Last updated on: 11/17/2008 | Author:

Does the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs Violate the “Spirit of Sport”?

PRO (yes)


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), stated the following in the Mar. 2003 World Anti-Doping Code:

“Anti-doping programs seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. This intrinsic value is often referred to as ‘the spirit of sport’; it is the essence of Olympism; it is how we play true. The spirit of sport is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is characterized by the following values:

  • Ethics, fair play and honesty.
  • Health.
  • Excellence in performance.
  • Character and education.
  • Fun and joy.
  • Teamwork.
  • Dedication and commitment.
  • Respect for rules and laws.
  • Respect for self and other participants.
  • Courage.
  • Community and solidarity.

Doping is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport.”

Mar. 2003 - World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)


The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), wrote the following in its 2006 publication “Athlete Handbook: The Road to Excellence,” available on the USADA website:

“While almost every athlete competes with the hope of winning, the powerful message of the Olympic Creed is the declaration that the essential thing is to have fought well. It is this basic human value that is at the heart of the effort to achieve clean sport, and the use of performance-enhancing substances and methods is cheating and contrary to the ‘Spirit of Sport’ and the Olympic Games. The ‘Spirit of Sport’ means competing fairly and performing to the best of your ability–the pursuit of excellence with honor.”

2006 - US Anti-Doping Agengy (USADA)


UK Sport, the agency in charge of coordinating sports in the United Kingdom, wrote the following in the Apr. 28, 2005 “UK National Anti-Doping Policy,” published on its website:

“Doping in sport is cheating. It is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport and is detrimental to the positive impact of sport in society. The elimination of doping in sport requires a commitment by all to ethical practice and upholding standards of fair play. It requires consistent and accountable decision-making and sanctioning of Participants who are found guilty of a doping violation.

The basic principle for information and education programmes shall be to protect the spirit of sport… from being undermined by doping and to establish an environment which influences doping-free behaviour and conduct among Participants.”

Apr. 28, 2005 - UK Sport


Thomas Murray, PhD, President of the Hastings Center, wrote the following in his Oct. 2003 article titled “In Search of the Spirit of Sport,” published in the World Anti-Doping Agency magazine Play True:

“I understand the spirit of sport to be embodied not only in the Olympic Games, but in the strivings of every amateur athlete who kicks a ball, runs on country paths, or pedals up steep hills. The glory of sport is learning what we can do with the natural talents we have, perfecting them through admirable, persistent effort. Yes, I could probably ascend the four mile climb into Fahnestock Park near my home more easily if I used EPO. I could do it much more quickly on a motorbike. But where is the satisfaction in that?

Humankind could devise a transhumanist competition for cyber-athletes if it wished. I would not be at all surprised. But, as long as people care about human excellence, natural talents, and the dedication and intelligence required to perfect those talents, I believe the spirit of sport, and the Olympics, can and should survive.”

Oct. 2003 - Thomas H. Murray, PhD


Gary Wadler, MD, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, stated the following in a June 27, 2008 interview with the New York Times titled “Dr. Gary Wadler of the World Anti-Doping Agency Gives His Answers to Your Questions (Part II)”:

“There are those who are of the mind that there is nothing wrong with using or even encouraging the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids or hGH. Obviously, I strongly disagree with such a premise. Sport is a contest in character, not in chemistry or pharmacology. Not only is doping dangerous to one’s health, it blatantly violates the spirit of sport, and at least in the United States, the use of anabolic steroids or hGH for performance enhancement violates federal law.”

June 27, 2008 - Gary I. Wadler, MD


Paul C. McCaffrey, JD, Law Associate at K&L Gates LLP, wrote the following in his 2006 article titled “Playing Fair: Why the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s Performance-Enhanced Adjudications Should Be Treated as State Action,” printed in the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy:

“The illicit use of performance-enhancing substances — commonly referred to as ‘doping’ — is irreconcilable with the spirit of sport…

The concept of fair play is central to both the ‘spirit of sport’ and due process. The use of illicit substances to enhance athletic performance is offensive to this concept.”

2006 - Paul C. McCaffrey, JD

CON (no)


William Saletan, journalist for the Washington Post, wrote the following in his Feb. 19, 2006 article “How High Is Too High in Turin?,” published in the Washington Post:

“How, exactly, does the spirit of sport forbid gene transfer but not carbo-loading? The [WADA] code doesn’t say. It defines the spirit of sport as ‘ethics,’ ‘fair play,’ ‘character’ and a bunch of other words that clarify nothing. The definition includes ‘courage’ and ‘dedication.’ Doesn’t it take more courage and dedication to alter your genes than to snarf a potato? Human growth hormone appears on WADA’s ‘Prohibited List’ of substances and methods, even though the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have vouched, to varying degrees, for its safety. Evidently growth hormone violates the spirit of sport, but stuffing yourself with steaks doesn’t.”

Feb. 19, 2006 - William Saletan


Richard Boock, author and sports journalist, wrote the following in his July 31, 2008 article titled “Drug Testing Just Dopey,” published in the Sunday Star Times:

“People can talk about the spirit of sport all they want but as soon as the risk of getting caught is reduced to zero, everyone will be indulging. Why? Because, despite the billions spent on selling the anti-doping message, no one really cares about anything but winning. You take your chances. It’s a human thing. No amount of pontification will change that.

The quicker we get back to saluting the fastest, the strongest and the most nimble, no questions asked, the better. That’s how it always used to be.”

July 31, 2008 - Richard Boock


Peter Singer, MA, Professor at Princeton University and the University of Melbourne, wrote the following in his Aug. 19, 2007 article titled “Why Not Let Doping Close the Gene Gap?,” published in the Japan Times:

“Some argue that taking drugs is ‘against the spirit of sport.’ But it is difficult to defend the current line between what athletes can and cannot do in order to enhance their performance.

In the Tour de France, cyclists can use overnight intravenous nutrition and hydration to restore their bodies. Training at high altitude is permitted, though it gives those athletes an edge over competitors who must train at sea level.

The World Anti-Doping Code no longer prohibits caffeine. In any case, performance-enhancement is…the very spirit of sport. We should allow athletes to pursue it by any safe means.

Moreover, I would argue that sport has no single ‘spirit.’ People play sports to socialize, for exercise, to keep fit, to earn money, to become famous, to prevent boredom, to find love, and for the sheer fun of it. They may strive to improve their performance, but often they do so for its own sake, for the sense of achievement.”

Aug. 19, 2007 - Peter Singer, MA


Julian Savulescu, PhD, Professor and Uehiro Chair in Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, wrote the following in his Dec. 2006 article “Justice, Fairness, and Enhancement,” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences:

“If competitive sport is meant to be a test of natural physical talent, then one might think that performance enhancement is against the spirit of sport. However, there are two reasons to think this does not preclude performance enhancement.

First…sport is not only a test of biological potential. Central to human sport is the competitive spirit… Far from being against the spirit of sport, biological manipulation embodies the human spirit — the capacity to improve ourselves on the basis of reasons and judgment.

Second, if enhancement is permitted, sport will remain a test of natural physical talent… Sport would be less of a genetic lottery. The winner will be the person with a combination of the genetic potential, training, psychology, and judgment. Olympic performance would be an exercise of human creativity and choice, not a very expensive horse race.

Performance enhancement is not against the spirit of sport. So too human enhancement does not violate the rules of the game of life. To be human is to seek to have a better life.”

Dec. 2006 - Julian Savulescu, PhD


Verner Møller, PhD, Professor and Research Director at the Center for Sport at the University of Aarhus, wrote the following in his 2008 book The Doping Devil:

“The spirit of sport that restrains the athletes makes them show consideration for each other even in hard competitions. This is why intentionally causing another rider to crash or causing intentional injury in soccer are violations of the spirit of sport and are always to be condemned. But standing outside the world of sport and asserting that doping violates the spirit of sport is just a way of disguising an impulse to moralize that is rooted in one’s own personal distaste for the practice. On the deepest level, this is just a way of showing that one does not accept the essence of sport, the pithiest formulation of which is found in the Olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger, and that manifests itself in what at times can be a ravenous will to win.”

2008 - Verner Møller, PhD