Let Olympians take drugs, says ethics scientist


By Michael MacLeod

A SCOTS sports scientist has caused a storm in the middle of the Winter Olympics by calling for performance enhancing drugs to be legalised.

Professor Andy Miah, Chair in Ethics and Emerging Technologies at the University of the West of Scotland, believes allowing steroid use would mean attention could be focused on managing the health risks they pose.

He said: “We need to recognise that enhancements are becoming more prevalent and sport will soon need to embrace them more fully.”

But UK Anti-Doping, which ensures sports bodies comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, dismissed his claims, insisting: “Doping is cheating.”

Moral questions should “disappear”

More than 30 athletes were banned from the Vancouver Olympics for breaking anti-doping rules.

Prof Miah, who lectures at the UWS, claims he wants drugs to be permitted so more track and field records can be broken.

He said: “While there may be widespread support for cleansing sport of doping, we should consider why we spend time prohibiting performance enhancement in sports when what we ask athletes to do is break the known limits of human capability.

“This is what elite sports require, so athletes should be permitted the use of whatever means are available to them to optimise the chance of this taking place.”

Writing from Vancouver, where he chaired a drugs debate at the weekend, he called for moral questions to “disappear.”

He said: “Athletes are technological beings.

“Their performances are already lab-generated, with or without doping.

“Some technologies we like and consider valuable, like treadmills or hypoxic chambers.

“Others, we think are fiendish, like steroids.

“However, if only we made steroids legal, that moral judgment would disappear and we could focus on managing the health risks they pose, rather than rushing simply to condemn athletes for using them.

“Overall, we need to recognise that enhancements are becoming more prevalent and sport will soon need to embrace them more fully.”


A spokesman for UK Anti-Doping hit back at Prof Miah’s doping claims.

They said: “We believe doping is cheating and is therefore fundamentally opposed to the spirit of sport.

“We also believe athletes have the right to compete on a level playing field – which is simply not possible where doping is concerned – and we protect their right to do so.”

Rather than introduce drugs to sport, the national agency sportscotland insisted it remains committed to wiping them out.

A spokesman said: “We believe it is crucial to the enjoyment of sport that all individuals participating in Scottish sport also condemn doping to ensure it is eliminated from the sporting environment.”


  1. The Scots Sport, “Scientist’ who is calling for the legalization of Performance Enhancing Drugs needs to have his head examined, or perhaps, at the rate of moral decay in our society he may one day be a hero.
    If his rational for legalization is that its use is becoming more prevalent, then his reason can hold for other values in our society. His thinking is based on the cleche “if you can’t beat them, join them”.
    I hope that not too many people are taking him seriously; if they are, then they are unwittingly contributing to moral decay in our sociey.

  2. It would be a very very very sad day if one of our beloved athletes die one day from use of steriods :(. So we shouldn’t allow such high risks!!!

  3. If we allow the legalization of PED’s, then nothing is going to stop countries from over-doping athletes to the point where they are nearly (or actually) killing them.

  4. What a great idea by this Scottish idiot – allow folks to take drugs, then manage “the health risks they pose”. Just how long might this management process take? How mahy people will die while “managment” is being achieved? “Athletes are technological beings”…? I think most people think that they are “biological beings” – and that what he is doing by advocating increased technological input, is reducing the human element to the point where audience interest would be lost. Yes, technology plays a part, but why make it a battle of the technologists and chemists any more than it needs to be?

    I take it he’s not the father of a budding young sports boy or girl? He’s obviously never considered whether any 17-18 year old (for example) who, good at sport, finds themselves faced with either taking drugs or being “average” amongst dopers? I take it he’s not seen how many folk have died an early death from drug-taking – sometimes an agonising death? Or maybe he is – but thinks their passing is just “collateral damage” and well, tough! What a mindless, selfish, fool. Hey, let’s all drive at 100mph everywhere – and then “manage the health risks”; we’ll get the hang of it eventually.

  5. We must do the utmost to resist Professor Miah’s arguement for a sporting free for all. Far from allowing harm to be minimised his may well be the recipe for a Public Health disaster.

    At the moment the athlete has a “choice” to use prohibited drugs or not, in esssence to “cheat” or not. If the rules were changed to allow drug use would there then be an “obligation” to use them?

    More importantly what signal would this send to our youth?

    Is Professor Miah really advocating the off licence use of drugs by our athletes or simply being contentiious to engender debate?

    Perhaps he is fortunate not to be medically qualified for the current guidance from the General Medical Council would potentially render him liable to have his registration reviewed if he was to actually prescribe or collude in the provision of these drugs with the intention of improving performance.

    We may not agree with some of the rationalle behind current drug rules or the approach used but the “follies” of the current programme can be seen to have been done with the best of intentions.

    Clinicians should strive to chage the system from within, in an evidence based way, to protect the athlete that wishes to compete “clean” from the pressures that elite performance can bring and target those who cheat with the offer of rehabilitation, treatment and education on the potential harms.

    Perhaps then we can “shame” the “cheats” into following the “clean athlete’s” lead and rightfully aspire to the title of “sportsman or woman”

  6. I find this really frustrating and I have to agree with Andy Miah. The UK Sport’s claim that we have to protect the “rights” of athletes to a level playing field is outdated and steeped in advanced liberal rhetoric of “freedom” (whilst simultaneously inculcating an anti-doping discourse into the populace. i.e. individuals should be “encouraged” to condemn doping). In some respects UK Sport is correct; logically speaking we can argue that doping goes against the “inner logic” of sport given that as an isolated practice it has its own set of principles that demarcate it from the rest of society (without going into detail here you can read this in Bernard Suits and Bill Morgan’s work amongst others). However, this isn’t a moral reason to condemn doping. And, moreover, even if we could normatively justify a condemnation of doping, since ethical values are determined by social conventions and are themselves highly discursive and subject to change over time, surely we should be challenging this rule-based ethical approach too? Isn’t it about time we start to be reflexive of the changing nature of society? Miah is right; sport has become a way of pushing the limits of the human body: doping is one means of this. Why should be prevent it on the grounds of equality or fair play when a whole host of other technologies (hypoxic chambers and the like) are attempting the same goal?

  7. At least if that was to happen there should be another competing category for those who use steroids. I bet that then there would still be no point in using them for competition…

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