• Home
  • Business
  • An Ethical Analysis of the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport

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

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:

10Sports Ethics

Ethical Analysis Drugs in Sport


1.0 Introduction

Drugs are generally chemical substances that alter body functions. Some drugs have positive while others have negative impacts. The use drugs can be illegal or legal. The illegal use of drugs to enhance performance is commonly referred to as doping .The debate for and against use of drug to enhance sports spines on the question of what is fair performance. This then leaves the question of the legalization of use of drugs as an ethical policy. The use of performance-enhancing drugs in the world of sports is widespread. It is as well, becoming a matter of public debate and knowledge. Due to the fact that performance-enhancing substances raise serious ethical questions in sports. As Verroken (2001) states that as a search for success and publicity, the sale of performance-enhancing products have heightened and companies are rapidly innovating new performance enhancing drugs.

Ethics refers to the rules used to determine and guide the principles of sports. The complexity of human nature makes it difficult to determine these principles. A set of solutions to govern the use of drugs in sports to enhance performance has raised different perspectives among different personalities. Different ethical theories try to explain this phenomenon. Some argue that it is right to use drugs in sports to enhance performance while others argue that it is morally wrong. As a result, a ban on use of drugs in sports has been raised.

2.0 Ethical theories

2.1 Utilitarianism

The utilitarian theory explains that an act is measured as being wrong or right on the basis of consequences of the act and its impacts on a mass of people (Verroken, 2001). This insinuates that a deed or practice is ethically right when it produces added and constructive consequences in an activity. Therefore, utilitarianism explains that a deed is evaluated to be ethical based on a set of rules or principles that can bring the greatest happiness to most participants.  It depends on analytic tools such as cost benefit analysis and risk assessment for decision making purposes. The arguments therefore emphasis on the fundamental nature benefits involved in the use of performance enhancement drugs in the sports industry.

Use of drugs is harmful to the body. As a result, it causes pain, suffering and death. The use of enhancement drugs for sporting events aims to increase the abilities including; steroids, high amphetamines, and even human or animal organs. For a rising number of participants, winning in all costs includes takingperformance-enhancing drugs. Some aim to achieve physical gains from these drugs. The reality is that long-term effects of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have not been thoroughly studied. The short-term benefits are faulty with lots of possible side-effects. Consequently, leads to loss of medals, eligibility for scholarships, and sometimes death. Thereby, it reduces the usefulness of sports to create pleasure and happiness.

The perception of utilitarianism on the legalization of drugs for personal use and medicinal use is based mostly on the good for the people who suffer from a painful illness. Drug users suffer from chronic pain. Instead of using drugs to function better the participants suffer from several diseases depending on the nature of the substances ingested .The drug cause more harm than good as the participant is put in different and painful medications. Some drugs contains acetaminophen, which causes damage, others result to madness and loss of memory. Consequently the sporting arena is reduced into a harmful sector in a society. The importance of banning use of performance enhancement drugs therefore becomes essential according to the utility theory .This is because it helps save the participants from pain and suffering caused by use of these drugs.

However, there is a limitation regarding the greatest happiness principle that is set by utilitarianism. This is as a result in the difficulty in measuring elements of happiness .Additionally, it is difficult determine an act that will convey the highest benefit compared to another.

2.2 Kantian deontology

Kantian deontology stresses that an action is considered to be ethical if it can be accepted as a universal law by all individuals (Greene, 2007). The theory was originally introduced by a German philosopher known as Immanuel Kant. He believed that morality must follow a set of rules without any exceptions. Therefore, this school of thought looks at definite principles that are imperatives and instructions on the manner of acting. Besides, Kantianism too emphasizes on treating one another with respect. It observes that human beings should not be used as a means to get to an end. This means that a human being is bound and compelled to their duty to follow a set of rules in order to determine whether their actions are ethically right.

Deontology refers to the duty based ethics. It is a theory based on the principles of enlightenment, the power of reason and human freedom. The theory of morality is based on a general duty based law known as the categorical imperative (Greene, 2007). This definite imperative in rational persons is acting only according to the regulations that are universal law using a personal will. It considers that duty is the necessity of an action done out of respect for the law. It explains that motivation for an action should be based on obligation.

The sports world presents the participants with a set of rules and regulations. It bans use of performance enhancement drugs. As a result participants should be obliged to follow these instructions as a means of proving their commitment to duty. The ethics and knowledge acquired in training and coaching should guide the participant to make rational decisions on use of these drugs. Their will to do right should therefore be a motivation thus avoids using performance enhancement drugs.

However, there have been arguments on Kantian deontology due to the constrictness and insufficiency of this theory to deal with various moral issues. It for example, fails to give a moral guideline on individual rights and duties. Also it fails to cater on individual motive to improve performance by use of drugs. Most sports participants claim that the competitive- drive- to -win is very forceful. Besides, the fulfilment of personal achievement in pursuit of dreams of making it among a team of contestants. The competitive environment, produced by the sporting culture, has led to a very high increase rate in the utilization of steroidsand performance-enhancing drugs in sports. This makes the sporting activity a competition that leads to substance abuse thereby neutralizing the essence of fulfilment of personal duties in sports. The desire to fulfil personal duty therefore becomes a reason to take drugs that are harmful and risky to the participants.

2.3 Justice

Justice can be defined as the importance of receiving fair treatments, equality and rights. Rawls’ law of justice advocates for justice and fairness. It states that every individual has the right to do what is just and fair. In sports participant should be allowed to have fair and equal treatment. This is through coaching and training. All sports person has rights to these privileges despite their nationality and culture.

It advocates that the sports world is demonstrated as a democratic with no influence by government policies or international policies have been put for and against the rules that govern drug use in sports (Mason et al, 2000). The supporters of the justice view point argue that use of drugs to stimulate performance is unfair as it does not promote equality amongst competitors. It therefore insinuates use of rules that ban use of drugs that enhance performance in sports .This is because use of such drugs promotes unfair competition and the end result is not profitable as it is not justifiable. Winning sports as a result of drug abuse is not fair as it does not prove any expertise or experience.

Another overview on justice and use of drugs also argues that it is unjust to charge or accuse participants who use drugs to enhance sports. This is because the drugs are easily and legally acquired from the market. As a consequence this leaves the question of who is to blame as the drug are always in the market yet, more and new types are being produced. The manufacturers, distributors should be accused for the high rate of performance enhancement substances.

Rawls’ theory of justice promotes justice and fairness. There are two main principles in this theory. The first principle advocates that every individual should have equal rights to a fair distribution of basic needs even in sports. The second principle emphasis that the existence of economic and social inequalities needs to profit all individuals of a society even the most disadvantaged. Therefore, raising an argument in the world of sports that; use of drugs should be allowed to all members in a competition. Therefore stating that, the act of using drugs to enhance performance promotes productive behaviour. Rawls’ theory of justice is therefore seen as too restrictive and unjust in itself.

2.4 Rights

The rights theory dictates that the best manner to deal with ethical issues is to form a foundation of obligations in order to justify all individual’s privilege to human rights (Mason et al, 2000). The rights theory also persists that human rights ought to be autonomous from influence by other factors. Human right is merely the accepted rights belonging to every individual by the virtue of being a human being. There are positive and negative individual rights. Positive rights are obligations put open people to freely express their freedom. It observes the negative rights are obligations imposed on people to stop them from interfering with other people’s freedom of action. One of the rights that the sports should observe is the right to life. The right to life among the participants needs to be preserved. The fact that the use of drugs causes harm and death promotes the need to totally banning drug use to enhance performance.

One of the major limitation pertaining participants is in the rights theory is the lack of hierarchy to determine which rights has more value than the rest. For example the ban of substance use curtails the participant right to freedom of expression and behaviour.

2.5 Ethical relativism

Ethical relativism is a theory that decides whether an action is right or wrong based on the moral norms in the culture of a society. Therefore, a deed is viewed as ethically right in a specific society does not denote it is in another. Ethical relativist believes that there is no general law to resolve a set of maxim (Greene, 2007). The moral problems should therefore be judged and decided within the members of a sporting activity by an agreement.

However, it is argued that moral practice in use of drug to enhance performance can differ from one society to another. As a result, critics consider the possibility of the universalization of ethical values to be possible. For example, every society acknowledges that use of drugs is harmful to the human body. Consequently every society discourages use of performance through banning .Therefore all nationalities has a law that bans use of performance enhancement drugs especially in the world of sports.

3.0 Conclusions

The world of sports portrays the vicious competition among companies and participants. This situation results in many individuals moving to unethical drug use practices in order to get ahead of the competitors. Different theories are used to discuss the management of substance use to enhance performance. This paper has discussed the different ethical theories that are relevant to the sports industry such as utilitarianism’s pursuit of happiness, Kantian deontology in coming up with a universal law, Rawl’s deontology of justice, human rights as well as ethical relativism’s belief in conforming to sport’s cultural norms.

The different academic literature provided by various philosophers can be used as guidance when it comes to practicing sports ethics. However, there is no any regulation that can stand on its own. This is because the theory that is presented by one ideology is not practically sufficient in overcoming a massive amount of moral problem which exist in sports world. Currently, many sporting industries ought to adopt interdisciplinary theories in order to realize better outcomes in handling ethical issues.


Bowen, S A 2004 Expansion of ethics as the tenth generic principle of public relations excellence: A Kantian theory and model for managing ethical issues Journal of Public Relations Research, 161, 65-92.

Greene, J D 2007 The secret joke of Kant’s soul pp 59-66 Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Hegtvedt, K & Warner, J 2008 Justice Bingley: JAI Press.

Mason, E, Miller, D & Hooker, B 2000 Morality, rules, and consequences: a critical reader Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.

Master lexis, L, Barr, C & Hums, M 2012 Principles and practice of sport management Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Verroken, M 2001 Ethical aspects and the prevalence of hormone abuse in sport Journal of endocrinology, 1701, 49-54.

Wolterstorff, N 2008 Justice: rights and wrongs Princeton: Princeton University Press.