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Malcolm Gladwell and Ben McGrath on doping in sports.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

This week in the magazine, Malcolm Gladwell reviews David Epstein's "The Sports Gene," which looks at the biological advantages of elite athletes, from extra-long Achilles tendons to exceptionally high red-blood-cell counts. Here, Nicholas Thompson talks with Gladwell and Ben McGrath about our inconsistent ideas about fairness in sports and whether doping should or shouldn't be allowed. Gladwell asks, if we allow laser surgery to improve eyesight or Tommy John surgery to replace ligaments, why don't we allow athletes to take F.D.A. approved testosterone, in doses that are not harmful, in order to accelerate their recovery time after workouts and competition? He argues that we should legalize performance-enhancing drugs and then regulate them, and imagines a world where athletes make their biological passports public: "What I really would like is to have complete liberalization and complete transparency. I would like to know about every single baseball player, track-and-field athlete, basketball player, precisely what they are on. And then I'd like to reach my own conclusions as a fan about how to evaluate their performance." Thompson presses Gladwell on his own feelings as a fan of track-and-field athletes, and argues that the sport of running would be diminished by allowing P.E.D.s. Gladwell counters that "those days of running innocence" are already long gone, and that we need to accept that, for better or worse, doping is a part of athletic competition in the modern world. Also on the podcast, Sarah Larson celebrates Linda Ronstadt's voice.

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