Thursday, April 14, 2005

LifeWaves - Not Doping?

One of the questions at the Harvard symposium was about the ethical status of LifeWaves, the new technology that is designed to boost energy. There is no official WADA position on this one yet, but it is unlikely that it will be considered a method of doping. However ,it is performance enhancing and does offer a 'short-cut' to better performances. To that extent, one might argue (mistakenly) that is compromises the 'spirit of sport'. Here we have a further indication that there is a need for more joined-up thinking in the world of sport, about performance. In a paper I am due to have published in the Journal of Sport Sciences, I argue that it is necessary to ditch the anti-doping framework and replace it with a 'Performance Policy', which makes clear the connections between a range of technologies and how they challenge the ethical status of performance in sport.

Here are some details about the LifeWave patches from The California Aggie:

"The product consists of two patches, which the company claims will boost energy by 20 to 40 percent, and contains a vague list of ingredients known as 'orthomolecular compounds.' The NCAA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tested the patches and found no illegal substances. The NCAA went a step further by announcing that the patches do not fall under the category of nutritional substances because nothing is ingested.

While LifeWave's patent is still pending, and no details can be given about
the composition of the patches, it is important to note the overall trend that is taking place in sports: an increase in cases of performance-enhancing products or supplements on the market. The fact that athletes at the collegiate and professional levels are looking for any advantages they can gain over their opponents is a distressing sign.

Gone are the days when athletes gained their advantage by just working harder
than their competitors. In today's era of sports, money and results are what matter and some athletes seem to be willing to accomplish their goals by any means necessary.

While very few collegiate athletes gain the notoriety that often accompanies
professional sports, it is important to note that Davis youths admire UCD athletes. Youngsters often emulate what they see performers doing and it is not far-fetched to believe kids will start using supplements in their adolescent years when given their favorite athletes as examples of a product's success.

LifeWave seems to be the latest in a string of performance-enhancing
products. With the rise of such products, athletes are often faced with the tough decision: losing the competitive edge or compromising their athletic integrity."

Of course, I totally reject the stance of this paper, but what's new!?


Blogger nijikon-fetchi said...

I agree that the rules should be reworked so that there is a clearer definition of what should be illegal and what is simply a technological brainwave!

I cannot see how these LifeWave patches will work, epecially if it is to increase energy by up to 40%! it sounds as bad as when the nicotene patches came out, most people I know that tried them said they didnt notice any difference with them.

Besides, if this does give an advantage over the next competitor then why should it not be banned, if something like gene doping can be banned before they have fully carried out resarch on how it could transform and revolutionise sport then possibly so should these patches with their 'vague list of ingregients'.

Also i do not agree that long gone are the days when an athlete will train hard to beat their competitor and have to resort to drugs. I know many athletes who are currently competing for their countries, they may not be olympic athletes but are happy with where they are and dont have to resort to using patches to enhance their performance...a bottle of water will do fine.

ciao, niji

1:02 pm  
Blogger andymiah said...

well, you know how many technological processes a bottle of what goes through before it reaches you? of course, I do not dismiss the differences between different substances, nor do i doubt the fact that there are many athletes who would prefer not to take drugs. However, the lifewaves example - like many other examples of technology - raises a question about what kinds of technology are acceptable. It is likely that LifeWaves will not be banned, but the reasons are unclear. If we are concerned about technology that enhances a human body, then this could be included and banned on that basis. If we are concerned about harm, then we need to know if it is harmful. I suspect that, if there are no significant harms arising from this technology, it will not be banned. this is what WADA cares about most - the application of medical technology for non-medical purposes.

even if we live in a time when athletes need not resort to drugs for enhancement, we would certainly not doubt their need to resort to other technologies. so what is the difference between drugs and these other technologies?

9:29 am  
Blogger Amateur said...

I predict that if the patches are performance enhancing, they will be banned. Caffeine is banned. For that matter, alcohol is performance-enhancing -- and banned -- in sports requiring calm. I do not believe that harm to health is the reason that substances are banned.

Also, niji is of course correct in the assertion that most athletes follow the rules. Even among Olympic athletes, the vast majority resist the urge to cheat (defined simply as breaking the rules of their sport).

I have written about some of these issues on my blog as well. I am going to add a link to Bioethics in Sport. You provide an interesting and informed perspective, although I disagree on some points.

6:34 pm  
Blogger andymiah said...

Thank you for your comment amateur, i took a look at your blog, which is also very interesting. I suppose I am interested in what we call 'doping'. If we look at something like altitude chambers, they are legal for nearly all sports federations and many athletes use them without any ethical concern. Yet, they are currently under investigation by the World Anti-Doping Agency and, like LifeWaves perhaps, might soon be made illegal. I wonder how athletes might reconsider their ethical views on what should be permitted, should this take place. While many athletes surely resist the temptation to cheat, I think many also wonder what should be cheating in the first place.

best wishes,


5:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I looked at the Lifeways info and your comments: clarity of effectiveness seems vague. Therefore it is not proven!

I am sure if it was the past three years all NFL teams ..and athletes would be using them.. through viral word of mouth testimony.

2:58 pm  

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