From Therapy and Enhancement to Assistive Technologies: An Attempt to Clarify the Role of the Sports Physician

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 6 (4):480-491 (2012)
Sports physicians are continuously confronted with new biotechnological innovations. This applies not only to doping in sports, but to all kinds of so-called enhancement methods. One fundamental problem regarding the sports physician's self-image consists in a blurred distinction between therapeutic treatment and non-therapeutic performance enhancement. After a brief inventory of the sports physician's work environment I reject as insufficient the attempts to resolve the conflict of the sports physician by making it a classificatory problem. Followed by a critical assessment of some ideas from the US President's Council on Bioethics, the formulation of ethical codes and attempts regarding a moral topography, it is argued that the sports physician's conflict cannot be resolved by the distinction between therapy and enhancement. Instead, we also have to consider the possibility that the therapy-based paradigm of medicine cannot do justice to the challenges of the continuously increasing technical manipulability of the human body and even our cognitive functions as well. At the same time we should not adhere to transhumanist ideas, because non-therapeutic interventions require clear criteria. Based on assistive technologies an alternative framework can be sketched that allows for the integration of therapeutic and non-therapeutic purposes. After a thorough definition of standards and criteria, the role of the sports physician might be defined as that of an assistant for enhancement. Yet the process of defining such an alternative framework is a societal and political task that cannot be accomplished by the sports physicians themselves. Until these questions are answered sports physicians continue to find themselves in a structural dilemma that they partially can come to terms with through personal integrity.
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DOI 10.1080/17511321.2012.739195
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