Effectiveness, Proportionality and Deterrence

Does criminalizing doping deliver?

Authored by: Jason Lowther

Routledge Handbook of Drugs and Sport

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415702782
eBook ISBN: 9780203795347
Adobe ISBN: 9781134464050


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Imposing a criminal sanction should require more than a moment’s thought, and be more than a knee-jerk reaction. It should not be driven by sectoral interests with empires to build. There should always be a full consideration of collateral impacts. This is because criminal law is a blunt instrument: its sanctions may apply disproportionately; and its effectiveness is inextricably linked to its successful enforcement. In certain cases the likelihood of being caught is of greater deterrence than the sanction itself. Usually the impetus to create a criminal liability depends on a claimed societal need to address an identified and persistent threat that cannot be otherwise overcome than through the deployment of state apparatus. Sometimes these threats reflect hyperbole-driven moral panics manufactured by a prevailing hegemony. Drug regulation does not have an unblemished record here. Indeed, when dominant moral and political discourses are stripped away, there often remains an almost Canute-esque intransigence to accept the realities of use, or, at least, a failure to consider alternatives to proscription of activities on pain of state sanction. This is of course not to say that there is no role for criminal laws. It is just that they must be justifiable and fit for their claimed purpose.

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