Doping - Legalize It!

Author:Dr. Thomas Rihm
Profession:Rihm Attorneys

The ongoing crusade against doping in elite sports has nothing to do with protecting the spirit of sport: it is just superfluous, hypocritical and unconstitutional

Shortly before the start of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, the International Sports Court in Lausanne acquitted around thirty Russian athletes from doping charges. A few days later, the same court could not manage to admit the acquitted athletes to the Games.  Whilst North and South Korea intend to meet for the first time in almost seventy years, the legal, moral and ethical demarcation lines in the global anti-doping struggle seem unalterable.

It is noteworthy that the global antidoping crusade focuses on organized elite sports. This stems from an ancient understanding of sports, according to which humanistic athletes with a healthy body and mind competed against each other. The ancient sports world, however, was very much commercially organized and doping was widespread whereby substances were used which are today banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

The programmatic foundations on which the global antidoping struggle of national and international sports federations are just weak. A prohibited substance is given (i) if  performance enhancing, (ii) if detrimental to the athletes' health or (iii) if violating the sport spirit. Two of these requirements are sufficient for an entry into the Wada lists.  So, if a performance-enhancing drug is not harmful to the athletes' health, only the violation of the sports spirit makes the permitted medicine an outlawed doping substance.

Wada defines the sport spirit with ethics and honesty, courage, character, pleasure and respect for rules and self-respect. However, these honorable objectives are not enough to justify medieval professional bans, physical reporting obligations obviously contrary to Western data protection laws, and the reversal of the burden of proof by ignoring in most cases subjective moments of guilt.

The myth of health furtherance

The criteria for performance increase and health risk are fluffy at best, as it is the definition of the "sport spirit". The discussions led by the antidoping guards, whether nicotine or alcohol are performance-enhancing or performance-reducing, shows the fragility of their arguments. Both substances have a stimulating, relaxing and pain-relieving effect which obviously varies depending on their dosage. A reasonable, performance-enhancing dosage thus means doping, whilst the...

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