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Law prof asks: What’s wrong with performance-enhancing drugs for athletes?

Posted Jul 16, 2013 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Why ban performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports?

Case Western Reserve law professor Max Mehlman says athletes have always tried to improve their performance. Fiberglass poles boosted pole vaulting records, for example, and no one thought it was a big deal, Mehlman tells the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"There is nothing fundamentally wrong or ethically objectionable to PEDs," Mehlman tells the Plain Dealer. But he says doctors must supervise the drug regimen, and athletes must make an informed choice on whether to use them. And minors should not be allowed to use such drugs.

Mehlman acknowledges that steroid use is illegal in the United States without a doctor’s prescription, but he says it can prevent muscle tears and help muscles grow.

Genetic engineering and cloning will likely lead to impressive records of strength and speed in the future, Mehlman says. "They have weightlifting contests with untested competitors,” Mehlman told the newspaper. “People say, 'What's the point of that?' But why wouldn't you want to see how much weight a human can lift, not by using a mechanical lifter, but by using whatever diet, extra training and steroids can provide? Can a man lift 600 pounds? Let's find out."

Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston says in a follow-up story that he wrote about Mehlman’s views because he believes a national discourse on the issue is overdue, though he doesn’t agree with everything the law professor said. Livingston questions the health risks and the possibility that drugs allowed in professional athletics will lead to improper uses outside sports.

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