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Legalise drugs—except in sport

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Legalise drugs—except in sport Empty Legalise drugs—except in sport

Post  Roi on Thu Jan 17, 2013 4:59 pm

DO NARCOTIC drugs cause harm? Classicists will recognise that the original Greek meant things that make you numb, which may or may not be harmful depending on circumstances. But it is hard to deny that drugs such as heroin and cocaine do indeed cause harm. The question is what to do about all those drugs classified by governments around the world as so harmful as to be illegal. Cassandra's answer (happily in line with a long-established editorial view of The Economist) is, perhaps paradoxically, to legalise them, regulate them and treat them as an issue of health policy rather than criminal behaviour.

My reply (to dissenting voices) is that making drugs illegal encourages organised crime, clogs the prisons (especially in America), increases corruption everywhere from Mexico to Afghanistan, and ignores the inexorable law of supply and demand. Moreover, treating a drug addiction as a matter of health policy can be extremely effective—witness the decline in cigarette smoking in the developed world.

Given my views, you will not be surprised that I was encouraged by the recent decision at the United Nations that chewing coca leaves in Bolivia should no longer be considered illegal (marking a political victory, of course, for Bolivia's anti-American president Evo Morales, who will doubtless note that the US voted against the UN decision). Perhaps, I muse, 2013 will be the year that the campaign for drug legalisation gather some political steam.

However, you may well be surprised by my views on Lance Armstrong, who appears ready, finally, to confess to doping during his cycling career when he appears on the Oprah Winfrey show later this week. I may be a way-out liberal on drugs (decriminalisation seems to have done no harm in Portugal, for example, and alcohol prohibition in America was an acknowledged disaster), but I am fiercely anti-drugs in sport—even though The Economist, in the past, has said sport should accept the use of drugs, just as it accepts the use of high-altitude training, and so on.

How do I square the circle? Simple: if sports stars go in for doping, they will do so with expert medical assistance which will (one hopes) avoid any ill consequences of using drugs way beyond the parameters of the tests the pharmaceutical companies have subjected them to. THE PROBLEM is that youngsters in awe of those stars will be tempted to take those drugs as they seek to achieve stardom, too—and will do so with NONE of the on-tap medical expertise. In a social context drugs may or may not be fine, in sport they are never fine.


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