LETTERS: Fair sports must be drug-free

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The Independent Online
From Dr Jonathan Howell Sir: With regard to Pat Butcher's provocative article on your sports pages on "The case for letting athletes take drugs" (13 December), "fairness" involves being seen to be fair, whereas drug taking in sport is a hidden activity and an unquantified physical risk that many are not prepared to take. There are established deaths in sports other than athletics and serious side-effects are well-known in medical circles.

Professional sport is all about establishing heroes who are then emulated by the young and the keen. Take body building. Drug abuse, such as injecting steroids, is commonplace and effectively the standard. Health workers then have to organise needle exchange schemes to prevent HIV transmission.

Even if these drugs were legal, it seems unlikely that many amateur athletes would take complicated drug regimes under medical supervision.

Sport is for all people and the selfish actions of some professionals should not be used to encourage unknown dangers in those who aspire to emulate them.

Yours faithfully, JONATHAN HOWELL Senior Registrar in Medicine Walsall Health Authority Walsall, West Midlands 15 December