The return of the Olympics has renewed questions about the use of drugs and medical science to enhance athletic performance. In the last Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Nordic skiing and cross country skiing teams were beset with doping scandals. The biennial outbreak of doping tests, charges, lies and expulsions leads naturally to the question about the ethics of using drugs to improve performance. While improved technology has given us the ability to detect the subtle, stealthy drugs, the same technology is also allowing for the development of subtler, stealthier drugs. Caplan argues that most of these performance-enhancing drugs are dangerous, risky and unsafe to use and using them to cheat is wrong from a normative point of view.
Caplan contends that, at the end of the day, integrity, as much as technology, will keep the Olympics drug-free. But, if “your countrymen only see gold medals as making the competition worthwhile, and if you yourself are competing with one eye on the opposition and the other on your endorsement contract, then integrity is in trouble.” If fame, honor, and money go only to those who cross the finish line first, then no matter what, the athletes will cheat. Public opinion, as in you and I, are as much responsible for doping in Olympics as unethical athletes and coaches.