WADA Should Ban Athletes Who Take Recreational Drugs

The International Sports Law Journal, January-April 2007 | Go to article overview

WADA Should Ban Athletes Who Take Recreational Drugs


Ian Smith of the Professional Cricketers' Association has argued that recreational drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy, should not be on the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) list of prohibited substances in sport. In this article, I take a different point of view and put forward some arguments for their continued inclusion on the banned list.

I entirely agree with WADA that doping is 'fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport." In other words, drugs and sport, like oil and water, do not mix. Drugs are incompatible with the integrity of sport, which stands for health, fairness and setting a good example: the essence of Olympism as espoused and promoted by the International Olympic Movement. Olympism is defined in the Olympic Charter of 2000 as follows:

"Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seek to create a way of life based on joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."

Any kind of drugs, whether performance enhancing or recreational, are contrary to health, with the exception of therapeutic drugs that are medically prescribed for health reasons, that is, for the control of certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy. Cocaine can hardly be described as therapeutic or an essential part of a healthy life style. Rather than enhancing life, it often leads to its destruction, when addiction cannot be controlled. Ecstasy and cannabis also cause physical and mental problems over a period of time; and the former has also been responsible for death. For example, in the high profile case of the young English girl Lea Betts, who died from taking ecstasy. Her distraught parents are not calling for the use of ecstasy, but for its prohibition. And certainly would not countenance its legalisation in sport. Sport is a celebration of life--not death!

All forms of drug taking should also be banned in order to provide a 'level playing field' in all sports for those competitors who do not indulge in them--whether for performance enhancing or recreational purposes. Otherwise, competition is unfair and, indeed, otiose. Sporting prowess and achievement should be obtained through hard work, self-discipline, dedication and a drug-free healthy body. Success should not depend upon the taking of unnatural, synthetic and harmful substances. …

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