Olympics, Doping, Genes, and Other Inconsistencies in “Performance Enhancement” and Sport– Part II

Editor’s Note: Building on yesterday’s post, guest blogger Ross Aikins goes deeper into the strange world of performance enhancement.

Just last week, both NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden tested positive for using Adderall without a prescription.  But with the world caught in a pandemic of Olympic fever, our collective doping suspicions were too transfixed on Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen to notice [1]. Yesterday’s post began to ask why—with so many substances, technologies, and rituals that purport to enhance performance in various occupations all over the world—are we so concerned about athletics?

Enhanced? You tell me.

For example, would anybody really care if Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point while taking Concerta illicitly, or if we found out that the rhetorical clout of Noam Chomsky was aided by decades of beta-blocker use during public debates?  To cite a few actual historical examples, the accomplishments of Jack Kerouac, Watson and Crick, and half of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aren’t invalidated despite the assistance of illicit substances.

This is another strange facet of sports: fairness is paramount, testing is objective, cheating is unfair, but the exemptions that allow athletes to take certain performance enhancing substances are both subjective and subject to change.

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