MODERN professional football is undeniably a spectator sport – are the fans being denied the best spectacle available by banning performance enhancing drugs?
Earlier this season Manchester City and Ivory Coast defender Kolo Toure tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended by his club, pending the outcome of a process which could see him barred from playing competitively for up to two years.
When England and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand simply missed a drugs test, he was banned from competition for eight months.
This is a hard line being taken by the authorities – but is it ultimately fair on the fans who support this most over-hyped of entertainment industries?
Now when players are using substances to gain an edge over opponents, you can argue that doping is foul play – but if the use of perfectly safe and wholly legal performance enhancers was open to all players, you would have a level playing field.
Football is already high stakes, with millions of pounds worth of prizes riding on the outcomes of matches decided by the smallest of margins of error by its protaganists.
And it is already a dangerous career for pros, who must accrue a lifetime’s wealth within the decade-and-a-half or so they have before age or injury forces retirement – just look at Dean Ashton, a promising England international who sadly retired due to injury in 2009, aged 26, after failing to recover from a long-term ankle injury.
Banning substances – whether you look alcohol during prohibition, or modern problems with class A drugs – throws up as many challenges as it does solution.
Why force doping underground when you could look at a system of open regulation instead?
It would benefit the players, by minimising the risks, and most importantly benefit the fans who tune in to see the most entertaining game being played as humanly – or inhumanly- possible.