BC Enhancement and Cheating Implications for Policy in Sport Article Discussion
I’m working on a philosophy writing question and need a sample draft to help me learn.
Pick one of the two articles attached below to answer this question
this responses should be 2-3 pages in length (no more than 750 words). One half of the response should be a summary while the other half should be a critical response to the article. A good critique not only points out an issue but explains why the issue is an important one. You should bring up at least 2 criticisms. You are required to respond to one article. You can do a second article response if you choose, I will count the highest grade toward your final grade! Your grade will be assessed using the following criteria:
(1) – clear writing. These are short responses so being too wordy or unclear will drastically affect your ability to meet the 3 page maximum. Lack of clarity also affects my ability to assess your criticisms.(2) – accuracy of summary. Did you leave out any important points? Did you seem to understand the article?(3) – quality of your criticism. Did you consider the best possible criticism or was your criticism easily handled by the original article itself or with a basic understanding of the thesis of the article?
(4) – explanation of why the criticisms are important. Did you explain your criticism sufficiently?
Most abortion discussions usually revolve around the right of humans to life. Generally,
the topic of abortion is a sensitive one because it attracts both supporters and critics of it, who
have different perspectives, either religious or cultural. The supporters of abortion argue that
abortion should be legalized because people should have control over their bodies. Additionally,
they state that people should only give birth when they are comfortable doing so. The critics’
abortion argues that it involves taking away a person’s life. They argue that life begins after
conception. Therefore, aborting will mean that the person has committed murder; this argues that
abortion should be legalized and will provide reasons that support the argument. This paper
defends abortion, and it provides the reasons behind the support of that argument. State reasons
When people make their argument on the basis of human life, there is something both
parties miss. The first one is that it is true that life begins after conception, and it is amazing how
the human body develops fast in that the fetus begins developing arms and legs in the early
months. Therefore, one cannot argue that life does not begin at birth because this is a fact that
anyone can decipher. People should ask themselves what step they should take after realizing
that the fetus is actually as equal as a live human being. Most previous people who have
supported abortion have argued that life does not begin at conception, and it begins after birth
(Fisher, 2013). This argument is baseless because they tend to shy away from the biological
concept of life development. People should not try arguing with the facts that have been there for
the past years. It is worth noting that humans’ life begins after conception, the same way that a
plant’s life begins after fertilization, which results in germination. This paper, therefore, rules out
the argument on the basis of whether a fetus is a live human being or not.
Judith Jarvis Thomson presented a viable argument that makes it easy to understand
abortion. She likens a fetus to a dying violinist. This example has become famous in research
because it helped in elaborating the situation of a pregnant woman who wants to abort. She
likens the fetus to a violinist who is on the verge of dying. He needs a kidney transplant urgently
for him to be able to survive (Thomson, 2006). The doctors then capture someone, hijack them,
tie them down, and remove their kidney by force to help the dying man. This person’s kidneys
are used to cleanse that dying person’s blood because he has a right to live. The doctors then tell
the person that he is supposed to stay in that position for several months in order to sustain the
life of that violinist. This person is not sure of when he will come out of that place. There is a
high possibility that he will stay there for life because the sick man needs his kidneys for all the
time that he is alive.
From the explanation given above, Judith likens the violinist to the fetus. People who
support the abolition of abortion argue that the pregnant female has the obligation of keeping the
pregnancy because she is not supposed to take an innocent child’s life. No one states that the
innocent baby does not have the right to life. However, its existence is entirely dependent on the
capability of the mother to bring it to this world. In the case of the violinist, the donor would
have done it willingly if someone had asked him about donating the kidneys to the dying man
(Fisher, 2013). In that case, the person would have had the chance of weighing the available
options and the pros and cons of donating their kidneys. In that case, the decision to help the
dying man will have come from this person’s heart, and they would have done it willingly, unlike
in the example where they were forced to do it. A forced situation and a free-will situation will
have the same results, and the only difference is the means of action and the consequences of the
action. In the forced situation, the person will donate the kidneys but will not be at peace
afterwards because the act of donation was forced on them. As of the free-will situation, the
person will decide on whether or not to donate the kidneys. In this case, the potential donor will
analyze the situation and think into it before making the decision.
The same applies to the issue of abortion. If a person is forced to give birth because they
are not allowed to kill in the name of abortion, then the person will not have peace of mind later
on. No one is supposed to dictate what happens on other people’s bodies, even if it involves
rescuing other people’s lives. There are many cases of post-partum depression, and some of the
extreme incidences can be avoided by giving birth willingly. Other people lack the connection
with their children because they did not plan to have them, which results in a strained
relationship between the mother and the children (Thomson, 2006). People should be allowed to
decide when to give birth. Before a person decides on whether to have children, they should
ensure that they have all the necessary conditions. A person should be not only financially stable
but also emotionally stable. Parent is attached to their children because they make them happy,
and they see them as a source of blessings. This will not be possible when a female is forced to
have a child. Giving birth to a child who was not planned for the same as helping as the violist.
In both scenarios, there is a possibility of saving that life or ending it. The potential donor
represents the pregnant woman.
This paper applies another theory that can be used to explain why abortion should be
legalized. This is the people-seeds theory. This theory argues that there are situations that happen
in life and force people to change their plans in order to accommodate them. Feinberg (1978)
gives an example of a person who has gone camping. They get cold and have to use a building,
which they think is someone’s property. The person then helps themselves by burning the wood
they found in the house to keep warm. When the house owner comes back and finds an intruder,
the person will have to apologize to avoid the consequences. This scenario states that there are
some situations in people’s lives where they are forced to adapt and change their present ways.
For example, when a person gets pregnant, they will have to adjust their lives in order for them
to fit in the new condition. Feinberg (1978) likens the intruder with the fetus and the pregnant
woman with the owner of the house. The fetus gets inside the human body and stays comfortable
there. It is the owner’s decision that will determine whether it will stay inside that body or not.
The house owner might decide whether to allow the intruder to stay in the house or kick them
The example given is just an indicator that people are in charge of their bodies. A woman
has the right to decide what will happen to her body because it belongs to her. The fetus can be
likened to the intruder, and the house owner’s decision is what will determine whether it will
continue staying in that person’s body. The house owner might decide to be hospitable and host
the intruder, and this is keeping the pregnancy. In that case, the woman will have made her own
decision, considering her reasons, on the benefits of keeping the pregnancy. On the other hand,
the woman might feel that she is not ready to host an intruder in her house and decide to
terminate the pregnancy. Either way, the woman is correct because her body is in question here,
and she has the right to decide when to give birth and when she is most comfortable to support a
pregnancy since it is not an easy task.
In conclusion, the paper presents two major points. The first point is that the right of life
cannot override another person’s choice to freedom to make choices. A person should be given a
chance to make a choice of whether they want to save that person’s life. In that, a woman should
be given the freedom to choose whether to keep the pregnancy or not. The second point is that a
woman should have control over what happens to her body, and she has the right of keeping or
removing the pregnancy because it is happening in the woman’s body.
Feinberg, I. (1978). Efference copy and corollary discharge: implications for thinking and its
disorders. Schizophrenia bulletin, 4(4), 636.
Fisher, J. (2013). ‘Abortion and Ownership’.
Thomson, J. J. (2006). A defense of abortion. Bioethics: An Anthology, 2, 40.
Enhancement and Cheating: Implications for Policy in Sport*****1
Justin Caouette and Allen Habib
There is a widely held view that the rules forbidding the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)
are justified on grounds that utilizing these drugs constitutes cheating2. In this chapter we engage
with this assumption. Relying on an interpretative approach borrowed from Ronald Dworkin, we
offer a novel analysis of cheating, one that makes it out to be a matter of inhibiting the attainment
of certain sorts of achievements. These achievements are the important goods at the centre of
sport, the telos of sport. We then argue that a given enhancement should be regarded as cheating
only when it inhibits or prevents competitors from realizing these important goods.
What Is Enhancement?
Enhancement, as traditionally defined, is any intervention in the body or brain “designed to improve
human form or functioning beyond what is necessary to sustain or restore good health” (Juengst
1998, 29; Harris 2007)3. Under this broad definition many substances could be considered an
enhancement, but not all enhancing substances have been banned in sport. Rather a set of newer
substances, generally aimed at improving speed, recovery, stamina, and strength have been
targeted and banned by the governing bodies of numerous sports. A cursory glance at both the
National Football League Policy on performing enhancing substances (last updated in 2015) or the
World Anti-Doping Association’s (WADA) Code (updated in January 2018) shows lists of these
banned substances, as well as information on how and when athletes will be tested.
However, what you will not find is an explicit justification for having these rules in the first place.
The assumption seems to be that taking these substances would be giving the athlete an unfair
advantage of some kind; in other words, taking these substances would be cheating. But is this
assumption justified? Is taking a drug to put forward your best performance unfair or cheating in
some way? And if so where does the cheating lie?
As we write, the International Olympic Committee has recently banned Russia from competition in
the 2018 winter games in South Korea. This unprecedented punishment is the result of Russia’s
system-wide, state-sponsored chemical enhancement (in a word, doping) program, which seemed to
take place leading up to and during the last winter games in Sochi, Russia4. What better time for a
IMPORTANT NOTE (Please cite published version which can be found in: The Handbook
for Philosophy and Public Policy, David Boonan (Eds), Palgrave Macmillan 2018.
See Maartje Schermer, “On the Argument that Enhancement is “Cheating””, Journal of Medical Ethics 34:
(2008) 85-88. Also see Rebecca Roache, “Enhancement and Cheating”, Expositions 2 (2008):153-156.
Eric Juengst, “What Does Enhancement Mean?” in Erik Parens, ed., Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and
Social Implications (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1998), 29-47 at 29; John Harris, Enhancing
Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2007)
At the 2002 Winter Olympics Russian cross country skiers were stripped of their medals after tests revealed
they tested positive for performing enhancement drugs. “Expelled for Doping Violations”, Chicago Tribune,
Feb 25, 2002 at pg 5”
look at our first underlying question – ‘Is enhancement cheating? ’But that question rests on an
earlier one ‘ –What is cheating? ’
What is Cheating? The Fairness Approach
The traditional analysis of cheating is what we call the fairness approach. This view makes cheating
out to be a matter of unfair advantage over other competitors. The standard formulation has two
conditions: that the cheater break a rule of the sport, and that that rule breaking result in their
gaining an (in-game) advantage over their opponents. So, for example, a baseball pitcher who alters
the surface of the ball so as to make it wobble on the way to the batter is cheating because 1) it’s
against the rules to alter the ball and 2) the alteration results in an advantage over the batter.
But the traditional approach has some persistent problems. The primary difficulty is that there are
troubling counter-examples that seem to show that these two central conditions are neither
sufficient nor necessary for cheating.
So, for example, basketball players who intentionally foul opponents in the dying minutes of a close
game are breaking a rule to gain an advantage, but (arguably) not cheating. At least we don’t
demand action to rectify the situation when it occurs, like we do with cheats.
And badminton players who deliberately throw a match in order to get into the (easier) loser’s
bracket in the tournament are cheating (according to the International Badminton Federation)
despite not breaking a rule. And many instances of deliberately under-performing, either for ingame or external motives, feel like cheating, although many (most?) sports and games do not
mandate maximum performance or effort on the part of players.
In the face of these difficulties theorists add extra conditions on what it means to cheat to handle
these counter-example cases; conditions such as that the supposed cheater must attempt deception
or secrecy, or that they must have mens rea-style intentionality concerning the act, or a requirement
that the violated rule be fairly applied, and on and on. But no conditional analysis is entirely free of
counter-examples, and cheating as a concept has lost its lustre among theorists of sport.
In fact, in a recent influential survey of the work in this area by the editor of the Journal of the
Philosophy of Sport, JS Russell, came to a deflationary conclusion: cheating isn’t a useful concept at
all, because it is too vague5. It is at best an emotivist expression of moral censure, and given its
shaming moral scolding tone and other difficulties, we would be better served abandoning the
concept as a theoretical constituent altogether, and replacing it with sport-specific moral talk and
We are sympathetic to Russell’s complaints, and we will also propose a kind of sophistication in our
moral talk about cheating and sport – but we don’t think we need to abandon the concept, or
deflate it away. Rather, taking a page from the philosophy of law, we should construe sport, and the
cheating in it, in an interpretive way.
A New Approach – Interpretivism
J.S.Russell “Is There a Normatively Distinctive Concept of Cheating in Sport (or anywhere else)?”, Journal of
the Philosophy of Sport, Volume 41, 2014 pp 303-323.
The fairness approach, while intuitively appealing, faces difficulties because (we argue) of it’s
formalist flavour. By this we mean that the view requires that there be explicit rules of the game,
and that the cheater break (at least one of) these rules. But, as the examples above demonstrate,
the rules alone are insufficient for determining whether a participant is cheating. This might be
because the rules themselves contemplate their violation and assign predictable in-game penalties,
like foul shots in basketball, or because the sport might lack a rule covering the incident, like in
badminton, or any number of other deficiencies in the formal legislative corpus.
We note that this situation mirrors another debate in jurisprudence, between so-called ‘positivist ’
theories of the law, and their critics in other schools, such as the natural law tradition. We propose
then to try and glean some insight into the question of cheating by examining that debate.
There is a long tradition of searching for insights into the nature of law by way of analogies with
sport. The correspondences between the two worlds are at the surface: rules, putative violations,
practices of adjudication, punishments, etc. We propose here that jurisprudence might return the
favour, and serve as a fruitful analogy for our understanding of sport.
Jurisprudence, Positivism and Hard Cases
To begin, let’s quickly rehearse the portion of the history of jurisprudential theory development that
we want to highlight. The traditional view of the law in western philosophy, from the early medieval
period to the Victorian, was what we call the Natural Law view. On this view, human law is a part of
a larger complex of laws and principles of morality and other normative systems. Human law is
teleological, with the goal of ‘justice’, or ‘the common good’, or some similar virtue, as its telos, and
it is informed and circumscribed by the rules of morality.
Jeremy Bentham, famously, had little time for the natural law view. Bentham instead proposed a
theory of law that emphasised its social production and political use: the law was the method of
control used by the state, and it was a creature of the state. Bentham’s view reaches a certain
apogee with the work of his protegee, John Austin, whose ‘Province of Jurisprudence Determined ’
lectures, collected and printed a few years after they were delivered at University College London,
became the standard bearer of the view. Austin makes the law out to be a species of command from
political sovereigns. The root concept is one of a command, from an authority to a subordinate. Such
a command, properly generalized and made permanent, is a law, and the collection of them is ‘the
law’, so long as the issuer is in fact the proper political authority, a ‘sovereign ’in Austin’s words.
Bentham and Austin are interesting to us here for their pioneering of what came to be called
‘positivism’. At its core, positivism is a negative doctrine – it’s the denial of some of the central
tenets of the Natural Law, that law is bounded by (or in the service of) morality. The central
positivist commitment is called the ‘Separation thesis’, that law and morality are conceptually
separate, such that one is possible without the other.
But positivism also has more substantive formulations – it says something about what the law is,
not just what it isn’t. And Bentham and Austin’s version makes law out to be social and political.
Social in that it is produced and enforced by people alone, political in that it is distinguished from
other impositions of rules by the nature of the source, the state or sovereign.
In the middle of the last century, HLA Hart offered a substantial amendment to the positivist picture
that Bentham and Hart had established6. Hart was troubled by the simplicity and clumsiness of the
command system that Austin had proposed, and in particular he critiqued the relationship between
the Austinian sovereign and the law. Hart proposed a sophistication of the view, with the
introduction of the concept of meta-rules, or rules about rules, as well as other theoretical
But much of the substantive analysis of positivism remained the same between Hart and Austin: the
law was still social and political, and it was still, ontologically, merely a collection of formal rules
issued by the sovereign, in accord with the rule of recognition. And of course, it was still ‘separate’,
i.e. it was not conditional on morality, it did not need to be ‘just ’or ‘good’.
Ronald Dworkin produced a widely influential critique of the Hart version of positivism in the 1970s,
and 80s. Dworkin offers a variety of arguments, but the one that interests us here was introduced in
an early essay “The Model of Rules”. This is an argument against Hart’s theory of adjudication, by
appeal to what we call ‘hard cases’.
Hard cases are cases that the rules of the law don’t meet ‘head-on’, as it were; cases where it’s not
obvious what the law says or should say about a given set of actions. Dworkin helpfully classifies the
cases by type – some are the results of vagueness in the law, or gaps in its lists, or novelty in our
artefacts or practices unforeseen by the legislators.
But others, more difficult ones, are the results of unforeseen and unintended consequences of the
rote application of the rules in particular instances. The most famous of these is the case of Riggs vs.
Palmer, wherein Riggs, an heir impatient for his fortune, had killed his grandfather. After having
been caught, tried, convicted and having served a lengthy prison term, Riggs then applied for his
share of the estate, as a legatee.
Under the law of testaments, the grandfather’s will, duly and properly constituted, was sound, and
Riggs was as such a legal beneficiary of the estate. There was no provision, in either the
testamentary civil law nor the criminal law, for murderers of their benefactors not to receive their
inheritance. As such, it would seem that the law directs that Riggs inherit. But the court found
otherwise, claiming that to uphold the rule here would make the court complicit in Riggs crime, by
rewarding his bad action, and so refused to grant him his legacy.
Here, Dworkin argues, the problem isn’t that the rules are imprecise, or lacking. Rather the problem
is that the rules ‘get it wrong’. This, argues Dworkin, puts the lie to the idea that the law is only the
rules and their application. If we agree with the Riggs court, we can see that sometimes judges have
to alter or abandon the rules in order to get the ‘right ’answer.
Now Hart agrees with Dworkin that sometimes the rules of the law simply aren’t up for the job, and
when that happens, Hart proposes that judges have the power to simply make new law. This power,
that he calls judicial discretion, is unbound by the rule of law, since it occurs, by definition, when the
rules of law have ‘run out’. But nor is this discretion bounded (conceptually, anyhow) by morality, for
Hart; to admit that is to lose what is central to positivism. Rather, Hart proposes that the discretion
is absolute, that judges simply do what they do as they see fit, without constraint.
HLA Hart. Concept of Law. Oxford Clarendon Press, 1961.
Dworkin argues that hard cases and their adjudication makes that theory of adjudication seem
lacking. The Riggs court hadn’t ‘run out ’of law, quite the opposite, the law was plain and plainly
controlling. Moreover the court did what it did because it felt bound by the demands of justice,
rather than merely being empowered to override the rules and then doing so, without direction.
The positivist theory of the law, we argue, is relevantly similar to the formalist condition of the
fairness approach to cheating, in that it is centred on the rules, making them out to be the essence
of the law, and criminality understood exclusively in terms of their violation. Further, the sorts of
arguments Dworkin makes against the positivist view are echoed in the counter-examples we
alluded to above. Like those cases, the rhetorical structure of the arguments invoking Dworkinian
hard cases is something like: here is a case of what intuitively seems like a justiciable transgression,
but where the rules don’t bear that judgment out. So too bad for the rules!
So if positivism is like the fairness approach, and Dworkinian hard cases are like cheating counterexample cases, what can we learn from this? One obvious upshot might be to look toward Dworkin’s
proposal for a replacement theory that handled the sorts of difficulties he outlined, and try and
fashion a similar theory of sport and cheating along its lines. This is what we propose to attempt
Sport as an Interpretative Endeavour
Dworkin proposes, as an alternative to the formalist positivism of Hart, a theory of law that makes it
out to be crucially an interpretive endeavour. The law and its practice are a collective and ongoing
act of interpretation by the various parties involved, interpretation which is guided by the ultimate
aims of the practice. For Dworkin, participants in the law game interpret various moves in it by the
lights of the ultimate aims of the law, things like justice, fairness and right.
So what would a Dworkinian analysis of sport be? One that makes it out to be an interpretive
practice. Dworkin offers us a detailed example of an interpretive practice, in the form of the practice
“[Imagine that the members of a community] follow a certain set of rules, which they call
“rules of courtesy” on certain social occasions. They say, “Courtesy requires that peasants
take off their hats to nobility” for example, and they urge and accept other propositions of
that sort. For a time this practice has the character of a taboo: the rules are just there and
neither questioned nor varied. But then, perhaps slowly, all this changes. Everyone
develops a complex “interpretive” attitude towards the rules of courtesy, an attitude that
has two components. The first is the assumption that the practice of courtesy does not
simply exist but has value, that it serves some interest or purpose or enforces some
principle – in short, that it has some point – that can be stated independently of just
describing the rules that make up the practice. The second is the further assumption that
the requirement of courtesy – the behaviour it calls for or the judgements it warrants – are
not necessarily or exclusively what they have always been but are instead sensitive to this
point, so that the strict rules must be understood or applied or extended or modified or
qualified or limited by that point. Once this interpretive attitude takes hold, it is no longer
unstudied deference to a runic order. People now try to impose meaning on the institution
– to see it in its best light – and then to restructure it in light of that meaning.” (Law’s
So the crucial components of the interpretive analysis are a) some point or purpose to the sport that
gives it value and meaning, and b) an understanding that the actual judgements inside the sport be
properly sensitive to that meaning. Courtesy, Dworkin goes on to say in the example, might be
understood as about showing respect. That then might be the animating purpose of the practice,
and arguments about individual judgements of moves in the practice are to be made with regards to
this telos: Is tipping one’s hat sufficiently polite? Must one use salutations in a text message? These
are questions that are answered by reference to the idea of respect, and its manifestations in the
engagements of the practice.
And this then is the sort of analysis we propose for cheating in sport: judgments about whether
something is a cheat will turn on our judgements about the goals or purposes of (the) sport, and
whether and how the action at hand inhibits or encourages them. Roughly, on our view, to call
something a cheat is to say that it is incompatible with the ‘best ’interpretation of the sport,
meaning that it blocks or otherwise hinders the important goals of the sport.
Now sports and games are large and complex social institutions, and as such serve many roles for
many different participants. How shall we decide which set of theses constitutes ‘the purpose’ of
sport for the analysis? One thing we can say is that the sort of purpose, the telos, of sport we are
interested in here must be ‘internal’ to sports themselves. By this we mean that the goals of the
sport must be conceptually connected to the sport itself – rather than conceptually independent of
it. International competition in ice hockey has certainly been the source of much national pride, and
a booster of civic morale, at least for Canada. But the question of whether Bobby Clarke cheated by
slashing Valeri Kharlamov in game 6 of the 1972 Summit Series shouldn’t be decided by reference to
its effect on civic pride. That is a judgement ‘internal’, in our sense, to hockey itself. It is a conceptual
matter, about how hockey’s rules concerning these sorts of actions should be interpreted.
So what are the defining internal goals of sport? Why do we engage in sport, and what makes this
engagement worthwhile? We propose that sports are at heart for the purpose of making possible
and facilitating important human achievements. These achievements are in turn instances of human
excellence, the sorts of things that are worthy of pursuing, worthy of admiration, and plausible
elements of a good life. We propose two categories of these achievements (although we make no
claim that this list is exhaustive): Sporting achievements and athletic achievements.
Sporting achievements are those that concern what we might call internal actions of individual
sports. These are things like goals, home runs, laps, and things of that sort. These achievements are
thus essentially sporting achievements, by which we mean not that the actions that underlie the
achievements, say hitting a thrown ball over a fence, are impossible without the sports. Rather, it is
‘home runs’ that are impossible, since they are a category of reality that exist in Baseball only. This is
a matter of the distinction Rawls’ makes between regulatory and constitutive rules in his ‘Two
Concepts’ essay. Constitutive rules make new categories of reality, like ‘home run’ or ‘basket’, and
are thus constitutive of (and thus essential to) those actions themselves.8
Sporting achievements can be singular, like one golden goal, or composite, like 92 goals in a single
season. They can be achievements of individuals or collectives, and they can be more and less
Ronald Dworkin. Law’s empire. Harvard University Press, 1986.
John Rawls. “Two concepts of rules.” The philosophical review 64.1 (1955): 3-32.
important and worthy of appreciation. We generally venerate achievements of this sort that are
either the best in a certain category (the record) or very important for some other reason (the game
The second sort of achievement is athletic achievement. By this we mean achievements of physical
activity that demonstrate the athletic virtues: strength, speed, grace, dexterity, etc. Sports of various
kinds produce, and are designed at least in part specifically to produce, these sorts of impressive
athletic feats. When we watch the lifter heft the bar bending with weight, when we see the fielder
leaping a meter in the air to catch the ball at the fence, we see human excellence on display –
Interpretation and Cheating
If we grant then that sport is an interpretive endeavour, and that its telos is sporting and athletic
achievements, what does that make cheating? We propose that cheating is acting so as to inhibit the
attainment of these goals, for the cheater.
How does this work? In the case of sporting achievements, a cheat is something that vitiates the sort
of action described in the constitutive rule. This generally occurs because the equipment and
conduct requirements for the action are built in to the action, as it were. Consider the baseball
pitcher again. The individual sporting achievements that are ‘throwing a strike’, striking out a batter’,
and the like include as an element of the action the relevant equipment requirements: The ball must
be of a certain weight and composition, the mound a certain height and distance from the plate, etc.
If these conditions aren’t met, the action is impossible. I can’t throw a ‘real’ perfect game if the
mound is 3 feet closer to the plate – that’s simply not a perfect game.
And the sorts of alterations to the surface of the ball that the cheating pitcher wants to make are not
contemplated by these action requirements. Throwing a strike with a juiced or cut ball, if the
alteration is sufficiently severe so as to fall outside of the equipment requirements for the sport, just
isn’t throwing a strike at all, in the same way throwing one from 57 feet isn’t either.
Similarly if I do not run all or part of the course, but hide in the bushes and jump out near the end,
I’ve made the action of ‘finishing the course in good time’ impossible, since I haven’t finished the
course at all.
Athletic achievements might be vitiated by making the conduct that compose them impossible,
generally because included in the description of these actions are conditions of effort and
authenticity. By this we mean that athletic feats are only feats at all if they are genuinely feats of the
person themselves, and are the results of focused effort and attention. If we discover, for example,
that the fielder had a bench or stool at the base of the wall to jump onto in his pursuit of the ball, or
if a basketball player has springs in his shoes to aid in his vertical lift, we don’t see their
achievements in the same light. A high jump is laudable if it is, at least in these circumstances,
unassisted in the relevant way.
Is Enhancement Cheating?
To return to our initial question then, on our analysis, is enhancement cheating? If it is, it must then
vitiate the achievement of important sporting or athletic achievements. How might that happen? In
the case of sporting achievements, it might happen by coding the lack of enhancement into the
action itself. So we might describe the action ‘hitting a home run’ to include not only equipment
requirements, but also requirements that the athlete not be ‘enhanced’ in the relevant way.
While this might work in a formal sense, it doesn’t strike us as very plausible as an explanation of
why enhancement is cheating. We need a reason to include the enhancement condition in the
description of the sporting achievement, one that doesn’t beg the question against the
enhancement itself. But what might this reason be? We have good independent reasons to mandate
equipment requirements – not the least of which is the attempt to standardize the action to some
degree, to allow for comparison and assessments. But there’s no similar reason available for barring
enhancement – rather the sorts of effects that enhancements have – improving athletic ability – are
more naturally issues for athletic achievements, rather than sporting ones.
So how might enhancement vitiate athletic achievement? The intuitive reasoning, often overheard
in the popular discussion of the issue, is that enhancement might make athletic achievement hollow
or somehow unworthy9. To see how this might happen we should first say something about
achievements more generally.
Following Gwen Bradford, we might say that achievements share a common structure10. There must
be a process and a product. The process culminates in a product. Whether the process is distinct
from the product or not, the process and product must be related in a certain way in order to count
as an achievement. This relation must be competently caused by the individual engaged in the
process for it to be considered an achievement for that individual. There is a further condition
beyond competent causation as well. One must also contribute to the process through one’s own
effort. To overcome some difficulty and to apply one’s own effort to do so is to achieve something
So for Bradford, a product must be competently caused by a difficult process in order for it to be
considered an achievement. Achievements are valuable on her view “because they are
manifestations of special human features” (Ibid). Now, utilizing the Dworkinian interpretative
analysis in the case of achieving excellence in basketball we can say that achieving excellence in
basketball is meaningful because in doing so we manifest the features necessary for excellence in
playing basketball. These features include different levels of effort depending on our competition
and it may turn out that we do not need to exert our efforts in mastering the game if we use a
If this is true, then we can see why enhancing could be cheating. If the reasons for competing are to
exert our maximal effort over long periods to gain mastery so that we can achieve excellence, in this
case excellence in basketball, then using an enhancement that allows us to exert much less effort
would be insufficiently sensitive to the goods that basketball can provide. The main good we have
discussed in competitive basketball is to achieve excellence. It’s important to note here that the
goods are salient in the discussion are what Alasdair MacIntyre has dubbed “goods internal to a
practice”. External goods are goods that come from playing the game, so to borrow MacIntyre’s
example, winning a prize in chess is an external good of chess whereas the internal goods of chess
are identifiable only in the context of playing the game itself. One acquires these internal goods
See Justin Caouette, Assessing The Moral Evaluations Of Pharmacological Enhancements, (forthcoming
dissertation, Ch 2)
Gwen Bradford, Achievement, (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015) see chapter 5 especially.
Also See Simon Keller’s “Welfare and the Achievement of Goals” Philosophical Studies 121. (2004): 27-41.
according to MacIntyre when one ponders different end game strategies, or when one evaluates the
possible sacrifice of a queen12.
To properly achieve excellence within the context of a specific practice is to master the skills
necessary to play the game well. This is done by consistently acquiring the goods internal to the
practice in question13. And if achievement requires a certain amount of effort to overcome difficulty
in mastering a skill, which according to Bradford it does, we can now see how using an enhancement
could in principle be cheating as certain enhancements may require far less effort, less than we may
find necessary for us to receive the goods that are internal to the game, goods necessary to acquire
in order to garner athletic achievements. That said, it is not clear that many of the enhancements we
currently have on offer in sport (anabolic steroids and stimulants among other performance
enhancers) allow us to give any less effort when competing. So it seems that we at least have a
framework to evaluate if an enhancement is cheating, and if we should have rules banning certain
substances in the first place.
Given what we have said thus far, what can we say about policies surrounding the use of
performance enhancing drugs? We suggest that bans against specific substances should be
considered on a case-by-case basis, sensitive to the effect that they have on effort, and in turn the
goods internal to the sport that athletes are engaged in. As Nicholas Agar aptly pointed out “internal
goods of our activities respond differently to enhancement” (ibid pp 29). By this he means that
enhancements increase one’s ability to a certain point but then the quality and quantity of the goods
tend to decline (ibid). So bans on certain substances will have to be considered by focusing on how
the enhancement that occurs from the substance interacts with one’s ability to ascertain the goods
internal to their sport, and in turn how the enhancement affects their ability to achieve excellence in
It’s also worth noting that bans of this sort have the effect of excluding those that may need an
enhancement to compete and to gain external goods that accompany many of our sports these
days. Those not endowed by the genetic lottery may need a few more pounds of muscle to compete
and absorb the hits of other opponents, depending on the sport of course. We allow other natural
disadvantages to be overcome (i.e. inferior coaching, training, techniques, and equipment). We do
not bar competitors from closing these gaps by rule, thus we suggest that argument is needed for
why this case should handled differently. Bans against performance enhancing drugs should aim to
better protect the goods internal to the sport (without also barring those external goods to athletes
that may be left out due to circumstances outside of their control) so that achievements can easily
be had by those participating in the practice in question.
Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, (NotreDame University Press, 1986)
Nicholas Agar, Truly Human Enhancement: A Philosophical Defense of Limits, (MIT Press 2014). Here Agar
discusses a similar use of MacIntyre’s internal/external goods distinction to weigh in on the enhancement