Ethics, sport and doping

25 March 2010


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The ICB tackles the issue of doping by synthetically and generally framing it within sports ethics. After a preliminary definition of sport and an outline of the recent social developments of professionalization, the document highlights the fundamental values of this practical activity, identified in the personal commitment to demonstrate the athlete’s abilities and the fairness and honesty of the competition. Doping is a disvalue because it alters these conditions: it allows achieving results even in the absence of an active commitment, it introduces an unjust and unfair advantage in the competition, as well as causing harm to the athlete’s psychophysical health which also has negative social repercussions. The unacceptability of doping is a shared feeling in society, as it violates the fundamental rules of sport from an individual and a relational point of view, changing the meaning of sport, which becomes a pursue of success in itself.

The Committee examines the arguments of those who are in favour of liberalising doping, in order to verify their strength. However, even those who believe that autonomy is a value to safeguard in sport (at least to avoid the secrecy of this phenomenon, collect reliable epidemiological data, subject the athletes to medical checks when they are using doping substances), do not ethically accept doping, as it would cause “harm to others”, leading to doping even those who did not make use of it, in order to avoid being excluded from the competition, increasing healthcare costs for society because of the damage to health that would inevitably arise, making sport meaningless also in the collective imagination.

The Opinion also tackles some specific problems that emerge in relation to pharmacological research with the use of substances that cure illnesses for non-therapeutic purposes, or the use of therapies in the absence of pathologies and cases where the athletes have a genetic constitution that introduces a factor of “natural” advantage in the competition. These are specific matters that are inherent to general bioethical problems regarding health and illness, the improvement and the possible applications of pharmacological research.

The ICB’s final hope is for an increase of and an improvement in the control of doping and for a commitment in education, especially aimed at teenagers who are the most vulnerable subjects. The ICB believes that ethics demands the full availability of the data – with well-defined regulations – to scientific societies or patients and consumers associations, insofar as toxicological data and clinical studies are concerned, seen as the patients participate to the trials free of charge and with risk (even if limited). The availability of these data must be possible only after the procedures of authorisation or rejection have been completed. The ICB observes that the Food and Drug Administration publishes all the data whilst this does not happen with the European body EMA and consequently with all ICB agencies. The ICB hopes for an abolition of the secrecy so that the patients’ interest can prevail over industrial interests. The ICB recognises that Italian legislation (Law 578/93 and Decree 582/94) on ascertaining death, with the attached scientific guidelines updated in 2008, is extremely protective and prudent and has allowed medical institutions to adopt homogeneous practices. ‘resistance threshold’ (such as the psychological impact of being arrested, the trauma of imprisonment etc);

for the development of the monitoring and research of the phenomenon and for the specific training of prison workers starting with the examination of the single cases of suicide.

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