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Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line? Part I – The Problem

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We could make this simple and just say that using any performance enhancement deemed illegal is where:

> proper athletic training ends and cheating begins

> the attitude of “winning at all costs” exhibits major control

> the eroding of character/integrity establishes a strong foothold

It is a clear and definite line most anyone can understand, but is it clear enough? Does it truly define and clarify the underlining and intrinsic factors leading up to a choice such as PED’s (performance enhancing drugs)? Does that simplified definition give us the needed depth and breadth to rectify a problem that certainly has a gray area sitting between two extremes?

It should be obvious that proper nutrition through one’s meals and snacks, physical training and practicing for a sport, and even supplementation of basic nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, etc. needed for athletes to function both efficiently and effectively) would all fall on the appropriate side of the performance enhancement equation.

At the opposite end of that equation lies the illegal use of chemicals like HGH, anabolic/androgenic steroids, erythropoietin (for blood doping), etc., that artificially enhance an athlete’s performance through the building of tissue and/or cells. Basically, these chemicals change the athlete both physically and/or chemically. They directly and unnaturally inflate one’s potential, making it possible for athletes to become something they really are not and do things they otherwise would not be able to do.

However, between these two extremes lie a multitude of possibilities that also increase an athlete’s ability to perform. Some examples include:

> various supplemental methods used to help an athlete recover faster from intense training

> legitimate medical conditions requiring an athlete to take medications that contain possible performance enhancing substances

> artificial enhancements like contacts or glasses that increase visual acuity

> equipment modifications that boost efficiency and effectiveness (larger size racquets in tennis, better shoe materials for traction, aluminum bats in baseball)

> surgical procedures that support and/or replace torn/injured body tissue

> the multitude of likely future advancements (including nutritional/chemical supplementation) that fall somewhere between the two extremes discussed earlier

As we look at this issue from a broader perspective, it becomes more obvious that the “performance enhancing” landscape is changing, and will continue to change dramatically as time passes.

My purpose here is to try and make some sense out of a situation that is only going to get more complicated and to come up with some sensible guidelines that clarify the difference between positive and negative methods of enhancing one’s performance and draw that “line” referred to in the title of this blog. These guidelines will be the subject of my next post Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line? Part II.