Why punishing cyclists over drugs is dopey

In a recently published piece in The Age, Associate Professor Craig Fry explores the current thinking around drug use in sport.

"The Armstrong case is not just about the question of whether or not he blood doped or used banned performance-enhancing drugs in his record Tour de France wins.

At the heart of this story is a more important question about what is good policy on drugs and performance enhancement in sport.

Prohibition-based drug policies do not stop drug use. We have seen this time and time again with drugs like alcohol, cannabis, heroin, cocaine, and so on. The evidence here is clear and available – see for example the recent Australia21 report: Alternatives to Prohibition.

Despite what anti-doping authorities would have us believe, the current approach to drugs and doping in cycling is not working. Greater precision in modern testing science, and the likelihood of punishment has not rid elite cycling of performance enhancing drug use, or other elite sports for that matter.

It is unlikely to do so anytime soon, as long as the rewards and status we afford our elite sporting champions remain so excessive.

If we accept that drugs and doping will continue in elite cycling, then an alternative option would be to seriously examine the merits of a policy allowing open and regulated performance enhancing drug use and blood doping in elite cycling.

We are in a position to see how punitive drug policies encourage the users of proscribed substances to avoid responsibility for their choices, and amplify the unintended negative consequences of these choices for the individual, the sport, and the rest of us."

You can read the full article on The Age website.

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