Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Steroid Users Should Be Banned for Life

Although there are some economists who foolishly question the effectiveness of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDS), sound medical research shows that PEDs do indeed enhance performance. It is important to emphasize the word "sound," because some of the initial research into PEDs in the 1970s was sabotaged by Tony Fitton, who has since been dubbed "The Godfather of Steroids" by Sports Illustrated. As Charles Yesalis, a leading expert about steroids, told SI, "Denying that these drugs worked is still to some extent damaging (the medical community's) credibility today."

Not only do steroids enhance performance, but research recently conducted by the Department of Integrative Medical Biology at Sweden's Umea University provides evidence that steroids improve athletes' performances even after those athletes discontinue their steroid usage. A Wall Street Journal article about the study begins with the provocative question, "Should athletes who take steroids be banned for life?" I think that the answer to that question should be "Yes," for two reasons:

1) Taking illegal--and otherwise harmful--substances to gain a competitive advantage puts other athletes in a no-win situation of either having to risk breaking the law while endangering their long term health or forgoing the opportunity to have a fair chance to be the very best at their sport. This is a serious offense and therefore an athletic "death penalty" in the form of a lifetime ban is quite appropriate.

2) If it is true that taking steroids confers an advantage that lasts even after usage is discontinued then there is no way to level the playing field between reformed steroids users and those who have never taken steroids.

Athletes have already proven that they will disregard the likelihood that steroid usage will cause them longterm health problems but if they knew that being caught just once would end their careers forever that would serve as a much more effective deterrent than the slap on the wrist penalties that most sports leagues, federations and governing bodies currently employ.


Anonymous said...

Both of these points can be torn to shreds but I agree 100% that they should be banned for life.

David Friedman said...


What aspects of the two points that I made would you tear "to shreds"?

Anonymous said...

Mostly the proof that an athelete did them. False positives are 1 out of a hundred thousand but that is still 1 person that could be banned for life for no reason.

Some PEDs (HGH for example) have legit uses to recovering from injuries. It'd be pretty hard to seperate the two.

David Friedman said...


An appeals process would of course have to be put into place.

People who are using these drugs for therapeutic reasons get them from reputable doctors and that would be easy to verify. A player who is doing this on the up and up would check with his league/sanctioning body before ingesting anything.

At this point, it seems unlikely that any of the leagues that have unions/collective bargaining agreements will ever put in lifetime bans but I could see this happening in track and field, the Olympics and other sports.

Johann said...

A ban for life is the only way to level the playing field. Look at the men's shot-put world record. It was set by a person who used steroids before and after the record. I believe this record should be removed so that a honourable athlete can hold it.

David Friedman said...


I agree.