Dignified Doping: Truly Unthinkable? An Existentialist Critique of ‘Talentocracy’ in Sports

Dignified Doping : Truly Unthinkable? An Existentialist Critique of ‘Talentocracy’ in Sports / Pieter Bonte

Published in:

Athletic Enhancement, Human Nature and Ethics : Threats and Opportunities of Doping Technologies. - Dordrecht : Springer. - (International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, volume 52; p. 59-86)

  • DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-5101-9_4
  • Print ISBN 978-94-007-5100-2
  • Online ISBN 978-94-007-5101-9


As the activity of sporting has become deeply ensnared in cultures of hyper-competition and industries of shallow spectacle, many are unable or unwilling to consider how in healed sports (sub) cultures, doping may be done in dignity. To investigate this, I suspend all circumstantial issues surrounding doping, to see whether doping, in ‘the best of all possible worlds’, would remain problematic. Analysing the required origins, processes and outcomes of a proper athletic accomplishment, I conclude that doping need not be debasing, mechanistic nor dehumanizing. The deep integration of artifice in one’s body may even signify a courageous acceptance of the human condition of being ‘foundationlessly free and ruthlessly responsible’. As such, doping would be deeply dignified. In this light, I critique the deep attachment to natural talent in the justifications of anti-doping as attempts to sustain the comfortable but deceptive self-image of man as a creature which should follow the cues of its nature – develop its talents – to find purpose and meaning in life. Ironically, where ‘talentocrats’ cultivate natural forms, transhumanists cultivate a natural formula: evolution, thus becoming strange bedfellows in trying to connect human existence to the comforts of a ‘naturally given purpose’. To be human, however, is to be denied such an existential cradle. Intriguingly, sport is claimed both as a deceitful dreamland of soothing purposefulness and as a testimony to our troubling but true purposelessness. A truly virtuous spirit of sport should insist it is the latter.

Original document


9 October 2012
Bonte, Pieter
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Universiteit Gent (UGent) - Ghent University
Doping culture
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28 September 2021
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4 October 2021
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