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View Full Version : It's too quiet lately: A moral/ethics question



Leonard Jansen
September 22nd, 2005, 02:23 PM
Since there hasn't been any controversy in the the forums lately, perhaps we should smack the hornet's nest a bit...

What are your thoughts regarding the following hypothetical situation as it relates to competition:

Suppose that tomorrow morning we wake up to find that medical researchers have discovered that a mixture of various substances (e.g. human growth hormone, testosterone, etc) can be taken with little or no bad side effects. Furthermore, it offers the following benefits on average:

1) A longer life span.
2) Improved general health, both mental and physical.
3) Greater resistance to some of the more common severe health problems such as heart disease, cancers, alzheimer's, etc.

Suppose that it also has a strong positive affect on one's swimming performance.

Suppose further that this treatment is expensive and not covered by most health insurers.

Question: Are the people who take it for the health benefits welcome to compete in master's swimming? Would your answer be different if the treatment were available inexpensively/free to everyone?

-LBJ

Paul Smith
September 22nd, 2005, 02:25 PM
Leonard.....I think the cycling world has already figured this out!

craiglll@yahoo.com
September 22nd, 2005, 02:31 PM
Don't forget track & field.

ande
September 22nd, 2005, 02:34 PM
I don't believe masters has the budget or desire to do random drug testing on elite individuals, plus people still have to put in the work.

Ande




Originally posted by Leonard Jansen
Since there hasn't been any controversy in the the forums lately, perhaps we should smack the hornet's nest a bit...

What are your thoughts regarding the following hypothetical situation as it relates to competition:

Suppose that tomorrow morning we wake up to find that medical researchers have discovered that a mixture of various substances (e.g. human growth hormone, testosterone, etc) can be taken with little or no bad side effects. Furthermore, it offers the following benefits on average:

1) A longer life span.
2) Improved general health, both mental and physical.
3) Greater resistance to some of the more common severe health problems such as heart disease, cancers, alzheimer's, etc.

Suppose that it also has a strong positive affect on one's swimming performance.

Suppose further that this treatment is expensive and not covered by most health insurers.

Question: Are the people who take it for the health benefits welcome to compete in master's swimming? Would your answer be different if the treatment were available inexpensively/free to everyone?

-LBJ

art_z
September 22nd, 2005, 02:39 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Jansen
Question: Are the people who take it for the health benefits welcome to compete in master's swimming? Would your answer be different if the treatment were available inexpensively/free to everyone?

-LBJ

personally, at the end of the race, the clock is the only measure of success I look at, not how many people came in before or after me. thats not to say I don't take pleasure in winning, I do, but getting first with a lousy time isnt really satisfying, whereas getting fifth, or whatever, with a PB, is.

Leonard Jansen
September 22nd, 2005, 02:40 PM
But that's not the situation that I posted. Track & cycling are using medicines (which have legal uses) for illegal purposes, specifically to achieve better performance. Furthermore, most of what they are taking can be argued to have possible severe negative consequences. I'm talking about a medicine legally obtained, with little side effect, specifically targeted at improving one's quality of life/longevity that just happens to have performance benefits. AS posed, some of the following questions might need to be answered:
1) Suppose that only certain people can afford it, should they be excluded from competition?
2) If I can afford it and it's illegal for master's competition, do I take it for my health and not compete? Or do I try to sneak it in a la what goes on in cycling, etc.
3) If it is affordable to those with health insurance, but not to lower income classes, what then?

...and so on...

-LBJ

Fritz
September 22nd, 2005, 02:51 PM
My two cents.

This is masters swimming so who cares? Whether it's legal or illegal, people are going to do what they are going to do. At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. They pay their money and they get to swim.

aquageek
September 22nd, 2005, 02:57 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Jansen
1) A longer life span.
2) Improved general health, both mental and physical.
3) Greater resistance to some of the more common severe health problems such as heart disease, cancers, alzheimer's, etc.

Something that does this already exists and has for 2000 years.

Conniekat8
September 22nd, 2005, 03:25 PM
That's like asking would I be pissed at the wimminz spending 25K on a snazzy boob job cause I felt left out, vs. would I have one too if it was free?
Wouldn't you take a no-risk free enlargement?

Fishgrrl
September 22nd, 2005, 03:31 PM
Connie...I don't need a boob job, but if someone offered me a foot enlargement (and even a hand enlargement), I'd take it.

Isn't that sick though??! :)

Maybe I should post this under "You know you're a swimmer when...." discussion!!

Conniekat8
September 22nd, 2005, 03:44 PM
Originally posted by Fishgrrl
Connie...I don't need a boob job, but if someone offered me a foot enlargement (and even a hand enlargement), I'd take it.

Isn't that sick though??! :)

Maybe I should post this under "You know you're a swimmer when...." discussion!!

Sick? heh!
I've been thinking this junk lately, especially as I stand next to a car as someone is driving off... "Would running over my foot it 'flatten' my toes and ankles more?
or, maybe they can snip off couple of the tighter ligaments, Lot of people when they twist their foot tear a few ligaments, and it makes their feet flop around more.
I was never enough of a klutz to tear any ankle ligaments, I'm thinking, I have some to spare.

I mentioned this in the workout last night when we had to do 12x50 sprint kick with no fins, the girl I've been going ahead of, I let her go first... She's like, oh, you're faster, you go first... I go, not when kicking without fins, I have size-7-feet trying to push around the size-12-bum, I'm not going to be going anywhere fast!
(moral of the story: It's not good to laugh really hard before sprint sets [pant pant])
I'm lucky to have pretty big and wide hands.

As for boobs, bigger boobs=more drag... of course, now they have the kind where you can change the size with a little pump...
We could be an "A" at the 5AM workout, and a "C" by the cocktail party :p

Guvnah
September 22nd, 2005, 03:47 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Jansen

... can be taken with little or no bad side effects. Furthermore, it offers the following benefits on average:

1) A longer life span.
2) Improved general health, both mental and physical.
3) Greater resistance to some of the more common severe health problems such as heart disease, cancers, alzheimer's, etc.

Suppose that it also has a strong positive affect on one's swimming performance.

Suppose further that this treatment is expensive and not covered by most health insurers.



Given no bad side effects:

I would use it.

I would pay for it.

I would willingly step aside from Masters meets if that were the consequence.

dorothyrde
September 22nd, 2005, 04:04 PM
Originally posted by Conniekat8
Sick? heh!

As for boobs, bigger boobs=more drag... of course, now they have the kind where you can change the size with a little pump...
We could be an "A" at the 5AM workout, and a "C" by the cocktail party :p

I had know idea such a thing existed........................................... ...........

thisgirl13
September 22nd, 2005, 05:49 PM
Leonard, you pot-stirrer!

First, to stir it a little more - I don't think I like Fritz's "devil-may-care" attitude. Where's your sense of spirit and (sound this one out) argumentativeness?

OKay, now that my stirring is out of the way, I'll take the bait and answer the question; it appears from my view (And from your response) that you are presenting the situation that the people taking this super drug combo are taking it for the medical benefits, and not to enhance an athletic career.

I guess my side is that, athletic-boosting properties or not, I wouldn't ban those taking them. If an 80 year old woman can kick my ass because she's taking medicine to cure/prevent her family history of Alzheimers, so be it! You can only take the sports world so far before it becomes kind of silly to say, "I know you don't want to die from cancer, but come on, we obviously can't let you live AND participate in a recreational (sort-of) sport you love......sorry."

And, not to bring other sports into this, but I thought I read somewhere that during his cancer treatments, Lance Armstrong took steriods (as prescribed to many cancer patients) that his oncologist prescribed him. They certainly didn't tell him he couldn't race anymore.

Then again, he also wasn't continually taking them when he started racing again, so I don't know if that situation applies.

TheGoodSmith
September 22nd, 2005, 06:00 PM
Leonard,

Nice post...... I wish I had thought of it first.


Answer: Let'em take their drugs. Legalize it. It's too hard to catch them red handed anyway. Just make sure you put an asterisk next to their name in the record books so we know they cheated.


John Smith

Jeff Commings
September 22nd, 2005, 06:19 PM
Yeah, but how would you know they cheated? Would you ask them to check a box on the entry form? Humph. I doubt anyone would outright admit it for fear of backlash.

I know there have been a few accusations of drugs used in masters, but I agree with Ande. At our advanced ages, we have to still put in the work. Our bodies won't just do whatever we ask them to do.

I guess we can't stop them from using if it becomes affordable and effective. If the 1976 women's 400 free relay team, Janet Evans and Amy van Dyken can triumph over doping, then so can we.

Sabretooth Tiger
September 22nd, 2005, 07:33 PM
Question: Are the people who take it for the health benefits welcome to compete in master's swimming?

Answer: Yes.


Question: Would your answer be different if the treatment were available inexpensively/free to everyone?

Answer: No.

Sam Perry
September 22nd, 2005, 08:01 PM
Something that does this already exists and has for 2000 years.

Amen Geek, most intelligent thing I have heard from you in a while...

mattson
September 22nd, 2005, 10:26 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Jansen
Furthermore, it offers the following benefits on average:

1) A longer life span.
...

Suppose further that this treatment is expensive and not covered by most health insurers.

We already have an example: marriage. A married male has (something like) 5 more years than a single male.

gjy
September 22nd, 2005, 10:44 PM
Unfortunately the proposition is nonsense. Guvnah said it right that if "it" existed, and we knew it, then I and everyone would buy it and use it (there is no ethical dilema). On the other hand, if you can afford Suzanne Sommer's doctor and you are willing to take the risk, you are already able to benefit by taking hormones.

What would be more likely to happen is that if virtually everyone was doping (real cheating and lying) like in procycling and you had to decide if you were in the right field or had the right hobby.

A.K.
September 22nd, 2005, 11:06 PM
Originally posted by TheGoodSmith
Leonard,

Nice post...... I wish I had thought of it first.


Answer: Let'em take their drugs. Legalize it. It's too hard to catch them red handed anyway. Just make sure you put an asterisk next to their name in the record books so we know they cheated.


John Smith

Any form of record- keep a sample (blood) test later as masking agents are known and DQ or place and asterisk next to the person that has a banne dsubstance. Testing costs are coming down as testing has become more mainstream.

thisgirl13
September 22nd, 2005, 11:48 PM
More pot-stirring:

I think it should be pointed out (again) that Leonard posed the question in the sense that, in this case, it is being used for medical treatment and not strictly a performance enhancer.

That it has performance enhancing properties was introduced as a side-effect.

Leonard, you really do bring out the devil in me. I like it.

Conniekat8
September 23rd, 2005, 01:05 AM
It wouldn't be the Vo2Max Dopa supplement, would it?

If it was legal, and accessible to everyone, it would be like coffee, everyone would be using it.
When something is used by the masses, and it doesn't have serious side effects, the morality and ethics of it become a mute point.

Ethically, as I understand ethics, it's only a problem when it gives an unfair advantage by using something that is exclusively or almost exclusively availabe to you.
If it was readily available to everyone, it wouldn't be the question of an unfair advantage, it would be a question of a personal choice whether someone is using it or not. Just like using a fastskin or eating healthy food becomes a matter of a personal choice. Just on the larger order of performance enhancing magnitude.

Morally, it's a lot like using fins is the workout to keep up with the faster group, you know you're not doing it on your own. If you claim you made a certain time, you'll get a good razzing for waring fins inorder to get it, and you're likely to be told it doesn't count. The only difference, this enhancer you ingest as opposed to wearing it. Ingesting it puts the issue at a little more abstract level to visualize it as an extrernal assistance. I
In principle, it's still an external assistance, whether you wear it or eat it.

Morals in our society have developed to limit the instances of one individual taking advantage of another, and to protect us from negative consequences that we may not think of at the time of taking certain actions.

If a small percentage of atletes used this enhancer, I could definately see negative social consequences. It would be very likely they would be seen as cheaters and similar. People could get mad at you, lash out, harm you, dislike you etc... Most kids learn that pretty early in life, if most of your friends think you're cheating in a game, you'll get a good ribbing.

Realistically though, I think there would be sufficient upheaval about such supplement in sports, that it might result in a doped-up, and non-doped-up level of competition, or the supplement may get banned all together from competetive sports. Depends on whether the sport purists would prevail or not.

From a spectator point of view, seing the doped up category compete amongst themselves might be interesting, although, once people get used to seeing it, the novelty would wear off. Much like a 7 foot player was a novelty in basketball at one time.

..............................

Now, let's look the case if this enhancer was available just to select few due to ilness, or because only very few can afford it.

It would be unethical to use the enhancer with the sole purpose of enhancing performance, as it would be pretty easy to prove it is creating an unfair advantage.

Due to ilness is a tough one... let's see...
If someone is taking it due to illness, I would think that they may not be at the elite level, even with the enhancer.
The enhancer may just get the ill back to health and recover from the setback of the ilness.

I think it would be very unlikely that the medical community would continue to prescribe it once the illness is gone, and therefore the individual wouldn't necessarily have the benefit of getting to the super performance level.

I just can't see insurance companies approving it's cost any longer then absolutely needed. Once insurance support is out, you're back to only very few of those who can afford it having access to it, and my logic tells me this would be unethical.

TheGoodSmith
September 23rd, 2005, 10:19 AM
Mr. Commings,

Were you siting Amy Van Dyken as a drug free example next to Janet Evans?

Dude..... wasn't Amy subpoenaed at the Balco trial due to certain friends she kept? While I would agree that her competition, Ingrid DeBruijn, has certain facial features that look drug related, I don't know that I would use Amy's image as a poster child for a drug free zone.

I think a better example of "natural" talent would have been someone like Tracy Caulkins who did battle with the East Germans in the late 1970s.


John Smith

Paul Smith
September 23rd, 2005, 10:31 AM
I liked the article in SI a couple of isues back on the Doc who oversees much of the testing in the US. he's trying to create a volunatry "clean team" where athletes agree to all types of testing that allows them to set baselines and look fo new types of drugs quickly.

His premise is that th peer pressure from sponsors, fans, etc. on athletes to e a part of this group would be far more efective then the outdated way we now try and keep tabs on whats happening out there.

Guvnah
September 23rd, 2005, 12:58 PM
One of the problems with the current doping practices is that the drugs have some bad side effects. If they allow doping, then to stay competitive it forces those who don't want to face the risks to face them anyway, or fall behind those who don't care about the risks.

The proposal in the base note specified no side effects. I wonder if such a substance would be universally allowed across all sports.

In essence we already have this sort of situation. (It's a weak connection, but let me give it a try anyway.) It's called food. We know that certain diets improve performance over less nutritious diets. And (as far as we know) there are no harmful side effects.

What if they found that some naturally-occurring "food" (some common leaf that we don't currently eat, such as tomato plant leaves) boosted strength and recovery far more than any banned drug today? Would they ban tomato leaves? (I'm just thinking out loud here...)

Conniekat8
September 23rd, 2005, 01:31 PM
Originally posted by Guvnah
What if they found that some naturally-occurring "food" (some common leaf that we don't currently eat, such as tomato plant leaves) boosted strength and recovery far more than any banned drug today? Would they ban tomato leaves? (I'm just thinking out loud here...)

For example, isn't it illegal to grow marijuana plants?

Matt S
September 23rd, 2005, 05:27 PM
Leonard,

You're in the right neighborhood to start an interesting argument, but you've put so many conditions on it that the answer is too easy. Our supposed drug is beneficial, has no serious side effects, and we're talking about low stakes USMS competitions. Of course no serious person would come down in favor of starting a USMS drug testing program to keep people who were using it out of USMS competitions.

If you want to start a fight over ethics, expose the sharp edges. Please permit me to ask this question. Let's suppose that USMS gets a little bigger, and people begin to take the results of our competitions more seriously. Not Olympic Games serious, but modest prize money and press attention for USMS or FINA Masters champions, and some small endorsement deals for people who break National and/or World Masters records. (Not really a full time job, but say semi-pro baseball money.) Now let's suppose there is credible reason to believe that some of the contenders are juiced with some of the old, bad substances we have already discovered.

Now what do we do? Is Masters swimming really about participation and personal goals, or is it about championships and the money? Is it something in between? If so, what?

Matt

Tom Ellison
September 23rd, 2005, 05:56 PM
"For example, isn't it illegal to grow marijuana plants?"

That depends on where you live.....

Bob McAdams
September 23rd, 2005, 11:01 PM
Originally posted by Leonard Jansen
Question: Are the people who take it for the health benefits welcome to compete in master's swimming? Would your answer be different if the treatment were available inexpensively/free to everyone?

Drug testing isn't currently done in masters swimming. I certainly can't imagine that your hypothetical scenario would change that.

A better question, I think, is whether people who take it for the health benefit should be allowed to compete in meets where drug testing is done. Whether such people would be allowed to compete is, unfortunately, a difficult question to answer. But whether they should be allowed to compete is much easier.

The Rationale For Drug Testing
First, the rationale for drug testing is not simply that there are drugs that enhance performance (though some people seem to believe this). The rationale is that there are drugs which enhance performance at the expense of impairing, or at least endangering, the athlete's long-term health. If we allow even one athlete to do this, then every one of that athlete's competitors will be forced to choose either to be at a competitive disadvantage or to sacrifice his/her health on the altar of temporary glory. And not only is that a choice which no athlete should ever have to make - it also degrades the entire character of athletics (which, in general, promotes good health).

But if it would be wrong to force athletes to make this choice, it would be even worse to force them to choose between impairing their health and not being allowed to compete at all. At this is precisely the choice they would have to make in the hypothetical scenario with which you have presented us.

The Precedents
Actually, this scenario is not radically different, except in scale, from one which has faced the governing boards of our sport for a long, long time. There have always been athletes who have needed to take certain substances for health reasons. The general policy the boards have adopted is that such use is permitted subject to certain guidelines:

1) An athlete should not be allowed to use a substance that enhances his/her performance above that of his/her healthy counterparts if there is an alternative treatment that would not enhance performance.

2) If there is no alternative that would not enhance performance, the athlete should be permitted to use the substance, but he/she should be tested to insure that the substance is only being used in the quantities that are needed to treat the health problem.

3) The athlete must disclose the use of the substance to the governing boards so that items 1 and 2 can be enforced.

The Disease
The health problems you have listed - life span, general mental and physical health, heart disease, cancers, Alzheimer's disease - are all closely tied to the aging process. And that raises another troublesome problem: The medical community, in general, does not currently classify the aging process as a disease (unless it occurs very rapidly, as in progeria).

But there seems to be no intelligent rationale for this attitude. I have never seen a comprehensive definition of the word "disease" that would not be satisfied by the aging process, and suspect that this attitude exists because the medical community, historically, has had no prophylaxis, no cure, and woefully few treatments for ordinary geria (or, for that matter, for progeria).

The attitude may stem, in part, from a purely practical feeling that there is no point in calling something a disease if you can't do anything about it. But it may also be a form of denial. After all, if you were a doctor, would you find it comfortable to admit that, in spite of all your medical wisdom and all the diseases you can treat effectively, there remains one disease that is insidious, debilitating, disfiguring, and always fatal, that afflicts 100% of the population (unless they die first from something else), and that you can do almost nothing about it?

Once you recognize that the aging process is a disease, then it makes perfect sense that athletes should be able to take medications to treat it, and that this should not bar them from competition (any more than, e.g., a diabetic who takes insulin or a diabetes drug should be barred from competition).


Bob

thisgirl13
September 24th, 2005, 11:40 PM
Originally posted by Conniekat8
For example, isn't it illegal to grow marijuana plants?

I'm going to quote Robin Williams here (I can't help it, the situtation is just too perfect):

They said marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug. Now, marijuana enhances many things. Colors, tastes...sensations. But you're certainly not f*ing empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own damn feet!"

Connie, you just made my night, girl!

Conniekat8
September 25th, 2005, 12:51 AM
Originally posted by thisgirl13
I'm going to quote Robin Williams here (I can't help it, the situtation is just too perfect):

They said marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug. Now, marijuana enhances many things. Colors, tastes...sensations. But you're certainly not f*ing empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own damn feet!"

Connie, you just made my night, girl!

Tee Hee ;)
Robin Williams is great!

knelson
September 26th, 2005, 12:50 PM
Originally posted by mattson
We already have an example: marriage. A married male has (something like) 5 more years than a single male.

I'm off-topic with this, but I wonder if this stat is for life expectancy at birth? If it is that's a pretty major flaw since anyone who dies as a child is necessarily unmarried.

This might be a good example of "lies, damn lies and statistics" :)