Ethics in Society
Professional Baseball & Performance-Enhancing Drugs
Darrin Belousek considers different ethical perspectives on drugs in sport.
As a life-long fan and a former school player of baseball, my view on performance-enhancing drugs is not neutral: I think they are a scourge on the sport. As a philosopher who teaches ethics to university students preparing for professional careers, I also think performance-enhancing drugs are a serious ethical problem in the arena of professional sport. While most baseball fans agree that the use of performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the sport, and many even think that players caught using them should be banned too, the philosophical question is, why should that be so? This question may be analyzed from the perspectives of various ethical theories – for example, Kantianism, libertarianism, and utilitarianism. However, I will argue that none of these theories can tell us why performance-enhancing drug use should be banned, and that getting to the heart of the matter requires recourse to the ancient theory of virtue ethics.
The most common objection to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sport is that this is, basically, cheating – which implies a theft of opportunity from other players of the sport.