Today's New York Times has an excellent article detailing the problems with testing athletes for performance enhancing (and recreational) drugs in the sport of mixed martial arts. On the plus side, their assessment of the problem and prescription for a solution are both on-point. Notable quote:
Drug-testing programs run by athletic commissions differ from state to state. In New Jersey, which has held several mixed martial arts events this year, all fighters are tested. A positive test for performance-enhancing or recreational drugs results in a 90-day suspension, according to Nick Lembo, counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. A second positive test results in a minimum six-month suspension and mandatory enrollment in an inpatient drug treatment facility. A third positive results in a minimum two-year ban. The law also requires that other states honor those suspensions, Lembo said.
It's clear the disarray from the lack of one coherent, enforceable standard is troubling. The system - as it's currently arranged - makes negligence and cheating only moderately difficult tasks. Any system is open to corruption or ineffectiveness, but what we have here isn't even remotely deterring.
I don't have the best answers as to why steroids should be banned from professional competition, other than to say the use of them by an athlete doesn't pass the "smell test". For whatever reason, it just doesn't sit right. It feels like cheating, but emotions aren't necessarily tools of cognition. So, by no means am I suggesting that's basis enough for governmental regulation. But for better or worse, the smell test argument seems to be the only justification anyone can agree on.