Last updated on: 3/20/2009 | Author:

Would Allowing Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports Decrease Fan Turnout, Revenue, and Corporate Sponsorship?

PRO (yes)


Nicholas J. Dixon, PhD, Chair and Dykstra Professor of Philosophy at Alma College, wrote the following in a May 27, 2008 article titled “Performance-Enhancing Drugs, Paternalism, Meritocracy, and Harm to Sport,” published in Journal of Social Philosophy:

“To the extent that the public perceives that a PED [performance enhancing drug] reduces the role of skill and replaces it by chemically induced brute strength and endurance, it is likely to lose interest in the sports in which it is used. The harm would be primarily financial, but this in turn could lead to the demise of professional leagues and contests.

This argument pertains mainly to elite sport whose thriving depends on a large fan base, rather than to amateur and recreational sport. Sporting events would increasingly become tests of rivals’ access to good pharmaceutical technology and knowledge and their bodies’ ability to use these chemicals efficiently.

Even though skill, strategy, and effort would still play a central role in athletic success, pharmaceutical technology and athletes’ bodily responses to it would also play a significant role. It is not that people are not interested in science fairs; it is just that people expect sport to be a different kind of test, one in which athletes’ own qualities are the major determinants of success.”

May 27, 2008 - Nicholas J. Dixon, PhD


John Humphrys, British Broadcasting Corporation radio and television host, in an Oct. 26, 2003 Sunday Times article titled “Let’s Legalise Drugs in Sport and See What Happens,” wrote:

“In this bizarre world [of sports] the records will fall faster than a descending javelin. [Roger] Bannister [first man to run a mile under four minutes] will probably live to see the three-minute mile. The Chamberses [Duane Chambers is a British track star] of the world might be running 100m in nine seconds into their forties. Many spectators would become sickened by the whole spectacle but others would love it. There has always been an appetite for freak shows.

How would the sponsors react? In the present climate, the hint of a drugs connection is enough to switch off the money tap. Sponsors back away from tainted athletes as swiftly as they cosy up to them when they are winning the medals. The television companies, who also pump millions into the sport, might take fright, too. The money might disappear.”

Oct. 26, 2003 - John Humphrys


Craig Lord, Swimming Correspondent at The Times, in a May 2, 2008 Swimmers World magazine article titled “You Wearing The Right (Wrong) Suit And Genes?,” wrote:

“Among some there is an attitude of resignation and self-justification that drugs are just part of sport. They’re not. They are part of cheating, part of dirty sport, part of everything that the Olympic spirit is not… As things stand, the more the public take hold of the idea that Marion Jones [disqualified American Olympic Gold Medalist for the use of steroids] was the tip of the iceberg, the less faith they will have in Olympic sports, the less keen they will be to send their kids to the pool, the smaller the audience will become… A sport is as good as the authenticity of its assets.”

May 2, 2008 - Craig Lord


David A. Hoffman, JD, Assistant Professor of Law at Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law, in an Aug. 23, 2007 article on the Concurring Opinions blog titled “The Law and Economics of the Doping Scandals,” wrote:

“[U]sers (athletes) have potentially shorter careers and reduced life expectancies; fans lose interest in the game when they believe it is tainted, reducing team revenue; general malaise, and possibly reduced economic growth in cities affected by doping; and an increased chance of amateurs, including minors, using steroids.”

Aug. 23, 2007 - David A. Hoffman, JD


Raf Casert, sports writer at Associate Press, in a Dec. 14, 2007 USA Today article titled “Continued Doping Scandals Have Some Cycling Sponsors Backpedaling,” wrote the following:

“In cycling, doping allegations can instantly tarnish a sponsor’s reputation – and make it difficult to draw new multinational companies into the sport… Deutsche Telekom, the main sponsor of the T-Mobile team and a leading sports sponsor in Europe, last month ended its 16-year involvement in cycling because of a series of doping cases. Audi and Adidas also dropped their team… When Discovery Channel decided to end its sponsorship of Lance Armstrong’s former team this year, [the] team leader… had a full replacement company lined up. But it, too, pulled out at the last minute because of doping scandals.”

Dec. 14, 2007 - Raf Casert

CON (no)


Anthony P. Millar, MB, Director of Research at the Lewisham Sports Medicine Institute, in an Apr. 19, 2007 Doping Journal article titled “Should Drug Testing Be Banned?,” wrote:

“A further argument is that sponsors will be deterred if drugs are used in high level sport and that governments will act adversely and withdraw support. There is nothing to support this thesis. Fans come to see Herculean efforts and the fact that competitors may have used drugs has not deterred record attendances. The fans want to be entertained and the popularly held belief that all athletes take drugs has not deterred attendees…

It is difficult to believe that the TV firms who pay such exorbitant amounts of money to televise high level sport would be worried in private at least, that some or all athletes were using drugs…

Fans come to the events to see record breaking performances that often result from the use of drugs. The fans want to see new world records and they want to be entertained. It is common to hear today that all athletes are on drugs and there is nothing to show that it diminishes attendances or TV audiences.”

Apr. 19, 2007 - Anthony P. Millar, MB


Lincoln Allison, DLitt, Founder of the Centre for the Study of Sport in Society at Warwick University, in an Aug. 9, 2004 The Guardian article titled “Faster, Stronger, Higher,” wrote:

“In America’s major league sports, particularly football and baseball, the widespread perception of drug use does not seem to have had a negative impact on audience interest. The fascination of watching Mark McGwire break the home-run record in 1998 was undiminished by his overt use of nandrolone (not a banned substance in baseball), which stimulates the body to produce more of its own steroids.

And do spectators believe that the number of US football players weighing 300lb, which has risen from 10 in 1986 to more than 300 today, is solely through muscle build-up achieved by eating the concentrated protein contained in egg whites? The estimate of a former professional is that at least 30% of US major-league football players are taking steroids; most people say that the figure is much higher. Fans are not put off by this, and players say they would trade a longer life for a chance of glory.”

Aug. 9, 2004 - Lincoln Allison, DLitt


Williams C. Rhoden, Sports Columnist at the New York Times in a May 26, 2007 New York Times article titled “Fans Tolerate Doping, and Media Remain Riveted,” wrote:

“In the N.F.L., where there is no test for human-growth hormone and players are as big as buildings, attendance is soaring. We have not come close to determining the extent of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Yet, despite the disclosures and innuendo, fans are flocking to baseball games in record numbers. Where’s the outrage? There is none…

I’m not saying that fans don’t care. I think they do, but not passionately enough to stay away from the ballpark, perhaps in some noble recognition that the game is larger than the individual, even one who trespasses. These allegations represent an assault on the public trust. But the pull of the home team is much stronger than indignation over a scourge that we don’t truly comprehend. Fan sensibilities have not been offended as much as they’ve been anesthetized.”

May 26, 2007 - William C. Rhoden


Kate Schmidt, Former US Olympic javelin thrower, in an Oct. 21, 2007 Oakland Tribune opinion article titled “Just Say Yes to Steroids,” wrote:

“In most sports, it is my belief that performance-enhancing drug use is the rule, not the exception. What would be the effects of reversing this trend?… There would be far fewer home runs; smaller, slower, less muscular athletes and no new records for the next few decades until human development and equipment technology compensated for the absence of these drugs.

There also would be fewer fans, reduced ticket sales, less ad revenue, less lucrative TV contracts and smaller stadiums built. The beneficiaries of performance-enhancing drug use exist at every level of the sports industry.”

Oct. 21, 2007 - Kate Schmidt