Illustrative image for Good Sport Why Our Games Matter and How Doping Undermines Them

Hastings Center News

Good Sport: Why Our Games Matter and How Doping Undermines Them

In the wake of Olympic doping scandals and just before the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February, a new book by Hastings Center President Emeritus Thomas Murray explores the use of biomedical enhancements in sport and the ways in which they can subvert the values that are fundamental to athletic competition.

Good Sport: Why Our Games Matter and How Doping Undermines Them, published by Oxford University Press, examines why athletes use performance enhancers, the tactics for curbing their use, and questions about the legitimacy and fairness of anti-doping efforts. The book also delves into the contemporary culture of doping in Russia, of which Murray gained inside knowledge in his role as a member of the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) Ethics Board.

Good Sport takes up many key questions, including:

  • Why do we prohibit steroids and other drugs but not nutritional supplements? Why are super-slippery swimsuits banned, but not fiberglass vaulting poles? Are the rules that make these determinations arbitrary?
  • If the purpose of sport is to maximize performance, shouldn’t we welcome technologies that do that?
  • Many opponents of anti-doping efforts say that the way to eliminate unfairness is to give everyone access to performance-enhancing drugs and other technologies? What’s wrong with this argument?
  • How should sport respond to a woman who appears to have the muscles, build, and high testosterone levels usually found only in a man?

In considering answers and making recommendations, Murray keeps returning to three fundamental qualities that make sport matter: natural talents, the dedication and discipline to perfect those talents, and the courage to test yourself and risk failure. “I believe that technologies that improve performance have their place in sport, but they must be measured against whatever unwanted impact they have on sport’s meaning and values,” he writes.

The book has received praise from sports professionals and journalists.

“A tour de force on sports performance enhancement and how to think about it.” – Sally Jenkins, author and columnist, Washington Post

“Murray adeptly distills the complex art and science that has shaped the anti-doping program’s determined pursuit of fairness. Through the adroit use of tangible examples in sports history, he connects the dots between anti-doping and pro-humanity arguments. By the conclusion of this journey, Murray’s authoritative voice helps us discover that they are indeed one and the same.” – Doug Glanville, baseball analyst, author, speaker, and former Major League Baseball player

“Tom Murray confronts the growing nihilism about sports doping with an exceptional appeal rooted in the value of sport itself. To the question of, ‘Why not just let them all dope?’ he answers with reason and a moral clarity that has been missing from the public conversation.”  – T.J. Quinn, reporter and anchor, ESPN

Listen to Murray in conversation with Hastings Center president Mildred Solomon on why some performance-enhancing technologies are acceptable, and others are not, on The Hastings Center’s podcast, Hastings Conversations.