The use of performance enhancing drugs in sports has been all over the news in the past few years. Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Marion Jones, Guillermo Cañas, Diego Armando Maradona, and many other exceptional athletes have been involved in a doping scandal recently.
Doping can be defined as the use of illegal substances in order to improve athletic performance. Even though it is banned from all sports at a professional level and severely punished, there are still many athletes that engage in this illegal activity. Although they know using these drugs affect their health to a great extent in some cases, hurt their public image and even result in a life-suspension from competitive sports; some athletes still use steroids. But why? This I what I will be analyzing in this blog. I don’t want to write a post about how doping is bad for athletes and for sports in general. Instead, I will take the risk of playing the Devil’s advocate and try to analyze and support doping from a Machiavellian perspective.
Machiavellianism is a term that refers to an opportunist person who acts in a way that is convenient, cunning, deceiving, evasive or not very trustable, (often by engaging in immoral or improper behavior), in order to achieve what he or she wants. From the book The Prince, I learned that some people believe ends justify the means under some circumstances. Having that as a start point, what I want to accomplish in my blog post, is to defend doping as Niccolò Machiavelli would. And this is what a Machiavellian athlete that engages in doping might tell you about why he or she does it…
‘Even though doping might be seen as wrong, it improves my performance and therefore improves the sport in general’. An athlete that cares more about the end product than the means, might use this as an argument to support doping. It has been showed that steroids are an artificial booster that improves athletic rendition (and this is in part one of the main reasons why it is banned). Doping gives athletes the opportunity to become bigger, faster and better.So why forbid an athlete from performing to his or her very best? At the end of the day wouldn’t everyone want sports at a professional level to be even more competitive? A Machiavellian athlete that supports doping might say that forbidding this activity could be like forbidding a gamer to earn a power-up in a video game; it is an unnecessary limitation that results in the failure to explode a person’s talent to the maximum level.
‘Many other athletes are doing it as well so it is the only way to keep up’. A Machiavellian athlete might also say that the fact that other athletes are using these drugs gives him or her the right to do it as well. Not only does this activity become less wrong if his or her peers are engaged in it too; it also becomes the only way to thrive and be successful in the sport. It is not fair to be the only one not using drugs to improve performance. Getting involved in this activity that is often classified as immoral, becomes a necessity.
‘It might hurt my body in the long wrong, but it is my choice and the satisfaction of winning is worth the consequences’. A Machiavellian athlete might also using this argument to support steroids. At the end of the day, the benefit and satisfaction of winning can be to that person more relevant than the collateral damage. And a Machiavellian athlete would think of himself or herself first; his own benefit would be above other people’s opinions. This athlete would state he is capable of making decisions for himself and that doping can be the path to achieving athletic excellence.
As a final note, I want to leave it explicitly clear that I do not support doping and I do not believe the reasons stated above offset the arguments against performance enhancing drugs. I would need another blog post to write my personal opinion on the matter and come to a final conclusion. I just wanted to analyze doping from the perspective nobody seems to defend; and trying to think as Machiavelli would have responded in this situation turned out to be a very interesting activity.