Last updated on: 3/4/2009 | Author:

Carl Thomen Biography

PhD candidate in Sports Philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire
Pro to the question "Should Performance-Enhancing Drugs Be Accepted in Sports?"

“With reference to performance-enhancing drugs, if we have discarded the useless ‘unfair advantage’ argument because of an unbiased look at the inherently technologically unfair nature of professional sport, we are really only left with worries about harm to athletes. Please note: harm to athletes, not breast augmentation patients, Viagra users or the spaced-out Ritalin generation. We don’t worry when the Isle of Man TT race or the Vendee Globe claims another life, or when that boxer on the news gets Alzheimer’s. And when innocent Canadian soldiers are shot by American pilots buzzing on Army-sanctioned ephedrine, we’re still convinced that sport is somehow exempt from the influence of the natural human desire for constant improvement.

The rationalization is that it is okay for pilots to take performance-enhancing drugs, for musicians to use Beta blockers and for our children to swallow Ritalin because performance is paramount. But where are our health concerns now? Perversely, we deny the ‘performance is paramount’ principle in professional sport while citing health concerns about performance-enhancing drugs. We want better performances from our sports heroes all the time, but demonize the methods used to produce such performances while hiding behind concerns for health that are not commensurate with our normal paternalistic attitudes.”

Email to, Feb. 28, 2009

[Editor’s Note: Prior to Carl Thomen’s Feb. 28, 2009 Pro statement above, his position was listed as Not Clearly Pro or Con based on the Apr. 24, 2008 statement below.]

“I believe that questioning the use of performance enhancers is valuable, as it leads to discussions concerning the legitimacy of rewarding athletes who are using all types of synthetic aids to be better and, ultimately, to win…

The fact is that many safe performance enhancers are banned alongside those that are dangerous – why not just ban the dangerous ones? I am not offering a complete policy on performance enhancers; I am merely asking us to rethink our intuitive reactions towards performance enhancers.”

“Doping and the Double Standard in Professional Sport,”, Apr. 24, 2008

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Lecturer, Ethics and Western Philosophy, University of Gloucestershire
  • Sports coach, England and South Africa
  • Contributing writer, Philosophy of Sports blog
  • PhD student, Sports Philosophy, University of Gloucestershire
  • Masters, Philosophy, University of Cape Town, 2008
  • Played on the 2003 national championship winning Eastern Province field hockey team (South Africa)