Bioethics Blogs

The hypocritical path of human enhancement

Performance-enhancing drugs use is widespread throughout many competitive sports and attracts a considerable amount of university students. Around 1% of the United States population has misused anabolic steroids alone. Nonetheless, most amateur and professional athletes will deny their use. Scientific research on the area has halted and several claims about their effects have no scientific basis. Most means of obtaining such drugs are not trustworthy and many people might be putting their health at risk. While it seems there would be known safer (and riskier) protocols for taking them, given that no one can publicly endorse their use most users will only guess at what’s the best protocol. It is plausibly the case many sports would simply not exist at the present level if not due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Take bodybuilding before and after the development of modern anabolic steroids. Interestingly, even that last athlete will deny, and actually condemn, using steroids. Simply put, this area is dominated by hypocrisy and misinformation. I fear the exact same thing is happening with cognitive enhancement.

Firstly, while statistics reveal they are used by somewhere between 10 to 30% of university students, and even professors, few people will publicly admit their use – given the amount of taboo, one can hardly blame them. Secondly, just as it happened with doping in sport, there is a nearly complete disregard for scientific evidence – which has indicated some of these drugs are actually safer than coffee – and the construction of the belief cognitive enhancement is a risky business.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.