Doping has a terrible reputation in sports, where it is seen as a blatant breach of the rules, but what if it were part of the rules?
The premise is that doping an athlete will prove eventually harmful. It is a short term unlawful tactic that will lead to a long term health condition. However, I see two problems with the veracity of this premise: firstly, there are plenty of lawful and habitual practices that are also detrimental to an athlete’s health; and secondly, there are performance-enhancing drugs with no known long term affectations.
As an example, let us imagine we developed a drug that increased the speed at which a human brain transmits signals to its motor system. Provided all athletes had access to it and that its consumption had no negative effects on their health, wouldn’t we want faster races? How would this be different to developing better shoes or swimwear?
There far more important fields where this applies, though. If we had drugs that kept us awake and more perceptive for longer periods, shouldn’t we use them to do better work? A scientist researching a cure to a currently fatal disease could perhaps access areas of their brain that could prove critical to reaching that final result. In this extreme case, I think that we could even consider consuming a performance-enhancing drug even if it had noxious side-effects as long as it were the scientist’s decision. In this sense, a shot of adrenaline to the heart isn’t great everyday practice, but we will welcome one if it meant we stay alive, wouldn’t we?
Naturally, desperation lowers risk-aversion to dangerous limits. Ambition and greed do too. I am in no way advocating for the blind use of substances that may prove harmful in the long run, I am merely suggesting current rules don’t always allow for the best possible performance.
Rules organise the status quo. Innovation disrupts it. I don’t think rules are bad per se. There is a need for stability to function as a collective. At the same time, a collective can’t be static because nothing can. Reality doesn’t ever stay the same. We are in a continuous flow.
Therefore, rules shouldn’t constantly be broken, but they should often be ignored. It is then that the paradigm can shift, that a new one can be introduced. Later the new order will need rules so that it can be useful, rules that will have to be resilient too, rules that will eventually need to be broken because someone else ignored them and came up with yet a better idea.
When scared of change, rules promise us that we don’t have to worry. This often elevates rules to god-like status, to immutable laws, as though they were part of the fabric of reality, like physics.
Those who take comfort in rules will worship them. They will serve them. In doing so, they will forget the most critical lesson in human history: that rules should serve us, not the other way around.