Performance Enhancing . . . Contact Lenses?

As I’ve said before, I really don’t understand what the big deal over performance enhancing drugs in sports is. The Associated Press recently reported on a series of performance enhancing contact lenses being produced by Nike and Bausch&Lomb that illustrates the fuzzy thinking surrounding anything that conveys a benefit in athletic competition.

According to the Associated Press,

The lens — large enough to extend a ring around the iris — comes in two colors: amber and grey-green.

The amber lens is for fast-moving balls sports, such as tennis, baseball, football or soccer. Grey-green is better for blocking glare for runners or helping a golfer read the contour of the ground.

This, of course, immediately brings a reaction that — assuming the lenses actually live up to Nike’s hype — it might be unfair if some people use these sorts of lenses while others don’t,

Jerry Diehl, assistant director of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis, said his group doesn’t believe the lenses provide the competitive advantage that Nike claims.

The federation allows the lenses and puts them in the same category as sunglasses or corrective lenses. The NCAA also allows the sports lenses because it considers them similar to sunglasses.

But Diehl said he’s worried about the perception of an unfair advantage.

‘If one affluent team can get this, it forces everybody else to go out and do that,’ Diehl said. ‘Is it really something that makes a difference? In this instance, at this juncture anyway, it doesn’t seem to be any better or any worse than allowing what is already under the rule.’

But affluent teams and athletes already have a myriad of advantages. They have access, in general, to better training facilities, better training programs, better coaching, and so on.

And, of course, it is no more “fair” (whatever that means) that Ted Williams supposedly had 20/10 vision than that someone may potentially use specially tinted lenses — or performance enhancing drugs such as steroids.

Life ain’t fair and neither are athletic competitions.


New contact lenses give athletes an edge. Associated Press, June 4, 2006.

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