Rethinking Enhancement in Sport (2006)


Miah, A. (2006) Rethinking Enhancement in Sport, in Bainbridge, W.S. and M.C. Roco Progress in Convergence, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol, 1093, pp.301-320.

"Each of the issues and effects that have been discussed are imbued with sim- ilar philosophical concerns about the human condition and the degree to which enhancement technology can alter it. The ethical debate must take into account the risks to vulnerable groups, such as children or athletes who enhance be- cause they feel coerced and the liberties of adults who make lifestyle decisions about body modification (Miah 2005b). Yet, it must also consider the limits of ethical policy making within the world of sport and the relationship of this to broader structures of ethical governance within society. When considering what should be the strategy for anti-doping officials in relation to gene doping, it is necessary to return to fundamental questions about the value of sport, consider how these values might have changed, and recognize the broader bioethical context within which decisions about medical technology are made. This requires that elite sports organizations reevaluate established systems of rewarding excellence, in order to promote a moral climate in sport that takes into account inherent natural and social inequalities, which are constitutive of sports practices.

The conceptual framework of technological effects is useful for (a) establish- ing how ethical issues arise in the context of technological change, (b) clarifying the interrelatedness of effects arising from any one technology, and (c) reveal- ing that the debate surrounding enhancement as a doping infraction is only one component of a broader relationship between sport and technology. The two case studies that have been discussed are perhaps the most controversial ex- amples within anti-doping debates presently. Unlike performance-enhancing drugs, they do not encounter the same forms of resistance and, as such, the moral evaluation of them is unclear. I have suggested that more instances of human enhancement technologies are likely to emerge in sport, which further stretch the capabilities of restrictive approaches to such use. As human enhancements become a constitutive element of broader social circumstances— and as enhanced adults give birth to similarly enhanced children—the concept of enhancement and of the natural human will become even more difficult to sustain. In such a future, sports authorities might still attempt to protect a particular way of life for an athlete, though athletes—as humans—might no longer see either the need or the relevance."