Should Stimulants Use Be Accepted in Sports?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Ross Enamait, sports performance consultant, trainer of professional fighters, and author, wrote in an email to ProCon.org on Dec. 27, 2008:

"I am not against the use of performance enhancing supplements (assuming they are legal). Based on personal experience and observation however, I do not find stimulants to be useful when taken prior to competition. By competition, I mean boxing or other combat based sports (ex. MMA). This is particularly true for longer duration bouts, such as 12 round title fights. As a trainer, I deal exclusively with fighters, so this is the audience I am addressing with these comments. In other sporting events, the use of certain stimulants could potentially prove useful...

In this industry, there will almost always be an 'it depends' kind of answer to these questions. The use of various supplements depends on the competition, the needs of the individual, etc. New supplements hit the market every week. If a new energy supplement comes out that proves useful (and was legal), I would certainly recommend it. I am only concerned with what works.

As for illegal supplements, it isn't the job of the athlete or trainer to determine what is or is not legal. It is however the responsibility of these parties to abide by the rules. Whether or not illegal performance enhancing drugs are useful is irrelevant in my opinion. The rules must be enforced or why bother having rules at all? We must at least attempt to create a level playing field. Performance should be based on who is the superior athlete, not who has the best pharmacist."

Dec. 27, 2008 - Ross Enamait 



PRO (yes)

Sally Jenkins, sports columnist and feature writer for The Washington Post, stated the following in an Aug. 3, 2007 editorial article titled "Winning, Cheating Have Ancient Roots," and published by The Washington Post:

"Our Air Force gives fighter jocks 'go-pills' to get them through long missions, but we don't refuse to call them heroes because they're on speed. So what's this strange amnesia that causes us to seek purity in athletes? Why should they have to meet a higher moral standard than soldiers?... What's the job of an athlete really? It is to seek the limits of the human body, for our viewing pleasure.

Athletes are astronauts of the physique, explorers. Some of them choose to explore by making human guinea pigs out of themselves. So maybe we should quit assigning any ethical value to what they do, and simply enjoy their feats as performance artists."

Aug. 3, 2007 - Sally Jenkins 



Scott Long, sports writer and comedian, stated the following in his June 9, 2006 sports blog posted on the Baseball Toaster website, titled "The Happy Hypocrite Takes on Jason Grimsley":

"Players have always looked for an edge... Until there is effective drug testing that can guarantee that users are going to get caught, the game will have players who are willing to use any substance that might give them an edge. In the 60s and 70s players were popping greenies like 10 year-olds at a Skittles factory. In the 80s, the amphetamines of choice was cocaine. Each decade something else comes up that promises if not to make a player better, will at least make them better able to play through fatigue...

And why wouldn't they do this? I'm tired of so-called moralists acting outraged that players could do such a thing. Are you telling me that you wouldn't consider taking some substance if it potentially made you better? Especially if you were in a profession where 2.5 million dollars a year is the average salary. Especially if you knew that there would be no drug testing. Especially if you knew that many other workers in your field might possibly be getting an advantage over you...

I don't have any problem savoring the prose of Poe or Burroughs, even knowing they were junkies. I don't run from the room when I hear Nirvana or Alice in Chains rumbling through the speakers, just because their lead singers killed themselves using heroin... Personally, I don't have a big problem with some of baseball's greatest records being broken by athletes who are under suspicion as cheaters."

June 9, 2006 - Scott Long 



Michael Sokolove, contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, wrote the following in a Feb. 5, 2006 The New York Times Magazine article titled "From Pastime to Nap Time":

"[A] regular season of 162 games, many of them in the heat of summer, with few days off in between, as well as lots of travel and sometimes quick turnarounds between night and day games. Try hitting a 100-mile-per-hour fastball or a hard-biting slider on five hours' sleep. Throw in a night of carousing, and it becomes even more challenging...

No one suggests that baseball can't exist without greenies (stimulants). But the sport has been played by generations of pill-poppers who either needed greenies to be physically prepared to play or came to believe they needed them. At a certain point, there is no distinction. You can't do without them... On some days, certain teams may just feel unable to generate much in the way of offense or energy...

Long-haul truckers, military pilots flying in war zones, college students cramming for exams -- they have long gotten their hands on uppers without provoking a national outcry... Major leaguers are big boys, and well paid. To take my family to a game costs me about $200. I care if the players cheat...[b]ut, I'd just as soon that they have what they need to put on a good show... Steroids are one thing. But ridding baseball of amphetamines is more likely to take the real juice out of the game."

Feb. 5, 2006 - Michael Sokolove 



Garvan Grant, journalist at the Sunday Business Post (Ireland), stated the following information in an Aug. 3, 2008 article published by Sunday Business Post titled "Don't Spoil the Sports":

"From nicotine and caffeine to cocaine...everyone needs a little boost now and again... Whether we like it or not, drugs have become a part of modern sport. Instead of condemning them, all athletes should be allowed to take whatever substances they feel will enhance their performance. Drugs are one of mankind's greatest achievements and the Olympic Games are a great chance to celebrate that. Trying to be 'faster, higher and stronger' shouldn't include the proviso that you can only achieve those things in a particular way."

Aug. 3, 2008 - Garvan Grant 



CON (no)

Gary I. Wadler, MD, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) Prohibited List and Methods Sub-Committee, was quoted as having said the following in a May 22, 2005 article published by the Los Angeles Times titled "Speed Still the Name of the Game for Some" and written by Steve Wilson, sports writer and columnist for the Associated Press:

"I'd like to ask these players if they know they're taking a drug that has the capacity to kill them suddenly. And if they can't relate to that, do they realize they're taking a substance which is a first cousin of a drug [ephedra] that killed one of their colleagues named Steve Bechler. Now how do you justify taking it? So you don't get tired? Give me a break. You're bored? Well, if you're that tired and that bored, then leave the sport...

[Sports] have to categorically ban amphetamines...They have to categorize it as a performance-enhancing drug, not as a drug of abuse, which has a different pathway of management. They've got to rid the game of it for health reasons, for violating the spirit of sport reasons, for legal reasons, for performance reasons."

May 22, 2005 - Gary I. Wadler, MD 



Bud Selig, Jr., Commissioner of Major League Baseball, was quoted as having written the following in an Apr. 25, 2005 letter to Donald M. Fehr, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, regarding the 2005 Joint Drug Agreement (accessed Dec. 2, 2008):

"I have grave concerns about the damage that has been done to Major League Baseball by players' use of performance enhancing substances. These concerns are shared equally by the Owners of all thirty Clubs. The use of such substances is, in our view, a fundamental challenge to the integrity of the game...

[As for] Amphetamines: Illegal amphetamines should be banned as performance enhancing substances. It is time to put the whispers about amphetamine use to bed once and for all. To the extent that our culture has tolerated the use of these substances, the culture must change."

Apr. 25, 2005 - Bud Selig, Jr.  



Jason Barker, PhD, nutraceutical and sports medicine industry consultant, wrote the following information in an article titled "The Adverse Role of Stimulants in Sports" published by the Gleukos website (accessed Dec. 4, 2008), a sports organization that promotes fitness and natural products:

"The use of stimulants to enhance athletic potential is unacceptable. Numerous beverages are marketed to consumers (and athletes) that contain actual stimulants and other ingredients that have purported stimulant effects because they believe athletes will use whatever they can in hopes of fighting fatigue or obtaining an extra boost despite that countless sporting organizations blatantly object to the use of any stimulant, in any form in athletic training and competition.

Consuming so-called 'energy enhancers' will never make up for proper training, diet, rest and commitment. Performance results from intense training and the proper combination of dietary strategies with adequate rest and recovery. Chances are if one feels the need to consume a stimulant, that urge is there to compensate for other shortcomings in training and dedication. Optimal energy stores are obtained by consuming the right diet, staying hydrated, and allowing enough time for recovery."

Dec. 4, 2008 - Jason Barker, PhD 



Fabrizio Schifano, MD, MRCPsych, Chair in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Hon Associate Dean, and Hon Consultant Psychiatrist at the University of Hertfordshire Postgraduate Medical School, et. al, wrote the following information in a 2001 article titled "The Abuse of Stimulants in Sports" and published in the Journal for Drug Addiction and Alcoholism:

"Cocaine is almost certainly used primarily as a recreational drug, yet again we feel that it should be firmly dealt with. The vast salaries commanded by the world's top sportsmen are funded by marketing and television, based on their status as icons and role models. This status should be undermined by a positive test for recreational drugs: sportsmen are meant to epitomise clean living and good health, and the impact of such figures abusing drugs should not be under-estimated. A top level sportsman admitting to using [cocaine] can only influence young up and coming sportsmen to emulate the same lifestyle."

2001 - Fabrizio Schifano, MD, MRCPsych