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09/03/2006

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Wang Yikai

In my opinion, the cost of banning certain activities is one factor determining whether these activities should be banned.

For example, in soccor, focusing on defending benefit every team, however, it is a zero-sum policy even a negetive-sum policy for all the soccer teams as a whole. Therefore, every team is willing to focus on defending, however, in the long run no one gains.

This is similar to doping.
So why is doping banned while focusig on defending is not banned, though it has been criticized for long?

My answer is the cost.
Banning doping is easy to conduct, while banning defending is unpractical, since there is no criterion in defending, liking doping. Thus banning defending will result in a troubled and chaos situation in soccer.

Bill Churchill

Dear Mr. Becker and Mr. Posner,

As always, it was a delight to read your insightful articles and many of the comments that were posted in response to them.

The “arms race” analogy and the proven detrimental effects of PEDs convince me that there is no long term gain to be had by doping in athletics. This fact is patently obvious to me. But a further detrimental effect exists in this type of “gaming the game” as well, which has to do with what I will call the “Gladiator effect.”

The “Gladiator effect” occurs when a game becomes stratified into hard nodes so that the possibility of an ability gradient ceases to exist between the “best” and “worst” players. When such a Gladiator effect exists, the result is that what used to be one game now will become two or more games.

The result of such a splitting of games is that they become different games altogether. That splitting might be good if everyone knew that some of the resulting games were not “real,” such as “professional wrestling” or “professional body-building.” The problem with PEDs is that they are done on the sly. This results in the kind of dishonest “competition” where seeming becomes more important than being. Thus, I believe that doping should be banned and diligently policed.

But how do we police sports doping? PEDs that are not now banned may become banned in the future—so, how do we reduce the likelihood that such substances become used by people who still observe the “letter of the law.” In auditing, we use profiles and ratios to track anomalies. When a deviation of practice exists, it cam often be detected by a deviation in the mix of outcomes. We can miss a lot if we merely keep up the present practice of testing for a “list” of banned substances. By testing normal performance subjects along a normal gradient of abilities, and over time, as they develop and deteriorate in performance, we can gain incite into profiles of overall substance mixes that exist as a result of natural discrepancies in ability. By testing suspected persons (or others at random) against this profile set, we can reduce the incidences of false negatives and false positives and send a warning out that though we may not know HOW athlete’s body was tweaked—we can likely do know THAT it was tweaked.

Posted by Bill Churchill (09-05-06).

jeff

Dr. Becker

My objection to your thought about legalizing drugs in sports is not the effect it will have on the game played by adults. It is the effect it will have on the games played by children.

Already, shoe companies are contacting children in 6th, 7th and 8th grade in their quest to find the next Michael Jordan. Kids compete now not for the love of the game, but for a college scholarship. Kids train hours all year, go to individual specialized lessons, have special strength and coordination coaches, just to make their HIGH school teams.

I was a competitive college athlete that received a scholarship to a division one NCAA school. The competition was intense back when I played, and it is more intense now. Friends of mine that played pro football say that they could not compete in todays game because they would not be big enough. But I guarantee that if they played today they would do everything they could to bulk up and play.

Banning drugs in sport is a good thing. While you say that you can have the druged and drug free event, it is logistically impossible to do that at the pro or division one collegiate level. I certainly appreciate your sentiments, but respectfully disagree with you on its cost to society.

mark

Didn't Armstrong prove he did not use performance enhancing drugs beyond a reasonable doubt? He has passed every drug test he has ever taken, which is quite a few. The only way to be 100% sure is for every athlete to be shadowed by an anti-doping cop 24 hours a day, 365 days a year or for drug tests to be conducted on a daily basis...neither option seems reasonable. Based on the evidence we have, I think we can nearly safely conclude he has been clean.

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