Drugs in Sport

A syringe injecting colourful pretend drugs into a tennis ball

Professional sport is at the vanguard of biomedical research enhancement technologies. Even within the boundaries of strict modern sporting codes, athletes undergo enormously complex training, diet and medical interventions aimed at pushing them to the limits of human performance. But modern professional sport has also been at the heart of an ethical storm concerning the use of these technologies outside the rules. Professional athletes use untested drugs and methods to push their bodies to superhuman extremes, sometimes at serious cost to their health. 
Given that modern sport, even without rule-breaking, is increasingly dominated by enhancement technologies, what should our attitude be toward risk-taking and self-modification in sport? Should we try to freeze technological progress in professional sport, maintaining naturalistic ideals about the nature of self-improvement? Or should we see sport as an emblem of human ingenuity and our capacity to improve our lot through science and self-sacrifice?



  • Savulescu, J., (2015), 'Healthy Doping'. in V. Moller, I. Waddington and J. M. Hoberman, (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Drugs and Sport. (Abingdon: Routledge) pp 350- 362.
  • Foddy, B. and Savulescu, J., (2014), 'Using Steroids Ethically'. in D.E.Newton, (Ed.) Steroids and Doping in Sport: A Reference Handbook. (Santa Barbara, California ABC-CLIO) pp 122-124.
  • Mcnamee, M., Savulesu, J. and Willick, S., (2014), 'Ethical Considerations in Paralympic Sport: When Are Elective Treatments Allowable to Improve Sports Performance?', Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Journal, Vol: 6(8) August 2014 Supplement: S66–S75.
  • Savulescu, J., (2014), 'Performance Optimization and Physiological Doping', Substance Abuse and Misuse, Vol: 49(9): 1186–1189. 
  • Savulescu, J., Creaney, L. and Vondy, A., (2013). "HEAD TO HEAD:  Should athletes be allowed to use performance enhancing drugs?"  British Medical Journal, Vol: 347(F6150) (free article but registration required to use site)
  • Edmonds, D. (2011) 'Out of thin air' , Prospect Magazine, December issue
  • Foddy B. (2010) 'Enhancing Skill'. In ter Muelen R., Savulescu J., Kahane G., (eds) Enhancing Human Capacities. Blackwell Press
  • Foddy, B. and Savulescu, J. (2010), 'Time to Reevaluate Gender Segregation in Athletics?' British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol: Published online August 2010 (forthcoming in print 2011)
  • Savulescu, J. and Foddy, B. (2010) 'Le Tour and Failure of Zero Tolerance: Time to Relax Doping Controls'. In Ter Meulen, R. and Savulescu, J. (eds) Enhancing Human Capacities, Blackwell Press
  • Foddy, B. and Savulescu, J. (2009), 'Ethik der Leistungssteigerung im Sport: Medikamenten- und Gen-Doping', in  B. Schone-Seifert and D. Talbot (Eds.)Enhancement: Die Ethische Debatte,Paderborn: Mentis Verlag
  • Foddy B. (2008). 'Risks and Asterisks: Neurological Enhancements in Baseball'. In Gordon D. (ed). Your Brain on Cubs: Inside the Heads of Players and Fans. New York: Dana Press
  • Douglas, T. (2007), 'Enhancement in Sport, and Enhancement outside Sport', Studies in Ethics, Law and Technology, Vol: 1(1)
  • Savulescu J., and Foddy, B., (2007). 'Ethics of Performance Enhancement in Sport: Drugs and Gene Doping', in Ashcroft, R E., Dawson, A., Draper, H. and McMillan, J. R. (eds). Principles of Health Care Ethics, Second Edition. London: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. pp. 511 – 520.
  • Foddy B. (2006) 'The Ethics of Genetic Testing in Sport'. International SportsMedJournal. (3) 216-224.
  • Savulescu, J. and Foddy, B. (2006), 'Good Sport, Bad Sport', in D. Smyth, H. Brown, W. Judge, C. McCallum and R. Pritchard (Eds.) Live it Up 2: VCE Physical Education Units 3 and 4, 2nd Edition,Milton: John Wiley and Sons
  • Savulescu J, Foddy B. (2005) 'Good Sport, Bad Sport: Why we should legalise drugs in the Olympics'. The Best Australian Sportswriting 2004. Melbourne : Black Inc 2005.
  • Savulescu J, and Foddy. B., (2005) 'Comment: genetic test available for sports performance'. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Aug; 39(8):472.
  • Savulescu, J. (2005), 'Risk and Sport: Genetic testing and Boxing', in  C. Tambourrini (Ed.) Genetic Technology in Sport, London and New York:  Routledge pp. 136 - 146
  • Savulescu, J. and Foddy, B. (2005), 'Book Review of Sports Ethics: An Anthology', British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol: 39 pp. 686 - 687
  • Savulescu, J., Foddy, B. and Clayton, M. (2005), 'Waarom we Prestatieverbeterende Middelen in Sport Zouden Moeten Toestaan?' Geneeskunde en Sport, Vol: 38
  • Savulescu, J., Foddy, B. and Clayton, M., (2004) 'Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport' British Journal of Sports Medicine., Dec 004; 38: 666 - 670. 



  • Sparrow, R. and Savulescu, J., (2016), 'Should doping in sports be unrestricted? A video head-to-head.' Interviewed by Regan Penaluna for 'Nautilus'. (25 August)
  • Savulescu, J., (2014), Talking Head on Doping in Sport on multimedia website, Al Jazeera Turkey.
  • Savulescu, J. (2013), Many performance enhancing drugs are legal. Interviewed by Stephen Sackur for BBCs HARDtalk (25 November )
  • Savulescu, J., (2013), 'IQ2 Debate: Is it OK for Athletes to Use Performance Enhancing Drugs?' This IQ2 takes the debate on performance enhancing drugs in sport further than anything published thus far in the media. It features Shane Gould, Peter FitzSimons, Julian Savulescu and Robin Willcourt. Audio and Video files available here.
  • Savulescu, J., (2013), 'Julian Savulescu discusses 'Drugs in Sport''. 2GB, The Alan Jones Breakfast Show (Australian Radio) Audio
  • Savulescu, J., (2012), “Sport: giving the red card to drugs?”. Voice of Russia, Global Russian Radio Service (19 October) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqXIRNm2WIA&feature=plcp
  • 'Relaxing the Ban on Doping'. Savulescu delivered keynote speech at ‘Human enhancement - biotechnology in sports’ Conference organized by The Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board in collaboration with Anti-Doping Norway. The primary focus of the conference was the use of gene doping, and the use of genetic screening for traits that are beneficial for sports athletes and it was for held for the benefit of athletes, scientists, trainers and the general public. Oslo, Norway (16 March 2011)
  • Julian Savulescu appears in Intelligence Squared debate on Drugs in Sport, New York, January 2008 http://media.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/uehiro/drugsinsportjan08radio.mp3
  • In this 5 minute clip Julian Savulescu explains his views on drugs in sport. Video