When better is worse. On the therapy/enhancement distinction in sports

When better is worse. On the therapy/enhancement distinction in sports / Alberto Carrio Sampedro. - (Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 9 (2015) 4; p. 413-426) 

  • DOI: 10.1080/17511321.2015.1130741


The standard therapy/enhancement distinction is usually related to health purposes and some sense of normality. In this paper, I will challenge the basis of the distinction arguing that only the first part of it is related to health and, consequently, the distinction should be better understood as differentiating between qualitative and quantitative consequences of interventions. As health and normality are broad concepts inside of which it is possible to make some ulterior distinctions, I will propose three different senses of normality in order to more easily grasp the therapy/enhancement distinction. As with the distinction between therapy and enhancement, the difference between sports- and non-sports-persons is usually stated in terms of health and normality. I will challenge this assumption, too. In my opinion, the main difference between people, sportspeople and athletes should be related to the practice itself. Once the practice of a sport is taken seriously, along with its tough and demanding lifestyle, it is possible to properly analyse the distinction between people who practice and do not practice sport; the different levels at which they participate — quite obviously — have little to do with health purposes. Finally, I will revisit the standard therapy/enhancement distinction in sport in order to provide a way to easily reformulate this distinction allowing embarrassing blunders to be avoided and athletes’ health to be adequately cared for. I will conclude this paper with two open questions related to the use of the therapy/enhancement distinction for sport purposes and the challenge that it represents for some basic values of sport.

Original document


Dissertation / Thesis
31 May 2016
Sampedro, Alberto Carrio
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Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) - Pompeu Fabra University
Medical terms
Legitimate Medical Treatment
Treatment / self-medication
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Scientific article
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Date generated
30 August 2021
Date of last modification
1 September 2021
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