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Play up! Play up! And Play the Game!

The Colosseum being closed, and bear-baiters being out of business I watched some of the Lance Armstrong interview last night. Some train-wreck interest, certainly, but really….

Over at Reason Ron Bailey, uh, injects some sense of proportion into the whole tawdry affair:

So what? Well, the only reasonable objection is that it violated the rules; but other than that, why would any spectator care? Is the thrill of witnsessing a hard-fought competition thus somehow diminished? If enhancements undermine the competition, why not require cyclists to ride the same sort of bikes that were used in the first Tour de France in 1903? Surely the use of optimized light-weight bikes today is an enhancement?

Speaking of the 1903 Tour de France, “doping” was then an acceptable part of the race. At various points, cyclists evidently used ether, strychnine, and amphetamines to gain an edge…

Strychnine? Now that’s trying.

Bailey continues:

 Some people will argue that athletes must be protected against the temptataion to use enhancements because they could harm their health. However, athletes already take all kinds of health-harming risks just to play their games. Why shouldn’t adults be able to make up their own minds about the risk/reward calculus of using biological enhancements? The best way that policymakers and sports officials can reduce the harm to athletes that might result from using enhancements would be to bring their use out of the shadows and let it be done with the benefit of medical oversight and good research.

And then he adds this:

Why not solve the future problem of gene doping and the current problem of steroid use in professional sports by creating two kinds of sports leagues? One would be free of genetic and pharmacologic enhancements – call them the Natural Leagues. The other would allow players to use gene fixes and other enhancements – call them the Enhanced Leagues. Let fans decide which play they prefer.

Why not indeed? With the exception the occasional game of soccer (normally involving the England team’s endless quest for long-gone 1966), Slap Shot style slaughter on the ice, and nine seconds or so of Usain Bolt, I don’t watch much sport, but leagues involving the best that science can manufacture, now that would be something…