University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Performance enhancing drugs in sport

Michael Phelps takes a racing start

Michael Phelps

Is there ever a level playing field?

Many will have become athletes due to a natural advantage. British Olympic gold medal winning rower Matthew Pinsent has a genetic mutation that means he has a greatly increased lung capacity of 8.5 litres, some 2 litres greater than his long time rowing partner Sir Steven Redgrave. Six times Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps has size 14 feet, which help to propel him through the water. Anyone who grew up at high altitude has blood with greater oxygen carrying capacity than someone born and raised at sea level.

Would it be ethical to deny athletes drugs which would allow them to compete on an equal level with these individuals? After all this is exactly what happens when we allow athletes with asthma to use inhalers, or those with eye-problems to have laser eye surgery.

Activity: Compare the allowed use of the asthma-relieving drug Salbutamol with the use of the banned steroid THG.

The use of salbutamol (the drug present in inhalers) is allowed by athletes suffering from asthma and acts to allow them to train and compete when otherwise they might suffer debilitating or potentially dangerous asthma attacks.   Another athlete might choose to use the illegal performance enhancing drug THG. This is a steroid which improves their body’s ability to produce muscle tissue and decreases their recovery time. The use of this drug will improve sporting performance when combined with a dedicated training regime.

You are going to compare these two examples: Click on the hints if you need to see suggested answers.

Question: What are the similarities between the two cases? Hint:

Question: What are the differences between the cases? Hint:

Question: The use of THG is illegal while that of Salbutamol is allowed, do you think this is the right position? Why? Hint:

Next: Anabolic Steroids


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NOT RATED jon 20-11-08 12:02
in my veiw this is a very reliable site :):)
NOT RATED mr i hate woodcote 3 03-03-11 12:57
this artical is ****** crap
NOT RATED kyle 21-09-11 12:04
this is a very good source of information :)
NOT RATED katy perry 20-06-12 09:37
i have asthma and i think it is really affensive that they ban use of inhalers because my doctor actually the most important time for me to use my inhaler is before sports and without it i am out of breath.