Tuesday, May 3, 2016
In my last post, I discussed the subject of designer babies and a society filled with perfect humans. In this post, I would like to specifically address the ethics of performance enhancements used in athletics. Some of these enhancements include transfusions, hormone injections, genetic modifications, and altitude training. First, I would like to give some background information on some of the enhancements that athletes use.
A type of transfusion that some athletes use to enhance performance is blood doping. Blood doping is the act of increasing the amount of “energy-fueling” oxygen in one’s blood. This performance enhancement began in the 70s and was banned in the 80s. This assists athletes because when exercising one uses more oxygen than normal. If one increases the amount of oxygen in their blood, they will be able to compete for longer without feeling drained.
Another type of enhancement is hormone injections. These are more commonly known as steroids. A common steroid is erythropoietin. Erythropoietin is a protein produced by the kidneys that stimulates red blood cell production. This is similar to blood doping because it also increases the amount of oxygen in the athlete’s blood. Athletes also use genetic modifications, also known as gene doping, to increase athletic performance. Athletes will attempt to cheat by altering their genes to build muscle and boost oxygen levels in the blood, similar to the other enhancements. Genetic modifications are becoming more popular in the sports industry, specifically Olympic swimming because it is nearly impossible to detect.
I believe that transfusions, hormone injections, altitude training, and genetic modifications do not share the same ethical status. Transfusions, hormone injections, and genetic modifications are not ethical because they all involve adding foreign enhancements to one’s body to increase athletic performance. I believe that altitude training does not create an ethical problem. If an athlete lives in the mountains and trains in a higher altitude, it will be easier for them to compete at a lower altitude, however that athlete is still training. He or she is just at an advantage because they live in a high-altitude environment. Another example of this would be a track runner that trains on a beach. It is harder to run in the sand, just as it is harder to breathe in high altitudes. Therefore, the track runner will have an advantage because it will be easier to run on the track.
I do not believe that it is clear where we should draw the line between "natural gifts" and artificial enhancements. With the technology we have today, it is hard to distinguish who has a natural talent and who is “gene doping” or getting transfusions. I do agree with the advancement of medical science, because I believe it is important for humans to continue to learn more about our species. The medical and genetic advancements that are in our near future are interesting, however I feel that we, as humans, should be careful when dealing with perfecting our race, as well as our sports. Eventually sports will lose value and humans will lack individuality.