Maria Sharapova isn’t\nthe first well-known sportsperson to be indicted for doping and she certainly won’t be the last. As long as the relentless perform-or-perish ethos of the competitive\nsports persist, it is only natural for champions wanting to sustain their\nwinning edge.Which brings us to the\nlarger question: what is so wrong in using drugs to enhance performance? How is\nit very different (and very wrong) from using high-tech running shoes or\ngraphite rackets? Or if that seems too straightforward: relying on special\ndiets and supplements and surgery?The line between\ncultivating natural gifts and corrupting them with artifice may not always be\nclear, according to Michael J Sandel who has been pondering over these\nquestions at length as Harvard University professor of Philosophy and\nMorals.He says: “The\nproblem with drugs is that they provide a short cut, a way to win without\nstriving. But striving is not the point of sports; excellence is.” Why are Certain\nEnhancements Admissible?And indeed if we agree\nwith Sandel that it is excellence that we are chasing then why is it wrong to\nuse ‘enhancements’ and, more importantly, why are certain ‘enhancements’ okay, but\nothers are not? What about innovative training?Nike’s high-altitude\ntraining programme at Oregon for marathon runners and EPO, a hormone produced by\nthe kidney that stimulates red blood cell production, both boost aerobic\nendurance by increasing the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, but the ruling on\nwhich was objectionable was a complex and lengthy task for international\nmonitoring agencies.Tiger Woods’ Lasik\nsurgery to remedy his eye-sight is acceptable but other innovative surgeries\nmay not pass muster.Sharapova Doping RowIn the competitive environment of sports, where\nexcellence is all that matters, question is why usage of enhancements is\nunethical.Doping debate becomes more convoluted when one\ntakes into account the tussle between the natural talent and the trait acquired through\nhard work.With rapid progress in eugenics it will be very\ndifficult to distinguish between the ‘naturally gifted’ and the enhanced.In Sharapova’s case, for nine years she takes a drug and no one raises an eyebrow and then overnight she finds herself embroiled\nin a doping row.Naturally Gifted Versus Acquired TraitExtensively detailing the\ninstances of rampant drug-intake in international sports and how the game today\nis not about an athlete taking drugs but about who can pass the drug\ntest, author Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker piece titled ‘Drugstore\nAthlete’ says: \n\nEven as we assert this distinction on the playing field, though, we defy it in our own lives. We have come to prefer a world where the distractable take Ritalin, the depressed take Prozac, and the unattractive get cosmetic surgery to a world ruled, arbitrarily, by those fortunate few who were born focused, happy, and beautiful. Muddying the water is the\nwidely debated tussle between ‘natural’ or inherited talent and one acquired\npredominantly through hard work and by the striving ones. There is a natural\nhuman tendency to romanticise (and celebrate) grit and determination especially\nwhen it comes to pushing the limits of the human body.But with rapid strides\nin eugenics and designer babies just round the corner it will be very\ndifficult to tell the difference between the ‘natural gifted’ and the enhanced.Need to IntrospectIn a statement the five-time Grand Slam champion says that she was prescribed a\nmedication given to those suffering from diabetes and low magnesium and the\noversight on her part lies in not corroborating whether the chemical was on\nthe banned list, as updated by the International Tennis Federation every year.For nine years an athlete\ntakes a drug and it is perfectly all right and then overnight she is branded a\n‘doper’.Surely, the entire\nsporting fraternity could benefit from some perspective here.\n\n(The writer is a journalist and communication professional based in Kolkata)Also read:Mistake or Not, Tennis Needs to be Ruthless With Maria Sharapova Things to Know About Meldonium, the Drug Maria Sharapova Took We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.