Unnatural Technology in a “Natural” Practice? Human Nature and Performance-Enhancing Technology in Sport
1. Introduction: Naturalness, Perfectibility, and Anti-Doping. Three Strongly Related Concepts
2. The View of the Spirit of Sport at the Heart of WADA
126.96.36.199 Medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the substance or method, alone or in combination with other substances or methods, has the potential to enhance or enhances sport performance;
188.8.131.52 Medical or other scientific evidence, pharmacological effect or experience that the use of the substance or method represents an actual or potential health risk to the Athlete;
184.108.40.206 WADA’s determination that the Use of the substance or method violates the spirit of sport. (p. 30)
- “the pursuit of human excellence through the dedicated perfection of each person’s natural talents;”
- “it is the essence of Olympism;”
- “how we play true;”
- “the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind,” and;
- “reflected in values we find in and through sport, including: Ethics, fair play and honesty; Health; Excellence in performance; Character and education; Fun and joy; Teamwork; Dedication and commitment; Respect for rules and laws; Respect for self and other Participants; Courage; [and] Community and solidarity.”  (p. 14, my emphasis).
Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting [(or perfecting)] and combining in a balanced whole the qualities [(or natural talents)] of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. (p. 11, my emphasis)
3. Scholarly Interpretations of the “Spirit of Sport” Principle: Superior Inborn Talents and Work Ethics
We want interesting contests, and we want athletes to be able to compete on a level playing field that is roughly level except for natural gifts, honed by dedication, that athletes bring to the competition. (p. 24)
Sport is a cultural practice in which human capabilities of particular performances are measured, compared, and ranked … More generally, developing these capabilities is considered to lead towards moral development of the individual. (p. 117)
4. What Concept of Human Nature Underpins WADA’s “Spirit of Sport” Criterion? Protestantism, Anti-Doping, and Human Nature
Farther, he calls every one to this rule also—that they bear in mind what is suitable to their calling. He does not, therefore, impose upon any one the necessity of continuing in the kind of life which he has once taken up, but rather condemns that restlessness, which prevents an individual from remaining in his condition with a peaceable mind and he exhorts, that every one stick by his trade.
Sport provided a counterweight to the existential impoverishment of work. [T]hrough the natural motions of sport, the stifled artisan was able to rediscover activities in which he could compete against himself, manipulate innate forces, and actively execute the craftsman-like skills inherent to traditional work. (pp. 133–134)
5. Challenging the “Effort-Based” View of Sport Underpinning WADA’s Justification of Anti-Doping
5.1. Why are Hard Work, Effort, and Excellence the Normative Cornerstones of Sport and Anti-Doping?
enriches the educational experience; encourages academic achievement; promotes respect, integrity and sportsmanship; prepares for the future in a global community; develops leadership and life skills; fosters the inclusion of diverse populations; promotes healthy lifestyles and safe competition; encourages positive school/community culture; and should be fun.
The Chicago Bulls organization is a sports entertainment company dedicated to winning NBA Championships, growing new basketball fans, and providing superior entertainment, value and service.
5.2. Could Anti-Doping be Grounded in an Assumption for Which Evidence is Less Ambiguous?
5.3. Are the Excellences Acquired Through Effort and Hard Work More Valuable than Those Resulting from other Aspects of Sport?
5.4. A Consensus around a Common View of Sport?
6. Conclusion: Anti-Doping, the Work Ethic, and the Natural
- Why are hard work, effort, and excellence the normative cornerstones of sport and anti-doping?
- Could anti-doping be grounded in an assumption for which evidence is less ambiguous?
- Are the excellences acquired through effort and hard work more valuable than those resulting from other aspects of sport?
Conflicts of Interest
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It must be noted that by “sport” here I mean professional, elite-level sport. For this is the type of sport most affected by WADA’s anti-doping regulation.
Or, better said, “What is the significance of competitive sport?” For the anti-doping campaign centers on controlling the use of banned substances in elite-level sport competitions. Only in the last decade, the use of performance-enhancing technology has been regarded as a public health problem and tackled at the amateur and non-competitive level in some countries.
This aligns with Pieter Bonte’s claim that appeals to the “spirit of sport” principle to morally evaluate differences in sport performance based on (a) the origin of sport performance (natural); (b) the processes by which performance is perfected (dedication and discipline); and (c) its outcome (individuals’ own performance) .
A clarification of what the term “we” stands for is needed. I take it to refer to the sporting community. However, this is still problematic for two reasons. First, it remains unclear who the members of such community are. Second, if as Murray argues, sport is a social good, then all members of a society, regardless of whether they are involved in sport, must be regarded as members of the sporting community. An in-depth investigation of who counts as a member of a practice community can be found in William J. Morgan’s Leftist Theories of Sport .
This position is widespread in the sporting community. For instance, the Lugano Charter issued by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) declares that the technical aspects of bicycles must be controlled so that “[t]he performance achieved [does not depend] more on the form of the man-machine ensemble than the physical qualities of the rider, [which] goes against the very meaning of cycle sport” . In cycling, as stated in the Charter, “The bicycle serves to express the effort of the cyclist, but there is more to it than that” .
Despite the strong connection between Protestant ethic and the ethos of modern sport, Allen Guttmann, in his seminal analysis of the origins of modern sports, From ritual to record. The nature of modern sports, argues that, the emergence of modern sports represents neither the triumph of capitalism nor the rise of Protestantism but rather the slow development of an empirical, experimental, mathematical Weltanschauung [(worldview)]  (p. 85).
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Lopez Frias, F.J. Unnatural Technology in a “Natural” Practice? Human Nature and Performance-Enhancing Technology in Sport. Philosophies 2019, 4, 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies4030035
Lopez Frias FJ. Unnatural Technology in a “Natural” Practice? Human Nature and Performance-Enhancing Technology in Sport. Philosophies. 2019; 4(3):35. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies4030035Chicago/Turabian Style
Lopez Frias, Francisco Javier. 2019. "Unnatural Technology in a “Natural” Practice? Human Nature and Performance-Enhancing Technology in Sport" Philosophies 4, no. 3: 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies4030035