Sports Doping via Elective Surgery

Jun 16 2009 Published by under Cycling, Doping, Ethics


BikeMonkey Guest Post
Professional sports continues to suffer from doping scandal. Although it is understood that preparation for the highest levels of competition involves considerably more than "training", most sports have enacted rules to distinguish allowable training/preparation aids from "cheating". This is by no means new. Nor is it over, the cycling world is poised for the now-traditional pre-Tour revelations of doping which will re-shuffle the lineup on July 4th.
But rules violations are in some ways uninteresting. There are rules to sport and if you break them you are penalized. Within that context, the nature of cheating and the ethical concepts of fair play are operationalized. Boring.
More interesting is to consider the essentially arbitrary distinctions that create the rules in the first place. Take Lance Armstrong. Winner of a record number of Tours de France, dominant rider and all around cycling icon. Did I mention he was making a come-back at his ripe old age and after a several year layoff? Great stuff.
And this was all possible only because he decided to have cancer.


Well, no, of course he didn't decide to have cancer. And it is wonderful that this person was able to survive a pretty bad case and come back to the pinnacles of human physical performance.
Still....prior to cancer, Armstrong was a great rider, make no mistake, but he was a one-day Classic race threat. A powerful all-rounder who was too heavily built (this is very relative) to be a threat in the three-week Tour, Giro or Vuelta stage races. Because those races depend heavily on the ability to ride up high mountains at a rapid pace. When it comes to climbing on the bicycle, power to weight ratio is all. The emphasis typically being on the weight, too. It is no accident that the so-called "pure" climbers of renown in pro cycling are all wisps. Skinny and short. Tiny dudes. Really tiny. There is just no avoiding the fact that stripping all (and I mean nearly all) unnecessary weight off of the body and rebuilding with just the specific musculature needed is the way to build the perfect Grand Tour cyclist.
Of course, most cyclists do the best they can with diet control and hard training. Remember however, pre-cancer Armstrong was a professional cyclist. I'm sure he was doing his due-diligence like any other pro. But having a dramatic event occur, outside of his will / lack thereof, which stripped off more weight was a boon.
So what if someone went under the knife intentionally to benefit their professional athletic performance? Liposuction, removal of unnecessary body tissues (you can make it on one kidney, right?)..heck, why not replace bones with lighter and stronger synthetic components? Should this be against the rules? Does this violate our sense of ethics and fair play?
simonahalep.jpg
source
This brings me to the case of one Simona Halep, a tennis prodigy of whom I was not previously aware. A Medscapes blog entry by Jennifer Walden, MD a reconstructive / plastic surgeon tells us that this professional athlete intends breast-reduction surgery.

Simona Halep, as you may or may not know, is from Romania and is a budding Junior tennis player. She is ranked #258 in the world. She won the Junior French Open tennis tournament in 2008, and although not yet fully developed as a professional, she reached the second round of the qualifiers for the Senior French Open in 2009. In May 2009 she received widespread media attention all over the world for expressing her desire to go through breast reduction surgery in order to perform better on the tennis court. I found it surprising to read on blogs and sports pages online how much fans and readers did not understand the purpose and benefit of breast reduction surgery. Comments ranged from disgust to outrage to frank misunderstanding of what the indications and outcomes are for breast reduction surgery.

The blog then goes on to demystify and explain the reasons for breast reduction surgery which is great. Nice public service blogging on health conditions which they seem to like around these parts. However, the sports fan in me got a little tweaked about the argument that this was justified on the following grounds:

In Simona Halep's case, it is clear that her very large breasts are causing a functional interference with her tennis game. Her swing is somewhat impeded by what is in the way, and she just can't move as quickly with her figure as it is now. There is no doubt that Halep's game will improve after a reduction of her breasts, and likely make her able to swing more quickly and react on the court faster. This is not for vanity, it is for comfort and to function in a more effective manner.

Well....yeah. But....but..... Do we really justify surgical modification of the body based on optimizing athletic performance? Yes of course we do- surgery to fix congenital defects (including poor vision...hmm) and repair injuries are okay, right. But is this something a little different? More like liposuction in that pro cyclist that can't drop that final 5 kilos necessary to climb the Alps with the front group?
Sticky question.

69 responses so far

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Or maybe remove lower legs to improve running performance?
    I don't see any bright lines here, but I'm inclined to be suspicious when the case in question happens to be a woman's breasts. Not so much because of any arguable sexism as because breast modifications are so often suspected of being vanity-driven and thus somehow less virtuous.
    I have known women who suffered from excessively large breasts [1] without any athletic, vanity, or other "suspect" motivations. IMHO anyone who doesn't have bruises from bra straps and back problems from off-center weight distribution can STFU.
    [1] I do mean suffered, no rhetorical exaggeration involved.

  • IMHO anyone who doesn't have bruises from bra straps and back problems from off-center weight distribution can STFU.

    So you are the DECIDER of whether a woman is justified in having breast reduction surgery for functional reasons? And you have decided that the standard is bruises and back problems? Are you fucking kidding with this shit?

  • Oh, wait a second. Are you trying to say that men--none of whom have bra-strap bruises nor breast-related weight distribution problems--should STFU about whether a woman's choice to have breast reduction surgery is "justified"? In that case, we are agreeing.

  • jc says:

    "suspect" motivations? WTF!? I puke on your shoes DC.

  • peter says:

    @comrade physioprof. I suspect the latter interpretation... you are very quick with your snap interpretations aren't you? 😉 (emoticon included as indication of light sarcasm...)

  • "suspect" motivations? WTF!? I puke on your shoes DC.

    I suspect that in his usual hamfisted near-illiterate fashion, Sessions was actually trying to say that it's no one's business but the woman in question whether a breast reduction is appropriate or not.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    jc, puke away. I wouldn't dream of upsetting CPP by agreeing with him.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Good grief -- you people really need to take a few minutes away from policing each others' thought crimes to work on your reading comprehension skills.

  • becca says:

    +1 to what Neuro-conservative said (and no, I didn't think I'd ever type that).
    D.C.- I'm with you on the main point, and I hate to beat up on you if CPP already is (must. not. align. self. with. that. jerk.).
    But I am bemused over the whole calling any motivation for breast reduction "vanity". Since breasts are stereotypically likely to increase one's attractiveness. Although wait a second... given that "vanity" can refer to excessive belief in one's attractiveness *or* ability, I'm inclined to wonder if mayhap your privilege is showing. A woman who wants a breast reduction for the sole purpose of being seen as something other than her breasts? How VAIN!* Why, the next thing you know the girls'll want to be judged for their scientific ideas instead of how how hot they look in a lab coat!
    *(not that women couldn't want reductions in order to look better by some standard. But even then, vanity may be a bit overblown- I honestly find it difficult to imagine a case where a woman focusing on her attractiveness is entirely a character flaw and not in the slightest a function of the patriarchy)

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Didn't Venus Williams reduced her breasts?
    I see that CPP is still standing tall in his shining armor, protecting all the women who never asked for such protection. However, he got so mad when his Philadelphia Eagles lost in the playoffs, having no problem with the hormone consumers on his favorite team.

  • andrew says:

    In cycling you also have surgical modification of the bicycle. There is a constant tension between manufacturers and the UCI about regulating technological innovations in terms of aerodynamics and weight. This raises the interesting angle of "engineering" the cyclist through sugery, much like you use carbon fiber forks instead of steel.
    I think for most professional cyclists the surgery option is not realistic because they cannot maintain peak fitness for very long without becoming ill or overtrained and fatigued. Thus, your lowest weight has to come right when you are peaking in terms of power output. So if you had surgery to get rid of fat right before the Tour you are not going to be able to put out 500 watts for an hour up a col. The weight loss has to coincide with maximum power output. Unless the lipo is permanent, it won't work.
    Armstrong meticulously weighs his food, Landis fasted for 3 or 4 days, they all have pretty freaky ways of weight management. However, the top tour contenders are all in one way or another genetic outliers in terms of VO2 max, recovery ability etc. What I mean is that Tom Boonen is not going to have surgery to be able to be competitive in the Tour (cocaine maybe). He is fundamentally limited by his genetic endowment, his body size. Even Indurain, who very likely doped, has the lowest ever recorded resting heart rate (28 bpm) and one of the highest VO2 max values.
    Simona Halep has every right to have breast reduction surgery obviously.
    A thought experiment: What if a budding pro cyclist had a very large penis that made cycling difficult for him? Does he have the right to have penis reduction surgery?

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Becca, I could have written that more clearly. Next time I really should cool down before posting.
    To clarify: the nose-in-the-air set who might object to a septoplasty because it would enhance an athlete's breathing ability are one thing. However, when it's breast alteration you get a whole host of others [1] who get bent because it's a "boob job," and to their hypothetical minds a "boob job" is all about vanity. For them, end of story.
    Which is enough to make any decent person furious just on principle, but to me it's personal thanks to high-school friends who had to suffer not only a painful physical problem but also the "attentions" of boys (and too often [2] nominal men) around them as well as some really ugly snipes from other girls. I had the "privilege" of hearing my friends' sides of it [3] and hearing too many of the guys' snickering conversations.
    So the whole looking-down-on-a-woman-with-a-problem-you-don't-have thing really pisses me off.
    [1] IMHO an alliance of jerks with a variety of bogus excuses.
    [2] Hell, once is too often.
    [3] And rubbing out the knots in their backs. I normally enjoy giving people backrubs, but it's not so fun when a friend is hurting and you can't make it stop.

  • A woman's decision to reduce bothersome breasts is cheating? Gosh, you're an asshole BM. Why does DM let you blog here?!?!

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Isis: is it possible that BM is posting as a reductio ad absurdem [1]?
    At one end of the spectrum you have the recent debate over runners and leg amputations, at the other you have tennis player breast reduction. Is it possible to draw the line somewhere between?
    [1] Sorry. For once I really would have preferred an alternate wording if I could have thought one up.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Yah, BM, why does DM let you blog here? How dare you calling a woman's choice to change her body to improve her performance 'cheating'? Next you'll call a transgender who has decided to play on the women tennis tour a cheater, too.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Next you'll call a transgender who has decided to play on the women tennis tour a cheater, too.

    Shoulder chip aside, that kind of possibility is why I'm prepared to entertain BM's post as an invitation to explore the ethical limits of surgical athletic enhancement -- and to put a stake in the ground for breast reduction as on the "of course she can" side of the line.
    It's not altogether academic to me at the other end, too -- I'm by no means a candidate for competitive sports, but I have a few replacement parts where the technology is heading towards being better than original equipment (not there yet, which is why I'm resisting knee replacement for now -- to pick one example.)

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DC,
    I'm with you on this issue. My beef is with the attempt by Isis to make it another gender equality and sexism issue on BM's part, when it is not.

  • becca says:

    If you can look at that picture of Simona Halep and *not* think about gender equality and sexism, you are simply blind to the structure of society.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    So D.C., does any woman get to reduce her extraneous breast tissue? In the example given at Medscape, it is pretty clear to all that reduction might be recommended medically, regardless of occupation. Where is the line to be drawn? The top ranks of women's cycling and distance running tend to suggest that less would always be better from a performance angle. A doctor's note? The proportion of pro male cyclists who have asthma exemptions for bronchdilators suggests that is not a complete solution...

  • andrew says:

    But BikeMonkey, to me it seems elite women endurance athletes tend to have small breasts. Is this because women with large breasts tend not to participate in endurance sports because of the relative disadvantage? Or through years and years of endurace training does breast size become just smaller on elite female athletes because of their extremely low body fat in general? I don't know the answer to this, if, for example, Simona Halep was a marathon runner would her breasts get reduced on their own? Does tennis have the same kinds of fat burning effect as endurance sports?

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    So D.C., does any woman get to reduce her extraneous breast tissue?

    Perhaps the question should be phrased as, "does any woman except a professional athlete get to reduce her extraneous breast tissue?" or "unlike all other women, should professional athletes be prohibited from having corrective breast surgery?"
    It's really a theological issue in the Church of Competitive Sports, because outside of that arbitrary set of rules the question is a long-settled no-brainer. Since I'm not a communicant of that Church, I'll take a pass. Maybe we should send the question over to PZ Myers for a theological critique.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    First, I could imagine that playing tennis or doing almost any rigorous physical activity having the breasts of Simona Halep is beyond uncomfortable. It is probably painful and could also cause long-term bodily damage. Is one born with one leg slightly shorter than the other and chooses to fix it surgically in order to improve his/her athletic performance, cheats? In contrast, if a tennis player has six fingers that allow better grip and aim of the racket should be required to remove the extra finger?
    This issue reminds me of a joke I heard.
    An insurance agent drives his car through the gate of a farm to meet his farmer client. As his car approached the farmer's house a chicken darted right in front of it so fast that it looked like a blur. Again, just before he stopped his car, another chicken ran extremely fast by him. Once in the house, he asked the farmer about the unbelievably fast chickens he had just witnessed outside.
    "Oh, these are our new three-legged strain of chickens that we've developed in collaboration with the genetic engineering research lab at our MRU. The market's strong demand for chicken legs enticed us to fund this project."
    The agent, still with a look of disbelief on his face, asked: "And how the legs of these chickens taste compared to the two-legged strain?"
    "We don't really know" said the farmer, "we haven't managed to catch the first one yet."

  • CC says:

    Good grief -- you people really need to take a few minutes away from policing each others' thought crimes to work on your reading comprehension skills.
    I also found Sessions' point completely comprehensible and don't understand the ensuing fuss.

  • My beef is with the attempt by Isis to make it another gender equality and sexism issue on BM's part, when it is not.

    I am preparing to dub BikeMonkey enemy to all women.

  • BikeMonkey is a total fucking douche.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Nice to see that things are back to normal.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    I think CPP plays tennis without balls. Isis fishes with CPP's rod.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Sol, you're a very generous guy to make CPP look so good.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Is this because women with large breasts tend not to participate in endurance sports because of the relative disadvantage? Or through years and years of endurace training does breast size become just smaller on elite female athletes because of their extremely low body fat in general?
    I would imagine both contribute, most elite level sports have a strong selection both for an ideal type and for modification of that type. Actually 'types'. Take the example of pro cycling, it is the tiniest of waifs (male and female) who tend to dominate on the high cols. A different type (taller, more muscular) dominates the time-trials.
    Closer to the topic, other, less visible (but pharmacologically modifiable) traits like hematocrit are similarly determined by both genetics and experience. However, if one cyclist has naturally higher hematocrit than the other, this doesn't mean you get to EPO up to the same hematocrit, right? As I already pointed out, if you are susceptible to asthma, you get to take a clear performance enhancing drug to get back up to "normal". If you have a degenerative hip, you get to replace it (see Landis). If you cannot maintain hydration or even caloric competence during the course of a three-week stage race you get to go on post-stage IV drips.
    These kinds of distinctions make if difficult to identify any consistent lines as far as what should be okay and what is cheating in sport. Yet *elective* surgery to remove an inconvenient couple of kilos of fat, a kidney, a left testicle or reduce the breast size seems like cheating if it is done solely to enhance athletic performance.
    should professional athletes be prohibited from having corrective breast surgery
    They are not being "prohibited" from corrective breast surgery, it is a question of whether they are permitted to compete. There are all kinds of things that athletes agree not to do, that anyone else is free to do, as a contingency of their sport. A physics major can accept a car from the local Hummer dealer and nobody blinks an eye. If the guy majoring in professional football studies does so... problem. Now as I have already admitted, this particular case looks pretty clear cut with respect to the medical recommendation for health, apart from vocation. But where is the line?

  • becca says:

    BikeMonkey- if your left testicle is the size of her breasts, I think you should be able to get it surgically removed and still compete. But I'm generous like that.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DC, the idea came from a title of a book written by a transgender: "How to play tennis without balls." 😉

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    BikeMonkey- if your left testicle is the size of her breasts, I think you should be able to get it surgically removed and still compete.

    Oh, I don't think it would have to be the size of them both.

  • I think CPP plays tennis without balls. Isis fishes with CPP's rod

    HA HA HA, glad to see you're still up to your trolly ways, Sol. I'd guess BikeMonkey lets you comment here because he is the O.G. troll of the webs.
    At least DrugMonkey's a decent dude.

  • andrew says:

    I don't know the history between the commenters (apparently there is a lot of it) or the inside jokes going on here, but I think it's an interesting discussion as both a scientist and an amateur cyclist.
    At any rate, BM, I really don't think that Halep having breast reduction surgery to play tennis is any different from hip-replacement surgery or asthma drugs.
    The line between doping and not doping is totally arbitrary anyway. Caffeine is fine, but amphetamine is not, protein shakes are ok but not steroids. There are medical considerations of course but really why have we decided that some of these substances are allowed while others not? Is it the amount of improvement one offers over another, if it increases your performance 5% it's fine but 15% is not?
    I would bring up technology again, where do we draw the line there? Imagine the UCI had decided in 1980 to halt all new developments in bike weight reduction, aerodynamics or technology.
    "But where is the line?" I would argue that there is no line, the closer you get to it the fuzzier it becomes until it disappears altogether.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Well thanks andrew... At least some people can stay serious around here.

  • Cashmoney says:

    Jeez, Armstrong had nut *cancer* not elephantiasis, you weirdos!
    Hey remember the drilling fad to lighten the bike components? Maybe they should drill their bones to lighten up...

  • Lia says:

    First of all, as a woman I'd like to say that the picture of her playing looks painful. Literally OUCH. It seems clear to me that this is a serious concern for her.
    Secondly, beyond ability to play, this looks like a health issue to me. Her bosom is obviously posing an impediment to her swing, making it awkward. Awkwardness leads to poor form in motion, which could lead to increased injuries from the sport. Not to mention the back issues.
    Personally, the line's always going to be fuzzy. But this is something I find should be acceptable. I could easily be wrong, but from what I understand, breast size is not very controllable by diet. This proves a health risk for her in ways that things like a lower, but still normal, hematocrit level would not.
    Additionally, before anyone without large breasts makes a judgment on this, I'd like to see them strap two water balloons filled to the same size around their chests and take a run.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Isis,
    You've banned me from your blog, claiming I'm a troll yet, you trolling me on others' blogs. Why won't you invite me to participate on your blog so you won't have to look for me elsewhere? I know that you don't always agree with my point of view, but censoring me is so undemocratic and childish. I know you miss me, otherwise how would you explain the fact the 66% of your comments on this post are in response to my comments? Your not so subtle nudge toward BikeMonkey to ban me from his blog is another sign of your immaturity. Get over yourself, your are just another blogger and you mainly deal with insignificant and irrelevant issues such as shoes, "musical" jams and your own narcissism.

  • Toaster says:

    Let's get hypothetical:
    We're scientists. Would we be OK looking for a postdoc if we knew that other postdocs had had an extra arm for more efficient benchwork put on, or sacrificed some lung for an internal back-up hard drive? These things would presumably enhance their performance, perhaps unfairly so.
    But in the case of Ms. Halep, the surgery she is requesting would not be contraindicated in a non-athlete due to discomfort and back pain. As such, there shouldn't be a problem as it is not being done exclusively to help further her sport.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Toaster,
    I would prefer a postdoc with a bigger cerebral cortex than an extra arm.

  • BikeMonkey says:

    Ahh, but my dear Toaster. You must go the extra mile when it comes to these things. How about breast reduction (or liposuction or spare digit amputation or kidney removal) in an athlete for whom it is not otherwise indicated?
    Recall that the Medscapes post makes a big deal out of the athletic performance issues in addition to the general health ones.
    WRT postdocs: Do you encourage your trainees to take Ritalin so they can work harder? Perhaps more relevant, would you discourage one who told you that they were using stimulants?

  • I know of many PIs who provide lab espresso machines and unlimited free beans. DOPING!!!

  • Cashmoney says:

    Caffeine's a legal-threshold substance, CPP, not completely banned. Depends on the pee-test.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Additionally, before anyone without large breasts makes a judgment on this, I'd like to see them strap two water balloons filled to the same size around their chests and take a run.

    You're more generous than I would be. Since the water balloons would be supported entirely by the harness, they'd be less of a problem. True "run a mile in my bra" understanding would require at least implants so that the fascia etc. were also put under (shock) load.

  • andrew says:

    I think the post-docs on Ritalin/speed/caffeine is a great analogy. I for one am convinced that I would be WAY more productive on amphetamines and/or some amphetamine derivative. Now let's say all other things being equal I'm up for some shitty post-doc at a top-tier school and the reason I've got 20 papers as opposed to 5 is largely due to the concentration/activity enhancements from drugs to my dopamine system - is this academic DOPING?
    I would point out the famous example of mathematician Paul Erdos. He is the author/co-author of over 1400 papers (this is where the Erdos number comes from - how many people are you away from someone who has written a paper with Erdos). Anyway, he was openly taking amphetamines EVERY DAY of his career. In fact he complained that he could not think wihtout speed. Does this minimize his impact on his field, or mathematics on general? Obviously not his results stand and are published. Is this somehow different from doping in sports?

  • becca says:

    It is ok to ban something in a sport, even if it affects some more than others, simply because winning only means anything in the context of agreed upon rules.
    (I suspect, given what little I know about the cultures of the sports, non-medically indicated breast-reduction would be seen as cheating in bike racing more than in tennis- there doesn't have to be one right answer)
    In contrast, academic science is not a sport. It's not designed purely to serve as an outlet for our competitive natures, where success is predicated on playing by a shared set of completely arbitrary rules... oh wait. SHIT.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    becca,
    Science, too, has rules and in science, too, there are those who break them in order to be on top. Almost any human endeavor can be analogous to competitive sports and cheaters, albeit, a minority, always play their part in those endeavors.

  • bikemonkey says:

    So S. Rivlin, is chronic amphetamine use cheating in science? Come on now, not like you to be shy about these things.

  • Shitlin, you are so fucking predictable.
    BTW, welcome back!! Where the fuck you been?

  • bikemonkey says:

    hey, kewl. I get the funky grey box too if I don't use caps? gee...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    BM,
    The cheaters in science break the rules by using PFF. Amphetamine use, as long as it is prescribed legally, does not break the rules of science practice. If a scientist uses an illegal drug, s/he, like any other person, breaks the rule (law) and if caught, will be punished. However, just as you do not destroy the artwork of an artist who did his/her work under the influence of drugs, you do not nullify the published scientific work of a scientist whose also a drug addict. The rules in sports prohibit the use of amphetamine, so using it is cheating. The medal or prize (money) an athlete receives for his/her athletic acheivement, if obtained while cheating, must be nullify.
    CPP,
    I know you've missed me. Nevertheless, now that I'm back, you can go back to lick my tuches.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    Almost any human endeavor can be analogous to competitive sports and cheaters, albeit, a minority, always play their part in those endeavors.

    Well, any zero-sum game anyway.
    Science is ostensibly a non-zero-sum game, but science funding for all practical purposes is.
    In sports, the appearance of "fairness" is necessary for the business model since viewership tends to drop when a game is not perceived as fair. Thus, "unfairness" hits the bottom line in ways that full-contact basketball doesn't.
    The appearance of "unfairness" doesn't hit the bottom line for science, though -- so there's no business model objection to performance enhancement. Dry-lab and other kinds of data fudging, on the other hand, do -- and are thus not tolerated. Or at least not any more than doping is in sports.
    Darwinian selection being what it is, a good starting point for understanding behavior is to understand the business model.

  • Boy, I am happy I have never had to consider altering my amazing rack in order to keep doing my science.

  • bikemonkey says:

    I will not be inclined to forgive you if you bring the Zquake down on me with this blatant trolling Isis...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "Boy, I am happy I have never had to consider altering my amazing rack in order to keep doing my science."
    Just make sure you do not alter your data to amazing data in order to keep doing your science.

  • andrew says:

    Science, too, has rules and in science, too, there are those who break them in order to be on top. Almost any human endeavor can be analogous to competitive sports and cheaters, albeit, a minority, always play their part in those endeavors.
    So are you suggesting that one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century was a cheater because he took amphetamines throughout his career?
    Are his insights and work less valid? Should we look at his proofs and theorums and say "well these are correct and elegant but he thought of them on amphetamines so they don't count."
    I think that argument is difficult to make - in Science or Math results are results whether the scientist was strung out on drugs when he did the work is irrelevant. Yet that is exactly what we would do in sports - Landis didn't actually win the Tour for example.
    What exactly are the rules in science? Aren't the rules what we as scienists are supposed to be discovering?

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Andrew, have you read my complete comment? I specifically said that the scientifc work done by a drug user should not be nullified because of his/her drug use.

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    So are you suggesting that one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century was a cheater because he took amphetamines throughout his career?

    Different games, different rules. Mathematicians can dope like crazy but aren't allowed to make up stuff for publication.
    Lance Armstrong couldn't use dope, but he can make up utter narishkeit for publication and nobody cares.

  • andrew says:

    @S. Rivlin sorry I see you answered my post already.

  • will not be inclined to forgive you if you bring the Zquake down on me with this blatant trolling Isis...

    Trolling? I'm not trolling AssMonkey. I am just trying to make sure we all maintain some integrity around here. This is serious business we're talking about.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "Trolling? I'm not trolling AssMonkey. I am just trying to make sure we all maintain some integrity around here. This is serious business we're talking about."
    HA,HA,HA, integrity my ass. Isass, your double standard is sooooo blatant. Go back to your own blog to promote your shoe of the week.

  • Anon says:

    Srsly Isis- is it not conceivable that a breast reduction might help in a workplace where men were constantly leering and judging on appearance? Not that these could possibly exist anymore...

  • JSinger says:

    So are you suggesting that one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century was a cheater because he took amphetamines throughout his career?
    In fact, Erdos was remorseful that his success under amphetamines might encourage young mathematicians to engage in a practice that he knew to be unhealthy. There's more to this sort of discussion than written rules; you can also work towards a general understanding that certain routes to enhanced performance in whatever are taboo.
    My number is 3, BTW, with a combined Bacon-Erdos number of 6.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    I think one must distinguish between a human endeavor where the personal reward is almost immediate, which is a strong incentive to cheat, and one in which the reward is unknown and if materialized, it usually does a long time after the specific activity that responsible for it was performed.
    Erdos did not have his eyes on a specific award that was hung in front of him at the time he performed his research.
    Marion Jones knew before she had ever put her spikes on what would be the awards that would come with her crossing the finish line first.
    A scientist who's competing for an NIH grant cannot afford to wait until his research is published and recognized. Thus, there will be a few scientists, just like Marion Jones, who will decide to cheat by either plagiarize, falsify or fabricate their research results to get the NIH award. However, if a scientist chooses to use amphetamines in order to be able to write a better proposal an stay awake more hours to do it than other scientists, such choice is not cheating, it is simply a personal risk said scientist is willing to take, which in no way is unfair to other applicants who chose not to use amphetamines. After all, medical students doing it all the time.

  • andrew says:

    Erdos was obsessed with math and with working, he had no house, almost no personal belongings and no family. An elite althlete is obsessed with his/her sport.
    I don't think that the timing of the rewards in the endeavor is what matters. Many elite althetes have to dope for years before they start to see pay-offs in hundreds of milliseconds advantage in some sports.
    In both elite althetics and math/science I think people are trying to attain some kind of perfection (maybe it's Platonic or something - not being a Platonist I don't get it). Erdos spoke of "the book" where the really beautiful true proofs are written and he thought we just had to learn to read "the book". Sprinters are always trying to run "the perfect race".
    I think this is where doing whatever it takes to acheive perfection comes into play - it's not only about cheating, or kicking other peoples' asses, it's also about perfection.
    The famous Italian doctors who help pro cyclists dope believe that we are only scratching the surface of what is possible with human performance and physiology - if only we could get rid of doping regulations.

  • jay says:

    I think we are hypocritcally demanding ridiculous standards of athletes in this regard, and it causes all sorts of inconsistencies (one is allowed to use a substance one is not, one can complete with a high testosterone level, because it is 'natural' but another cannot). Part of it comes from an almost religious belief that the way you were born is the way you 'should' be, and that has to be treated as some kind of inviolate standard. But there is no real reason to arbitrarily worship the 'what you were born' with criteria.
    I was especially annoyed by the Congressional investigation int baseball players prescription drug habits as if that is any particular business of Congress. It is the business of the teams, the league, and the players but not Congress.
    it is more consistent to treat athletes like the rest of the population

  • I was especially annoyed by the Congressional investigation int baseball players prescription drug habits as if that is any particular business of Congress. It is the business of the teams, the league, and the players but not Congress.

    The supposed reason that Congress involves itself in this shit is that MLB has a legislated anti-trust exemption. The real reason, of course, is that Congress is a bunch of hero-worshipping jock-sniffing grandstanding cockwipes.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Cheating in sports became a big deal during the cold war era, when athletes from the Soviet block, especially women from East Germany, were using steroids as part of their training schedules. They collected Olympic and world championship medals in buckets. At the time, these competitions were supposed to be for amatures only and, of course, none of the athletes on the Soviet countries teams was. Thus, cheating was sunctioned by the governments of those countries, which brought much attention to the whole issue of steroid treatment in athletes and fairness of competition. Since those days much has changed, including the inclusion of professional athelets in the Olympic games and world championships. Consequently, tests for the doping in sports have become ever tighter and more sensitive and accurate. Because of the above-mentioned sunction of steroids use by athletes of the Soviet block in that era, the governments of western countries got involved in the issue and hence the involvement of our congress, the same bunch that CPP wipes their cocks for research funds.

  • zayıflama says:

    Good grief -- you people really need to take a few minutes away from policing each others' thought crimes to work on your reading comprehension skills.

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