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When does “having an advantage” become cheating?

  • 05-02-2022 9:45pm
    Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭

    A bit of a controversial question perhaps and only meant to start a little, friendly debate 🙂 (to me there is no right or wrong, black or white. Everything is pink)!

    From what I can tell, athletes all over the world (more or less) agree that someone who uses performance enhancements that aren’t legal should be banned from the sport. That is since those gain an advantage over others by using something that isn’t legal. Same time no one really says “let’s legalise it” usually with the argument “it would be unfair as not everyone would have access to those drugs etc”. Which translates to “well, if I can’t have access to it, it is considered to be cheating!”.

    Or let me ask it differently:

    1. I pay for training - is that ok or cheating?
    2. i buy 5 new pairs of shoes every year - ok or cheating?
    3. i have a nutritionist to get my diet right - ok or cheating?
    4. If I would take epo - ok or cheating?

    whatever the answer is, the important part is “why” do you say ok or cheating! That’s what would interest me 🙂

    Post edited by babacool on



  • Registered Users Posts: 523 ✭✭✭Runster

    You could add DSD Intersex athletes into the mix here.

    In my opinion, these kind of athletes need to have a category of their own or else compete as males.

    I think its a clear advantage.

  • Registered Users Posts: 506 ✭✭✭Freddie Mcinerney

    I'm sure Victor Conte would have helped if your budget is low.

    Sure fly to Mexico and get EPO cheaply.

  • Registered Users Posts: 506 ✭✭✭Freddie Mcinerney

    Was the Frosbie flop ever considered cheating? Before my time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,834 ✭✭✭OOnegative

    The Fosbury flop isn’t cheating, Frosbie was a snowman I think…….

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

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  • Registered Users Posts: 506 ✭✭✭Freddie Mcinerney

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    Not sure I’m understanding your response. Question isn’t who can help but “when does having an advantage become cheating?”.

    why would his help not just be an advantage but cheating?

  • Registered Users Posts: 506 ✭✭✭Freddie Mcinerney

    Lunge capacity, bone mass density, body fat content. Training as a male before.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    Why is that cheating to have a better lung capacity? After all, couldn’t you just get some help to get the same results too? In which case it wouldn’t be an advantage over you anymore?!

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

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  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,087 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph

    As far as the drug side of things it is also partly to do with the additional risks from the drugs.

    Some outliers in that of course as caffeine makes a popular drink so is allowed, and the likes of asthma inhalers should really only be used by those who genuinely need them but it's possible to measure the levels to check if someone has been taking too much.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    So is taking drugs banned because it’s cheating or because of health concerns?

    if cheating - why?

    if heath risks- again why? Isn’t up to everyone themselves to decide what to put in their body and what not?

    and what about the other 3 items on that list? Is it cheating or not? Again, the why im interested in 🙂

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,087 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph

    Because sports have rules to try and level the field. Be that the number of people on a team, the size and weight of a bat that you use, the number of different sets of tyres you can put on your car or how long the spikes can be on your running shoes.

    The amount of certain chemicals you can put in your body, or vehicle fuel tank, is all regulated so that you know what others are using within certain parameters. You don't have men competing against women, unless riding on the back of a horse, and you don't have someone pumped full of EPO racing against people who aren't.

  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

    For me it’s about the spirit of the competition,

    In that regard I don’t see coaching, nutritionists, altitude training etc as cheating as they are in line with ethos of sport and pushing the boundaries of human performance and/or health.

    Drugs and shoes I would see as crossing that line. There is a myth around doping in that allowing everyone take them would level the playing field but fact is that not everyone is a responder to PEDS, look at the cycling EPO era for anecdotal evidence.

    You also have the fact that there is disproportionate health risk between World Class athletes and up and comers in terms of access to top doctors to monitor and adjust treatment (Think Victor Contes periodised Doping regime for Chambers vs some young Kenyan getting an EPO shot from an agent in the back of a doctors clinic)

    The shoes have become more widespread in terms of accessibility and no negative impact on health but they still offer unfair advantage even at the top level where you see sponsorship affecting performance with some companies conceding to allowing there athletes wear competitors shoes just to allow them to compete. It’s a catch 22 as brands want to give athletes as much of a competitive advantage for brand awareness even if that means not wearing the brand.

    At the end of the day though unless it is a profession the lines have to be drawn personally. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of recreational and masters athletes doping at amateur level and for some people it is done for personal glory, for others it’s seen as the saddest indictment insecurity

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    Ok, so again it’s down to: “if I can’t have it or if someone can have more than I have it should be considered as cheating”. in the end if everyone would have access to the same amount of EPO would it still be cheating if some decide not to take it and some decide to take it?

    still not answering my questions though 😉.

    is it cheating if I pay for training? Is it cheating if I can purchase 5 pairs of shoes per year? Is it cheating if I can pay for a nutritionist to help me having the right diet?

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    So the question is, when does it become cheating?

    if you consider being able to pay for training as non cheating, what if the person next to you isn’t able to afford such training?

    shoes are widely available but some can’t afford a new pair all the time.

    Would you now not have gained an unfair advantage over that athlete? You get someone to help you enhance your performance. The other athlete is unable to do so! Why is that different to EPO etc? why would that be ok in your eyes?

    (again, I’m aware that this isn’t a black and white question/answer topic but will always be controversial! 😁).

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,087 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph

    If you use too many engines during a season of F1 then it is "cheating" and outside the rules and you get penalised for it. If running wanted to limit the number of pairs of shoes you could buy then they could, although no idea how they would control it.

    It's just the different rules for each sport.

    Like the swimming suits were not considered cheating, but they decided that it wasn't how they wanted the sport to evolve, so scrubbed those world records and carried on as if it hadn't happened.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    So who decided “ok now it is considered cheating” and why? Why 5 engines per year and not 20?

    Answer: cost control.

    why banning swimming suits?

    Answer: cost control as it become a race of development and resources to find the next best thing.

    but why is that banned yet there is no ban on how much someone can spend on training? On shoes? on nutrition? On training camps?

    so from your answer I take: if someone sets rules it is cheating if you operate outside those. But because there is no rule on how much I can spend on training, it isn’t cheating even if the runner next to me does not have the funds to get the same level of support?

  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

    For me the paying for training is not really an issue to be honest, I don’t equate value with price regards coaching. You will find a lot of top coaches don’t charge around the world (Bro Colm in Kenya being prime example) Even at Irish level you would find list of Olympians with paid coaches is smaller than the list who are. Others take a percentage of race winnings so performance pays the coach rather than an actual outlay.

    With the Shoes affordability it is definitely the case no doubt but is it any different now than when it was prior with many Africans running barefoot. Inequality of access is a different matter (altitude training being another example here)

    As mentioned personally the shoes don’t sit well with me but I will concede that with widespread availability now it has sadly become a part of the sport

    For me EPO and other PEDS are different in that the encourage a sacrificing of health and length of life to get ahead with an element of gambling with your life given you won’t know if your body responds without taking it. That to me is the very definition of a shortcut and with the high cost I would see this as going completely against the nature of the sport

  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

    With regards to your point previously about PEDS and personal choice I think people are entitled to make personal choices regards drug use, however if they toe the line at a race the immediately demand there competitors to make the same choice they make in order to compete and when this comes at the price of health I don’t think there should be any tolerance (it’s the same logic I had around Covid to be honest)

    So if someone wants to dope themselves to the point where they grow an extra foot and run Time Trials running sub 2 min miles all the power to them

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  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    But isn’t it a free choice to gamble with your life? Why would one dictate what you should and should not do?

  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,087 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph

    But there is limits on how much you can spend in the likes of F1. If it was agreed that it made that much of a difference for running, and they thought it could be controlled, then they could agree on bringing in a rule for that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    No one demands the competitors to do the same. It is a free choice. Yes, you will have a disadvantage, but it’s your choice. Or is it not just because not everyone has access to it?!

    and the health factor, what about those with diabetes? Wouldn’t that be the same issue as with EPO? Most of us can eat and drink what we like. Full of sugar and carbs to get us through everything. But those with diabetes are limited to what they can and can’t and what amount. there is no limit around that (I think).

    so why are we ok with having an advantage over those?

    if you really think about it, in my eyes we are all hypocrites to some extent. We complain if someone uses enhancement drugs, blood transfusions, asthma inhalers etc as this will give them an “unfair advantage”. Yet we are ok if we have something over others just because it hasn’t been declared as illegal!

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    certain it has been agreed on or more like “we found a middle ground but ideally some of us are still hurt by it and have a disadvantage”. The cap is no issue for Mercedes’, Ferrari etc but still hurts Williams, haas etc. they are still limited on what they can and can’t do. Just because a limit is in place doesn’t mean everyone can afford that limit.

  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 24,087 Mod ✭✭✭✭robinph

    and the health factor, what about those with diabetes? Wouldn’t that be the same issue as with EPO? Most of us can eat and drink what we like. Full of sugar and carbs to get us through everything. But those with diabetes are limited to what they can and can’t and what amount. there is no limit around that (I think).

    It makes no odds really for diabetes. Massive pain in the rear end to deal with, and all sorts of things can go wrong which your not expecting despite doing everything exactly the same as the day before, but there isn't any limit on what you could consume during an event.

    There is some tech that we'd use to monitor blood levels which is a big advantage during an event and would be very useful for non diabetics. There is a pro cycling team who are all diabetic, think they are currently the level below TdF standard, but they have exemption to be able to use that tech during events which is otherwise banned for regular athletes due to the advantage it would give them. For diabetics though it doesn't give an advantage, it just brings us up to being not as badly disadvantaged.

  • Registered Users Posts: 220 ✭✭E.coli

    There is an inherent demand in order to survive for man on the cusp of contracts etc, many have retired from the sport because they couldn’t secure sponsorship or broke down physically trying to keep up with doped athletes (Mary Cullen a good example)

    With regards your point about people being at disadvantage due to there health the sport does address this with Therapeutic exemptions based on health grounds. Systems are in place to provide a s level a playing field as possible. Though people will always push these boundaries.

    I don’t think it’s hypocrisy I think it is just people draw different ethical lines vs the official regulations. I think the question is more around tolerance but I don’t think you will find many in the sport who don’t exhibit a close to zero tolerance to doping (especially in this country we tend to take it pretty person compared to say the likes of the Americans )

    Personally I have not even tried in any of the Supershoes but that is a personal choice but I have done warm weather and altitude training That is my ethical lines despite both being “legal”

  • Registered Users Posts: 39,119 ✭✭✭✭Mellor

    I think you are making a lot of incorrect assumptions.

    “it would be unfair as not everyone would have access to those drugs etc”

    That is not, and never has been the arguement against PEDs.

    1. Paying for training is not cheating. It's just training.
    2. Buying 5 pairs shoes is not cheating. I'm not even sure why this is list. Whether you buy 5 a year, or 1 per 5 years. At some point they are brand new.
    3. Not cheating to get a nutritionist. As you are simply getting help with knowledge you lack. In order to furl your body.
    4. Cheating of course to take EPO. It's a recombinant drug taken to increase ability to supra-physiological levels.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 361 ✭✭babacool

    Sponsorship: so we are back to money. It is banned because you may not be on the top if you don’t do it and therefore can’t afford living. So if money wouldn’t be a factor you would say it is ok? as again, the health risk wouldn’t that be up to each individual to decide on whether or not to do it?

    and isn’t the fact that we all draw different lines the very factor of hypocrisy? We decide for ourselves what is and what isn’t cheating. We are ok with a but not with b. Always depending on what suits us.

    so @E.coli i see your answer to “when does having an advantage become cheating”. I see where you draw your line! @robinph what is your line? When would you say “to this point and not beyond” and why?

    here is my take on it: let’s legalise any type of doping! It doesn’t mean I want to dope but I don’t care about what others do. So why would I restrict them? There will be scenarios where I have an advantage over some based on what I can do/afford. And there will be situations where I have a disadvantage. And that’s ok. I can live with that especially since life is based on that. Some win, some lose. There is no good without evil. There is no luck without misfortune. There is no day without night.

    what do others think?