Intentions and the Ethics of Therapeutic Use Exemptions: a Conceptual and Empirical study

Supervisory team: Dr Jon Pike (Open University) and Nick Wojek (UK Anti-Doping)

On 5 March 2019 the DCMS Select Committee issued a report on Doping and Anti-Doping in UK Sport. In the case of Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky it stated that, while there was no violation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, its activity:

“does cross the ethical line that David Brailsford says he himself drew for Team Sky…. In this case, … we believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need.” (DCMS 2018)

The proposed PhD is a conceptual and empirical study of a nest of issues around TUEs and will aim to answer a series of questions, some in applied ethics, and others about the dispositions and understandings of participants in the practice of elite sport in the UK. The first part of the research programme will be to study the role and status of intentions in the award of TUEs in elite sport. TUEs allow for the prescription of substances to athletes that are normally prohibited (because of their performance enhancing effects) if their use is to treat a medical condition. But it is sometimes alleged that their use constitutes cheating. The research will need to look at the place of mixed, fuzzy and collective intentions, and to analyse and apply recent moral theory and work on intentions by, amongst others, Michael Bratman (Bratman 2007; Bratman 2017). It will ask whether the Doctrine of Double Effect is informative in determining permissibility in this context. Here the PhD research will build on the work of the lead supervisor (Pike 2018b). It will ask - what is the relation between ethical permissibility and the drawing up of regulations covering TUEs – between the evaluation of behaviour and the formation of rules?

The second part of the study will investigate the understandings, and possibly the misunderstandings, that UK athletes, coaches, and sports medics have of their responsibilities and roles in the prescription of substances that are on the Prohibited List, but permitted, on the basis of medical need, under the TUE regulations. The research will gather rich interview and focus group data, for thematic and qualitative analysis following careful protocols, and on advice from psychologist Virginia Harrison at the Open University. This will represent a form of ‘experimental philosophy’ as outlined by Knobe (Knobe and Nichols 2008) and others.

UKAD will guide the student though this process, and facilitate access to athletes, coaches, and sports medics, as well as to the relevant personnel at UKAD itself.