Al Bello/Getty Images
Fans hold up a sign during a 2004 game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. Giants slugger Barry Bonds has long been accused of steroid use.
Fans hold up a sign during a 2004 game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. Giants slugger Barry Bonds has long been accused of steroid use. Al Bello/Getty Images
Produced for broadcast by WNYC, New York.
The next debate, on the proposition "America Should Be the World's Policeman," takes place Feb. 12.
The debate over athletes' use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs has taken on newfound urgency in recent months.
A report by former Sen. George Mitchell, released in December, mentioned dozens of baseball players as having used steroids and described their use as "widespread." Track star Marion Jones pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about steroid use in October. And last summer, several riders were dismissed from the Tour de France on charges of using banned substances.
Those who oppose the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs say that the athletes who use them are breaking the rules and getting an unfair advantage over others. Opponents of the drugs say the athletes are endangering not only their own health, but also indirectly encouraging youngsters to do the same.
Others maintain that it is hypocritical for society to encourage consumers to seek drugs to treat all sorts of ailments and conditions but to disdain drug use for sports. They say the risk to athletes has been overstated and that the effort to keep them from using performance-enhancing drugs is bound to fail.
Six experts on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs recently took on the issue in an Oxford-style debate, part of the series Intelligence Squared U.S. The debates are modeled on a program begun in London in 2002: Three experts argue in favor of a proposition and three argue against.
In the latest debate, held on Jan. 15, the formal proposition was, "We should accept performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports."
As the debate began, it was announced that former Olympics sprinter Ben Johnson, who was scheduled to argue in favor of allowing drugs, had pulled out on the advice of his lawyer because of his involvement in a lawsuit. Johnson was stripped of his gold medal in the 1988 Olympics after testing positive for steroids.
In a vote before the debate, 18 percent of audience members supported the motion to accept performance-enhancing drugs in competitive sports, and 63 percent opposed it. Nineteen percent were undecided. After the debate, 37 percent of audience members agreed with the proposition. Fifty-nine percent opposed it, and 4 percent remained undecided.
The event was held at the Asia Society and Museum in New York City and moderated by longtime sportscaster Bob Costas, who hosts NBCs Football Night in America and HBOs Inside the NFL.
Highlights from the debate: