Major League Baseball is reportedly on the verge of the largest drug bust in sports history. Some 20 players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, allegedly purchased performance‐enhancing drugs (PEDs) from BioGenesis, an "anti‐aging" clinic in Miami. The office of baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, is considering suspending these players for up to 100 games.
Presupposed by this punishment and baseball's ban is the principle that using PEDs is wrong. As a philosophy professor, I can't help but ask: What makes these drugs so bad? Why is it wrong to use them? In spite of all the focus on the use of PEDs in sports, this simple question of ethics is harder to answer than it might seem. Below are six popular yet flawed reasons for rejecting PEDs--and a less-familiar seventh reason that explains what's really wrong with them.
Reason No. 1: Using PEDs is cheating.
A natural first suggestion is that using PEDs is wrong because it's cheating. In an article for Salon titled "A-Rod Isn't a Cheater," the philosopher Alva Noe questions whether it's cheating when "a whole generation of the best and most promising athletes has been doing it."
Of course, it is still cheating. Baseball banned steroids in 1991, so anyone who used them after that was breaking the rules--including A-Rod. Moreover, it is simply false that all good athletes use PEDs. Even at the height of baseball's steroids era, there were those who chose to play clean. Consider former Major Leaguer Doug Glanville, a personal friend who first inspired me to think about these issues. Although Doug had a successful career, playing in the Big Leagues for nine years and managing over 200 hits one season as the Phillies' center fielder, there is no doubt that he would have had more hits, a longer career, and a bigger paycheck if he had followed the lead of many of his peers and used PEDs. But as he documents in his book The Game From Where I Stand (and as his slim frame and modest power numbers would seem to confirm), Doug played drug-free. He was certainly not alone.