Bioethics Blogs

Doping in team sports: You’re doing it wrong

Written By Dr Christopher Gyngell

The 7th of February 2013 was described as the “darkest day in Australian sport”[1]. On this date the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) released results from a 12 month investigation detailing the extensive use of performance enhancing and illicit drugs in professional sport.

One of the most shocking claims to emerge from the ACC report was the systematic and organised doping occurring in Australian football codes.  The investigation found that high-performance coaches and sports scientists were facilitating the administration of performance enhancing chemicals to entire teams.

In 2011, 17 players at the rugby league club Cronulla were given the hormone GHRP-6 and the peptide CJC-1295. These substances increase the amount of growth hormone circulating in the body and boost lean muscle mass. The AFL club Essendon is alleged to have injected up to 34 players with thymosin beta 4 in 2012. This protein is believed to boost muscle growth and tissue regeneration.

Rather than looking at the broader ethics of team sports doping, I want to examine the methods used. If the goal of the doping programs at Cronulla and Essendon were to boost team performance, they must be considered failures.  In the 2011 NRL season Cronulla finished 13th, with the exact same amount of wins they achieved in the 2010 season. Essendon’s doping program was associated with a worse result for the team; dropping from finalist in 2011 to 11th in 2012.  This suggests that the doping programs at these clubs were unsuccessful on their own terms.

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.