Sports doping is much in the news with the start of the Olympics and Paralympics at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Numerous commentators call for stricter regulations; staking out a different position is Georgia Law Professor Lisa Milot, formerly a high-level junior cyclist and now a scholar on law and performance-enhancing drugs. In a Vice Sports article by Patrick Hruby entitled “The Drugs Won: The Case for Ending the Sports War on Doping,” Milot says:
“Athletes are risk-takers. There’s no way to get to the international level of sports without being willing to put your body on the line on a regular basis.”
The article discusses Milot’s position, advanced in her 2014 article “Ignorance, Harm, and the Regulation of Performance-Enhancing Substances,” published in the Harvard Journal of Sports & Entertainment Law. She argues that regulators should concentrate on reducing the harm from substances, rather than banning them altogether. She tells Hruby:
“What we should be doing now is gathering information in order to understand how these substances work on healthy bodies. Focusing on that, rather than punishment.”
On punishment, current news indicates that even international organizations charged with regulating global sports appear to disagree:
► The Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency, “established in 1999 as an international independent agency composed and funded equally by the sport movement and governments of the world,” issued a report calling for a blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Olympic Games, which opened Friday and go through August 21.
► The International Olympics Committee, the 122-year-old organization headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, has taken a much more measured approach, banning some but by no means all such athletes.
► The International Paralympic Committee, based in Bonn, Germany, banned Russia’s team en masse from its event, set to begin on September 7, no long after the Olympic Games wrap up.
► Meanwhile, athletes from a host of countries have been cited for positive drug tests, or tarred with suspicion that their achievements have been chemically enhanced.
This tangle makes both Hruby’s article and Milot’s scholarship must-reads.