The Doping Dilemma

Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs (from

Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season for using performance enhancing drugs (from

Imagine you have an important exam coming up and are currently freaking out about it. The class itself is curved on a bell. In order to earn a high grade, you must outscore other students which obviously raises the stress caused by the exam. Then you hear from a friend in the class someone stole the answer key and supposedly many students have it. The friend offers to give them to you which would undoubtedly help you in your efforts to get a good grade. Obviously, this would not be a moral decision, but everyone else could be cheating and it is in your best interest to even the playing field. A very similar situation to this is faced by athletes everywhere, especially in Major League Baseball. Players face the pressure to use performance enhancing drugs. In contrast, there are moral reasons not to partake. This predicament is an application of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, to which Thomas Hobbes acknowledges the existence.

A diagram of the Prisoner's Dilemma, the numbers represent the length of the possible sentences which the players being the prisoners (from

A diagram of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the numbers represent the length of the possible sentences which the players being the prisoners (from

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is Hobbes’s justification for the necessity of government in which the interests of individuals do not always coincide with the interests of the group. To explain the concept in more detail, the dilemma is when two criminals are arrested for a crime and are being questioned separately. The prisoners have the option to either confess or to stay quiet. There are four possible outcomes. If neither of the accused  confess, then both of the accused would have a short jail sentence. Next, if one confesses and the other does not then the prisoner which did not confess would have a long sentence while the other walks free. Lastly, if both confess they would both receive a medium length sentence. The first instinct of self-preservation would be to confess, but each prisoner is unsure of the thoughts of the other. Hobbes believed this justified how the human pursuit of self-interest would lead to the life of man being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” This would justify the need for an institution to maintain the interests of a larger group.

Thomas Hobbes used the Prisoner's Dilemma to justify the need for governing institutions (from

Thomas Hobbes used the Prisoner’s Dilemma to justify the need for governing institutions (from

Relating this theory back to baseball, there is pressure to perform well in professional sports. Monetary gains, team winnings, and glory from fans are motivators for individual performance, causing pressure to perform well. An example of pressure causing an athlete to use performance enhancing drugs is Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season due to testing positive for performance enhancing substances. This pressure to perform is shown by Rodriguez’s reasoning to use the substances, “I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day.” Performance enhancing drugs are tempting to use so players can gain an edge over competitors; however, believing all of the other players are also cheating increases this temptation. Athletes may choose to not use performance enhancing drugs as it is against the rules of baseball; however, they do not know how other athletes will decide. If all of the competition was using these drugs, all athletes would want to have the same advantage. Here lies the dilemma, a single baseball player cannot trust the hundreds of players who potentially could be using performance enhancing drugs.

Performance enhancing drugs are tempting for athletes to perform their best (from

Performance enhancing drugs are tempting for athletes to perform their at their best potential (from

The most preferable solution would be if every athlete did not use performance enhancing drugs.  This solution is improbable because humans naturally pursue their own interests and not the interests of the group, the fans and other athletes. Not every athlete will use performance enhancing drugs but the predicament is a concern for many athletes who are deciding whether or not to use the drugs. The risk of getting caught is always present, but only two players have been suspended for performance enhancing drug use in the past year. Victor Conte, ex-CEO of a company which produced illegal performance enhancing drugs, predicted as much as half of Major League Baseball players use these substances. If this approximation is anywhere near the truth, professional baseball players undoubtedly face the pressure to use these substances. I believe this problem needs to be addressed and professional athletes need to be punished for steroid use in order to diminish this problem. The athletes who choose to stay clean need to be rewarded with an even-playing field.


4 thoughts on “The Doping Dilemma

  1. Your introduction is very engaging and applicable. And your arguments referring to Hobbes’ claims are solid. Great blog post!!!


  2. Hey, I found this post to be extremely interesting and in the past I haven’t bought the “everyone does it claim” but I think that a few years ago this was probably true. It was in players best interest to use steroids because as you said they would not be caught and they most likely have a means to cover up steroid use. In this situation I think both the Fool’s argument and the prisoners dilemma apply. This is due to the joke that MLB drug testing has been. These players know they can get away with using so what is stopping them?


  3. I found your connection between performance-enchancing drugs and the Prisoner’s dilemma interesting and I do see the connection you made between the two topics. However, as I argued in my blog post “Was It Worth It?” on 10/8/14, I see the use of performance-enchancing drugs as a Machiavellian situation in which players must decide whether the great success that can come from using PEDs is worth the immoral practice of using steroids. I do think it is possible that athletes consider others’ behavior when debating the use of PEDs, but I believe the decision to use steroids is more of an internal dilemma between success with PEDs or clean competition.


  4. I found this post very interesting and enjoyed reading about the connection you made between PEDs and the Prisoner’s dilemma. I think you clearly explained the connection between the two, which is something I had not considered before. However, as a fan of baseball I hope that the number of players taking PEDs and the pressure to take them is decreasing.


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