Keynote abstract, Sigmund Loland

Doping and the ideal of natural athletic performance

Sigmund Loland, Professor, Norwegian School of Sport Science

Use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED) in sport is controversial and a complex ethical, scientific and practical issue. One challenge is the gap between references to the values of sport, or what in WADA’s terminology is called ‘the spirit of sport’, and operative anti-doping work. General statements on sport values s of little help in line drawing between what are considered acceptable and non-acceptable means and methods. I will propose one way of bridging this gap by outlining a biologically informed ideal of natural athletic performance.

References to ‘the natural’ can be problematic. The concept is vague and can be and has been misused to marginalize and exclude athletes based on biological sex, sexual orientation, and cultural and ethnic background. Still, references to what is ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are frequently heard in the debate over PED. I will argue that, if understood biologically and with reference to the phenotypic plasticity of the human body as developed in evolution, the ideal of natural athletic performance can inform significantly both ethical issues and operative line drawing when it comes to PED use in sport. Moreover, the discussion will illustrate the more general point that anti-doping is a normative position and depends upon sound and critical reflection upon sport values.