Didn't you just know news of Russia's systemic doping in athletics would bring them out - the dropkicks who say, with every new scandal, we should just let the dopers dope, the dopes...

The latest in this line of specious reasoning comes from Professor Ellis Cashmore on CNN's website this week; a professor of sociology at Aston University in England, he advocates allowing doping so sport can give up "its futile crusade against drugs cheats".

"Athletes from all sports have made their intentions clear - they intend to use performance-enhancing substances no matter how severe the punishments," Cashmore wrote.

"Professional athletes...are risk-takers. The prizes, and riches, on offer are so irresistible they will do whatever it takes to win. Today's sports performers are encouraged by coaches, managers and, of course, us to win at all costs. Who can blame them for taking supplements when the chances of detection are remote? For all its tough talking, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) always appears to be - and often is - one step behind the cheats.


"The commotion caused by the latest revelation about Russia presents an opportunity to return to the basic moral question - what is so bad about doping? We, the fans, see little wrong with enhancement in other areas of entertainment. Rock singers have revealed they've recorded tracks when using drugs and several great writers drank heroically when composing their best work."

I mean, come on...this guy is a professor? Is he seriously comparing rock musicians cobbling up three chords for the masses to what amounts to systemic fraud?

Let me see...recreational drug use in music versus deliberate cheating where corrupt officials even allegedly hid positive doping tests...hmm, yes, they're almost identical.

Seeing Cashmore is so confused about what is morally wrong with doping, here are some starters for 10:

* Fraud - it puzzles me a professor of sociology cannot see how drugs cheats winning medals, prizes and riches defraud fellow competitors, fans, sponsors and others.

I wonder how he'd explain his theory to Jenny Meadows, his fellow Briton 800m runner who says she has been denied a medal four times by Russia's Mariya Savinova (gold medallist in the event at the London 2012 Olympics and one of five Russians now facing a life ban advocated by WADA). She says losing to Savinova has conservatively cost her $230,000.

* Deaths - Knut Jensen, the Danish cyclist on amphetamines at the 1960 Olympics when he collapsed, crashed and died; Tommy Simpson died on the 1967 Tour de France, also after taking amphetamines. His motto apparently was "if it takes 10 to kill you, take nine and win". Yay, Tommy. There have been 25 deaths linked to drugs in cycling alone.

Middle distance athletics king Hicham el Guerroj said in 2001 after the death of Kenyan 10,000m silver medallist and world record holder Richard Chelimo in 2001: "...not long ago, Chelimo was a healthy athlete. Now, at 29, he's dead. In the years to come, many athletes will die because of doping. Believe me, there will be more premature deaths."
It's a sad fact people sometimes have to be protected against themselves. That's why we have motorway speed limits, gun laws, fishing quotas and Gareth Morgan.


* Cheating - Performance-enhancing drugs do not always have the same effect on different people. Those who react better to drugs perform better so, in a Cashmore world where doping is permitted, athletes with the best drug-accepting physiology and/or the best chemist/doctor will win.

Cashmore says fans just want to see the biggest/fastest/strongest so doping can easily be de-demonised. However, fame-hungry athletes will likely push limits further, taking riskier drugs to gain an edge. Funeral directors will love the idea.

* Crime - David Howman, the Kiwi director-general of WADA, says organised crime already controls about 25 per cent of world sport: "Those guys who are distributing drugs, steroids, HGH [human growth hormone] and EPO and so on, are the same guys who are corrupting people, the same guys who are paying money to people to fix games. They're the same bad guys."

Giving dopers their head doesn't actually fix anything. It just makes it easier for the crims to find another way to corrupt sport; the next obvious step is to fix the races. Cashmore, who has written papers and books, apparently, about sport simply reveals he doesn't know much about sport's inherent principles of fairness.

It may be futile trying to eradicate all drug cheats - but you have to try, for all the above reasons. Surrendering, if you take the Cashmore theory to its logical conclusion, is like decriminalising murder on the basis the police will never stop it happening.