Neurostimulation, doping, and the spirit of sport
Pugh, Jonathan D
Pugh, Christopher J. A.
MetadataShow full item record
There is increasing interest in using neuro-stimulation devices to achieve an ergogenic effect in elite athletes. Although the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) does not currently prohibit neuro-stimulation techniques, a number of researchers have called on WADA to consider its position on this issue. Focusing on trans-cranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a case study of an imminent so-called ‘neuro-doping’ intervention, we argue that the emerging evidence suggests that tDCS may meet WADA’s own criteria (pertaining to safety, performance-enhancing effect, and incompatibility with the ‘spirit of sport’) for a method’s inclusion on its list of prohibited substances and methods. We begin by surveying WADA’s general approach to doping, and highlight important limitations to the current evidence base regarding the performance-enhancing effect of pharmacological doping substances. We then review the current evidence base for the safety and efficacy of tDCS, and argue that despite significant shortcomings, it may be sufficient for WADA to consider prohibiting tDCS, in light of the comparable flaws in the evidence base for pharmacological doping substances. In the second half of the paper, we argue that the question of whether WADA ought to ban tDCS turns significantly on the question of whether it is compatible with the ‘spirit of sport’ criterion. We critique some of the previously published positions on this, and advocate our own sport-specific and application-specific approach. Despite these arguments, we finally conclude by suggesting that tDCS ought to be monitored rather than prohibited due to compelling non-ideal considerations.
Pugh, J. and Pugh, C. (2020) 'Neurostimulation, doping, and the spirit of sport', Neuroethics.
Article published in Neuroethics on 16 May 2020, available open access at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-020-09435-7.
Cardiff Metropolitan University (Grant ID: Cardiff Metropolian (Internal))
JP's research on this paper was funded by the Wellcome Trust, grant number 203195/Z/16/Z.
- Sport Research Groups