The Use of Nutritional Ergogenic Aids in Sports: Is It an Ethical Issue?

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Melvin H. Williams
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As nutritional technology advanced, scientists have been able to synthesize and manufacture all known nutrients, and many of their metabolic by-products, essential to human physiology. Many of these substances are theorized to possess ergogenic potential when take in quantities or forms normally not found in typical foods or diets. Research, although limited in most cases, supports the ergogenicity of some nutrients (e.g., creatine) when consumed in substantial amounts, suggesting such nutrients may function as drugs or nutraceuticals. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) doping legislation stipulates that any physiologic substance taken in abnormal quantity with the intention of artificially and unfairly increasing performance should be construed as doping, violating the ethics of sport performance. Given this stipulation, the IOC and other athletic-governing organizations should consider the legality and ethics underlying the use of ergogenic nutraceuticals in sport.

M.H. Williams is with the Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Darden College of Education at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0196.

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