Monday, August 21, 2006



Why do/should we even worry about drug usage and 'performance enhancement' of professional atheles? Why does it matter?

I was thinking about that and wondered if it was some sort of backwards distributional equity argument...

Is the only reason there is opposition, is because of the "War on Drugs"? Or is there some other reason?

Is it just that they (the athletes) are supposed to be some sort of role models. And we can't be letting them get away with that (letting the kids know the truth), i.e. seeing that you can be exteremely successful and wealthy and use drugs simultaneously?

Does anybody understand the motivation?

My girlfriend was appalled when I said I didn't think there should be rules about performance-enhancing drugs. She said it would be impossible for anyone who didn't do them to compete if the bans were repealed.

Also, I think it's up to each league what they want to do. They can make whatever rules they want. For example, if drugs are bad for basketball and good for football (in a business sense), then maybe they should have different rules.

Some people don't like that current players have technological advantages over former players. Balls and bats are supposed to be standardized, but what about modern exercise techniques and dietary supplements?

This is actually something I was wondering to myself last week. It kinda has me stuck.

On the one hand, maybe these rules established to promote efficient resource use by the players.

If we make performance enhancing drugs legal, then each player has an incentive to use drugs to gain a competitve edge over other players. But, if all of the players start using the drugs (equilibrium), then none of them will gain in relative position (assuming they each react to the drugs equally).

More resources are used to arrive at the same outcome So each player would be better off agreeing to not take any drugs in the first place. The ban on steroids might just be a way of enforcing such an agreement.

On the other hand, maybe drug restrictions are simply quality control measures to make sure the consumers get the product they want: a sport eventing that is based on discoverying the player(s) that "naturally" have the best athletic ability.


Either way, I'm not sure bans on steroids are a good or bad thing.
If you assume that drugs are bad, then this is a classic prisoner's dilemma. As long as there is advantage to be gained by using steroids, athletes will want to do it.

I definitely think that a ban is kind of stupid. What's the point? If everyone is allowed to do steroids, then the sport is still competitive. Yes, there are risks, but individuals can weigh them for themselves. I just don't see a downside of lifting the ban.

Of course, the governing sports bodies should be allowed to make that decision. I just think it's foolhardy to enact a ban that is really difficult to enforce.

Well one wouldn't have to think drugs are intrinsically bad to see that if all athletes used performance-enhancing drugs their relative performance would not change. Thus each player would be spending more time and money just to get the same outcome (and the same pay). Therefore, they would all be better off if they agreed not to use the drugs in the first place.

How do we know that this ban doesn't represent the agreement of all players to avoid steroid use? I havn't seen any players actually calling for the ban to be lifted (of course I don't follow sports much these days).

But we both agree that the decision should be left to the governing bodies.
Quoting Student: How do we know that this ban doesn't represent the agreement of all players to avoid steroid use?

Because if it were actually an agreement, it wouldn't be violated all the time. There are obvious reasons why players wouldn't call for a lift of the ban - reputation, possible investigations, etc.

That's why it's a prisoner's dilemma. Players prefer to use drugs themselves while everyone else obeys the ban. Thus, they have the advantage. There's no advantage if everyone uses; but it is, however, the equilibrium outcome.

The ban is an attempt to change people preferences. If athletes know that the consequences of being caught for drug use are large, they might be discouraged from it, changing their preference order and the outcome of the game. But, because enforcement is difficult, constantly changing technologies and big payoffs for drug use, the ban doesn't really work.
Jenna was referring to the relative potential increase of athletic ability to all drug users, so in "real" terms they would not be any different from their present ability (ceteris paribus)

I'm not sure why people breaking an agreement implies that an agreement doesn't exist.

It's the same problem with cartels. Each member of the cartel makes an agreement to only produce so much, but they all have an incentive to cheat. For example, just because Nigeria might produce a little more oil than said it would doesn't mean it isn't part of the OPEC cartel.

The steroids ban could be viewed as just a way for players to make sure the agreement is enforced.

Really, I'm not sure why else players would publically agree with the ban. To avoid investigations? maybe. But what would they get out of lifting the ban (aside of course from more "freedom")?
If you agree to not use steroids, then you go ahead and use steroids, you're just not really agreeing. You're basically saying, "well, that's good for other people, but not for me."

What would they gain?

1. No more scandals because everything would be out in the open.
2. Economic gains because enforcement costs money.
3. Choices.

I think an easier way to express the idea would just be to say that an agreement was broken. In my OPEC example, Niger might have agreed last year to only produce so much oil, but once it produces more oil it is breaking the agreement. Your language makes it sound like OPEC does not exist and things start to get confusing.

As for my question on benefits of lifting the ban, you are right that it will give the players the choice to use steroids and they wont have to pay to enforce the ban. But what would be the benefit of everyone using steroids?

We both agree that if everyone used steroids it would not change the player's relative positions. Thus, each player is spending more money just to stay where they were.

So the possibility that players would agree to ban steroids doesn't suprise me. Each player would be better off than they would be in a world of steroid-use. The fact that people break the agreement doesn't suprise me, and it apparently doesn't suprise anyone else because there are measures in place to fine these individuals.

Now, do the benefits of restricting steroid use outway the cost of enforcing the ban and lost freedom? I don't know. I'm sure the players have a better idea than me and none of them are calling for a ban lift.

Now this is all a positive argument for why baseball players would want to have a ban on steroid use. So don't confuse my positive argument with a normative one.

In any case, the associations think (for whatever reason) that bans on steroids are a good idea. It is unlikely that players have any say whatsoever.

Also, I can't agree that lifting the ban would create no relative change. With or without a ban, not everyone would choose to use steroids. The incentive structure would just change.

Semantics, indeed. :)

But you're probably right on the first count. I don't know enough about how leagues or teams are step up to say.

You're also right that in the real world some people might not use steroids even if it meant a drop in relative position (and the things that follow that drop). Though, they would have even more incentive to support such a ban.

But, then again, some people might react differently to steroids (some players might see an a greater increase in performance relative to others). These players would have extra incentive to support LIFTING the ban.

There were a lot of assumptions I was making when I gave my explaination for why the ban exists and why it might be a good thing.

I also assumed that the ammount of baseball being provided would not change as a result of steroid use. Am I right to say this?

I don't know. Everything I say could be wrong.
The one I definitely don't understand is the disqualification of snowboarders who have been using marijuana.

It's not exactly a performace enhancer.

Is it just because it's an illegal substance? Or because some dimwit really thinks it might positively affect athletic performance?
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