Mulgan (2007) argues that the main objective of utilitarianism is to ensure optimal benefit to the highest count of humans possible. This is achieved by way of evaluation of the short and long term implications on those affected through attaching equal value to all parties. He notes that rational beings are most inclined to take steps that realize positive impacts on other beings. Having competitive advantage over the opponents in order to gain performance satisfaction has been identified as the main objective of all sports men. Mcnamee, (2008) notes that emerging a winner is the aim of each sports man. Winning is understood as the analysis of cost benefit, a way of measuring utility. The skill of analyzing the cost benefit in sports has been adopted to enhance making of decisions in addition to analysis of morals. As opposed to analysis of utilitarianism where impacts of an action are compared through consideration of the people who are affected by the action, cost benefit analysis takes into account the merits and demerits resulting from an action (Mulgan, 2007).

Rule and Act are identified as the major classifications of utilitarianism. Whereas Act utilitarianism concerns itself with in depth investigation and analysis of the action in question, rule utilitarianism gives attention to investigation of the same actions instead of directing its investigation to a single action. These two classifications vary in terms of the preference of the action to be investigated. Since determination of the impacts of an action cannot be identified prior the act itself, rule utilitarianism is preferred to act utilitarianism in cases of discussions. With consideration on rule utilitarianism, such weaknesses as lack of recognition of vital guidelines spending a lot of time investigating action after action and disrespect to others rights through neglecting the minority have been noted on Act utilitarianism. With reference to usage of drugs to enhance performance in sports, giving equal chance to all players boosts optimal good for the greatest number of individuals, as it is understood that in any competition, all participants cannot emerge winners. Therefore, implementing legal frames to govern and discourage usage of such drugs presents a fair and equal opportunity to all contesters, which is bound to bring optimal joy for most people and this, is the right legal guideline, with any act in compliance with it being judged as being moral.

Performance enhancers give a higher probability of satisfaction in sports in addition to enabling high levels of performance. Despite these drugs helping users achieve in sports with regard to the personal desires of the sports person, a general negative notion of self-centredness which does not promote happiness for the greatest number of people is developed. These drugs present irrational advantage to users at the expense of the opponents who deliver in hazard-prone atmospheres while facing unfair competition. As much as drugs taken to enhance performance help individuals perform better, they might expose the user to health complications. The complications not only affect the user but the user’s dependants as well. It is reasonable that while an action is taken, the impacts of the action need be evaluated. This is so because a moral act is defined by virtue of bringing positive impacts to most people. Production of positive impacts as opposed to having intentions defines morality in utilitarianism.

However, utilitarianism is in opposition with deontology, with reference to Mulgan (2007) who proposes that a deontologist is of the notion that determination of a given act as moral or immoral is independent of the impacts of the act. According to Kant’s propositions, doing an action from good will one has to act from duty but not line with duty. His propositions imply that the judgment of morality of actions should be based on the need and intentions of actions and not its outcomes and effects. Reason and morality have a connection, implying that one who is rational can be said to be moral. This is so since humans rely on situations in order to initiate actions as there is no instructor to guide them on which actions to take in different situations. Thus, given attributes are basic to rationality and reasoning.

In ethics, consistency is understood as absence of overlap between actions considered moral. A moral action should seem reasonable to other people if it is reasonable to a given person. This is so due to the universality attribute of the moral actions. The description of a moral act and the guidelines of description of moral or immoral acts are provided for by categorical imperative. The initial phase concerns itself with universality, where the argument that a human being ought to act in the same way a reasonable and rational individual would when faced with a similar situation, with their act being universal. The subsequent phase is concerned with respect. Any being has to treat other people as an end in themselves and not as a mean or way through (Mulgan, 2007). The last phase stipulates that autonomy of reasonable people must be upheld. In line with this phase, in view of Mulgan, a desire by way of its maxims is in a position to consider itself as being lawgiving and universal.

To eliminate unfair competition in athletics, legalization of usage of drugs to enhance performance of participants and presentation of the participants with an option of either using the drugs or not should be implemented. However, this step is likely to expose the athletes to health related problems, ranging from physical to mental dysfunction. (Mcnamee, (2008). Universality would also be impractical with such an implementation. Morality is grounded on rationality as opposed to utilitarianism. Drug consumption with intent to win is against the will of the opponents in sports as well as the drug user’s family members at large. This proves the absence of universality as they lack consistency. In order to value the rational humans and respect, the rights of individuals must be taken into account in any action that is to be done. With this provision, then there is no person who is entitled to use others as an end to their means. Relying on drugs to achieve success in a competition, possession of an unfair advantage over their opponents in sports is a realistic claim, as the ‘winners’ have dishonoured the necessary respect for their opponents and the sport in general.

Justice can be critically analysed in a number of ways. According to Mulgan (2007), justice entails presenting every being with their deserved due, ensuring equality among those who uphold equality and extending inequality among those who value inequality. Need, deservedness a nd ability determine the possibility of practicing justice in humanity. Sharing of merits and problems among people defines distributive justice. Individuals who impartially choose the justice guidelines are said to be behind the veil of ignorance, and such individuals are not knowledgeable concerning themselves. The approach taken by Rawls in analyzing distribution proposes that distribution ought to ensure that each individual earns according to their deservedness, with necessary recognition of the less fortunate in society (Grcic, 2011). In some cases, distribution might lack equality; on the contrary, it could just be sufficient in order to cater for the joy of the less fortunate in society, in an attempt to bring them joy and satisfaction.

With regard to Rawls, two basic principles of justice apply. The fact that every individual ought to have access to rights equally and the rights being harmonious to other individuals’ rights is covered in the first principle. In Grcic’s (2011) view, the second principle states that presence of varied socio-economic inequalities ought to be organised in such a manner that each individual benefits, with the topmost level in a position to accommodate any individual.

This means that a sports person is free to take any action in order to achieve the desired success in sports, on condition that their achievement is not at the expense of the rights of the opponent. If performance enhancing drugs are to be legalized, such conditions as access to these drugs by each person should be granted, along with benefits due to inequality extended to individuals who face unfair competition. Usage of drugs creates risk in the workplace as well as introduction of unfair advantage. Governments should shy away from contributing to unlawful acts as legalizing drug use to enhance performance. It is clear that Rawls is of a differing opinion with utilitarianism where the main concern is distribution of satisfaction and joy, which implies realization of the optimal good at the expense of individual good.

The rights of individuals are broadly categorized into two; positive and negative rights. The latter rights arise from the core right for freedom, which is defined by an individual bearing the provisions and rights of another and such rights have not been recognized as being right by the bearer. However, the individual putting up with actions of the negative right behaves as a person who should act normally by accepting it. Negative rights are associated with hindrance to interruptions of governments in an individual’s life. Positive rights, however, are grounded on universality in accordance with principles of ethics which call for provision of opportunity by other people or the government.

It is noted that equal rights of other people limit the negative rights, as a given sports man is free to perform desirably in order to succeed on condition that his right do not bar others to perform better and succeed. Positive rights as well are limited by the right to equality. Therefore, if drugs present a winning likelihood to an individual by way of improving their performance, winning is therefore considered as a right of the sports person, though drug consumption with intent to emerge the winner ought not to deplete the share available for the individual.

Every culture being unlike from other cultures highlights that the ethical principles and practices of these varying cultures do not match. This is a belief of normative ethical relativism, meaning that in itself, every culture is right. Therefore the prediction of a correct or wrong response to actions is challenging. To make such a decision, consideration is extended to the way people respond to actions. Therefore normative ethical relativism becomes intriguing and it has faced strong opposition from people. As the globe is made up of a diversification of states, cultures uphold and approve different codes of conduct and norms. An action considered wrong in one culture could be utterly acceptable in a different cultural background. An action to be deemed right or wrong relies on the situation, and individuals, whether relativists or absolutists, concur that varied situations yield varied views morally. According to Copp (2006), ethicists are convinced that the most outrageous acts would be provided for in case ethical relativism was justifiable.

In conclusion, t he analysis given in this paper proves that there is need to competently and consciously deal with ethical issues if one wishes to lead life that is ethical. Dynamism of life has seen the introduction of governance to sports and within the context of sporting. In line with the usage of drugs to gain competitive advantage through enhanced performance brings about such ethical issues as unfairness and risk in the working environment. Therefore, ethical competency and consciousness are skills needed in any sports section, whether regional or international in nature. These skills will help the officials in problem solving in case of drug use to boost performance.


COPP, D. (2006). The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. New York, Oxford University Press.

GRCIC, J. (2011). Free and Equal Rawls’ Theory of Justice and Political Reform. New York,

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MCNAMEE, M. J. (2008). Sports, virtues and vices: morality plays. London, Routledge.

MULGAN, T. (2007). Understanding utilitarianism. Stocksfield, Acumen.