Friday, January 22, 2010

Better Living through Chemistry

I grew up in the “Just say no” generation that “Dared to keep kids off drugs.” I also have followed the reports of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) such as steroid use in professional sports and EPO use that plagues bicycling. Experimentation with recreational drugs seems to be part of many individuals life experience and regular use is more rampant than most people would care to admit. I personally have dabbled in over the counter nutritional supplements that have included amino acids, creatine, protein supplements, ephedrine, glucosamine and chondroitin. Had I more ambition I would have been willing to ingest illicit PEDs at various points during my amateur athletic career.

With this personal background as well as Libertarian political views, my perspective is different from many people I talk to. I feel the government and sports organizations have an obligation to provide safety guidelines which include restrictions on individuals under 18. However at the age individuals can consent to enter the armed services they should be not be prohibited from having access to substances which improves their quality of life in their opinion provided they are not a risk to others.

I don’t see a problem with recreational drug use in the privacy of one’s own home. I also don’t see a problem with PEDs for amateur athletes. This is a slippery slope that makes PED use table stakes for entering the local 5K or junior cycling criteriums. The question may be the same as asking if alcohol is a requirement for a social occasion.

However as amateur athletes make Olympic bids or enter the professional ranks recreational drugs and PEDs are placed on a different platform. The competitors are now role models and failure to take PEDs could have an impact on a player’s livelihood. Even during the competition for college scholarships or Olympic training camps, I believe that non-uniform PED use is anti-competitive. I think that this is a problem.

When individuals enter many corporations they are required to take a drug test and the terms of their employment are subject to retest at any time. Similarly sports organizations have taken it upon themselves to individually control and test for various substances. If you don’t want to be placed under this scrutiny, then you can choose not to enter these professions.

However for individuals who choose to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana or ingest cocaine as they are independently wealthy and do not jeopardize others, go ahead. Similarly if you want to try the boost of EPO for your century ride or shoot steroids to feel more attractive, go ahead.

The tough junction of these lines of thought is adderall use by poker players and university students. It could be considered an unfair advantage and one could argue that others livelihood is at stake. Would I try it? I might. Would I want to set up regulation to test for its use in public poker rooms or public universities without a prescription? I would not.

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