One of the most highly motivated scientists I have observed over the years has devoted much of his career to testing athletes for illicit drugs. He is an energetic man, a resourceful technician and a person clearly inspired by the goal of achieving total fairness in the gladiatorial arena. He argues forcefully for the proposition that international sporting competitions (indeed, any sporting competition) should be free of artificial chemical crutches. His ideal is the Olympic ideal—the notion of one individual’s pitting raw ability and willpower against another’s, unaided by amphetamines or steroids, concentrated blood cells or coiled springs in the boots.

It’s a noble intent. So I’m not at all surprised that countless pharmacologists, physiologists, geneticists and biochemists are now being drawn into a burgeoning crusade to eradicate certain substances from the locker room. But the spectacle also troubles me. What, I wonder, will be the situation 10 years from...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!