Goldman’s dilemma. Bob Goldman, began asking elite athletes in the 1980s whether they would take a drug that guaranteed them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years. More than half of the athletes said yes. When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same. About half of the athletes were quite ready to take the bargain.
Back in 2009, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a report where Goldman’s dilemma was tested on members of the Australian public.
Goldman's dilemma was tested by random telephone survey of 250 members of the Australian general public. Subjects were asked whether they would take the Faustian bargain of a drug that guaranteed sporting success but would result in their death in 5 years' time.
Only two of a sample of 250 reported they would take the bargain offered by the dilemma.
Conclusions: Athletes differ markedly from the general population in response to the dilemma. This raises significant practical and ethical dilemmas for athlete support personnel. The psychometry of the dilemma needs to be established more comprehensively for general and athlete populations.
Okay, athletes saying they would take the Faustian pact is not the same as actually taking it. Even so, it is an interesting admission by half the athletes questioned and for all we know the other half were not being honest.
Large-scale, state of the art drug testing is an essential part of the modern Olympics. We know that and seem to accept it, but why?
Considering the cost, the policing, the military hardware, disruption, corruption and the frankly demeaning circus atmosphere - what do we get from the Olympics? Add in the drugs issue and doesn’t it all begin to look a little tacky?