Doping Scandals and “Nature’s Aristocracy”

In the August 2014 issue of The Journal of Medicine and PhilosophyPieter BonteSigrid Sterckx, and Guido Pennings argue that there’s something morally retrograde about the values which see natural talent as categorically purer and morally better than artificially supplemented talent. Here’s the abstract to their new paper called “May the Blessed Man Win: A Critique of the Categorical Preference for Natural Talent over Doping as Proper Origins of Athletic Ability”:

Doping scandals can reveal unresolved tensions between the meritocratic values of equal opportunity + reward for effort and the “talentocratic” love of hereditary privilege. Whence this special reverence for talent? We analyze the following arguments: (1) talent is a unique indicator of greater potential, whereas doping enables only temporary boosts (the fluke critique); (2) developing a talent is an authentic endeavor of “becoming who you are,” whereas reforming the fundamentals of your birth suit via artifice is an act of alienation (the phony critique); (3) your (lack of) talent informs you of your proper place and purpose in life, whereas doping frustrates such an amor fati self-understanding (the fateless critique). We conclude that these arguments fail to justify a categorical preference for natural talent over integrated artifice. Instead, they illustrate the extent to which unsavory beliefs about “nature’s aristocracy” may still be at play in the moral theatre of sports.

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