The Ethics of Performance Enhancing Drug Use in Baseball

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As Approached from Virtue Ethics and Utilitarian Perspectives
Since the 1990’s, Major League Baseball has been tainted by the “steroid era,” with over 127 players admitting to or being charged for performance-enhancing drug usage. As records have been shattered, books have been published, and players have confessed to their exploits, these drugs have made society question the legitimacy of America’s favorite pastime. One of the game’s greatest, Hank Aaron, set the all time homerun record in 1974. Thirty-three years later, Barry Bonds tied this record, and shortly after was indicted for lying under oath about his alleged use of steroids in the BALCO scandal. An example of two monumental milestones, both affected by the use of illegal drugs, raises concerns about ethics and morality in the world of baseball. Though controversy often surrounds the world of athletics, no other topic threatens health, careers, and achievements more than steroid usage.

This contemporary issue has two distinct positions that have divided athletes and spectators alike. With the increased attention to banned substances in baseball, opposing approaches to the subject have created convincing arguments on both sides. Ultimately, the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball is an unethical and dangerous act, one that threatens the virtues, integrity, and purity of this revered game. Steroid usage turns baseball into a game of chemistry, fame, wealth, and illegitimate gain instead of reliance upon ability, dedication, and character. Thus, performance enhancing drug use in baseball is unethical and morally wrong. Though I will assert that the Aristotelian Virtue Ethics perspective yields the most convincing argument to support this claim, I will also explain the position from the Utilitarian perspective, which endorses steroid usage from a different position of ethical principles. Ultimately, upon evaluation of both Virtue Ethics and Utilitarian theories, a conclusion will arise that shows how points rooted in Aristotle’s premises present the strongest arguments against performance enhancing drug use in baseball.

One of Aristotle’s fundamental principles is the theory that all humans should aim for “eudemonia,” or happiness as a complete end. This notion of living in accord with virtue and allowing human nature to flourish does not support steroid usage. Aristotle wrote, “Happiness, then, is apparently something complete and self-sufficient, since it is the ends of the things achievable in action” (Aristotle 1097b), and thus a person’s happiness is contingent upon achievement without external conditions (Aristotle 1177a). Performance enhancing drug use clearly defies this, as players are using external means to further their abilities and careers. Aristotle theorized that achieving the end good, eudemonia, was a natural and attainable human action. With baseball player’s usage of steroids, they ignore the pursuit of the good through virtue and personal ability. Doping does not allow players to flourish through hard work and commitment and then finally arrive at an end level of happiness. Instead, drug use undermines the happiness, as it was not accomplished by natural and autonomous means. As players add manufactured substances to augment their abilities, they do not allow their individual talents to thrive, instead they are tainted by drugs and falsities, contradicting the statement that “for whatever is natural is naturally in the finest state possible” (Aristotle 1099b). To excel in baseball you must have exceptional talent, and those who deserve the happiness of success and achievement should do so solely by means that exhibit their pure human and authentic abilities. Furthermore, Virtue Ethicists value human beings, which steroid use contradicts by ignoring the importance of genetics and talent while also risking player’s health with dangerous side effects to the drugs.

Another of Aristotle’s most convincing arguments lies in his...
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