Media and the Intimidating Female Figure

In the last decade we’ve seen several athletes’ womanhood brought into question in the spotlight of the media. Due to the gender segregation of athletics, sport governing bodies have a vested interest to ensure that women are in fact women. But men aren’t tested to see if they’re male? Their hormones aren’t analyzed to see if they are too feminine to compete as males. The testing of females androgen levels in women’s sports is simply the expression of societal fears of athleticism challenging traditional femininity and gender roles.

Currently trending in modern media is the representation of female athletes in a sexual manner to a greater extent than male athletes. This draws attention away from their determination or athleticism to remind readers or viewers that the athlete is still a woman. #CoverTheAthlete is a recent cause that is highlighting the discrepancy between male and female athlete media portrayals, highlighting the ridiculousness of some of the questions that female athletes are asked. The contrast is provided by asking the same questions that female athletes were asked to male athletes. The movement is hoping to shift the focus away from gender role loaded questioning to coverage that is more representative and respectful of the work that female athletes have put into their sports. The #CovertheAthlete campaign is encouraging people to reach out to their media outlets and demand that they focus on more relevant topics than the gender of the athletes covered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol9VhBDKZs0 

http://covertheathlete.com

The realization of the sexualization of female athletes should also be invoked against athletic photoshoots or covers as well as well. In photoshoots female athletes are more often shown in sexually provocative poses or minimal sporting equipment than their male counterparts. If a women strays from the media emphasized values, she may have less chances at sponsorship or coverage. Men are portrayed as powerful and dominant, flexing or competing in their sport. Women are rarely shown in their competitive attire, more often in bathing suits, dresses or minimal covering.

Worse still are the instances where an athlete’s success combined with their appearance can bring about an investigation into that woman’s eligibility to compete with other women, as was seen in Caster Semenya’s case. A competitor, Elisa Cusma was quoted as saying,  “these kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She’s a man”(Kimmel). It’s thought that Caster’s large margin of victory combined with her impressive musculature brought about an IAAF investigation into her sex. This focus on feminine traits and appearances creates an institutionalized pressure for competitive female athletes to conform to certain modes of dress, appearances or attitudes.

 Semenya in her contested win at the 2009 Berlin World Athletics championships.

This interest in athletes femininity is irrelevant to their sport and creates societal pressures on athletes that distract them from their sport. Hopefully campaigns like #covertheathlete raise public awareness and lead to popular media shifting their representations of female athletes.

 

 

Citations:

Kimmel M. The bigotry of the binary: the case of Caster Semenya, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-kimmel/the-bigotry-of-thebinary_b_267572.html  (accessed 22 Nov 2015).

Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Unexpected Virtue of Danger

When you hear the name Lance Armstrong, what usually comes to mind? Doping. Synonymous with cheating; a choice that can cast a shadow on any athlete. Armstrong’s doping case is probably one of the more famous cases, but there was another cyclist on the American men’s cycling team that has also had his Tour de France medal revoked. His name is Floyd Landis.

Floyd Landis was raised in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania and began riding his bike when he was a teenager (bio.com). From 2002 to 2004, Landis rode alongside Lance Armstrong with the U.S. Postal team, helping Armstrong win the Tour de France each year. Later, Landis left the U.S. Postal team and joined team Phonak. Landis went on to win the race himself in 2006. This victory was the beginning of a long road for Floyd Landis.

After his 2006 Tour de France victory, Landis’ urine sample was tested for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). This test returned positive for a synthetic testosterone banned by International Cycling Union. Landis’ medal was revoked and he was suspended from cycling for two years. Landis initially denied the claims of him taking any testosterone to win the Tour, but he does admit to sleeping in an altitude chamber.

Endurance sports are physically demanding on an athlete. Oxygen is of vital importance to endurance, and red blood cells are the facilitators. Red blood cells (RBCs) are oxygen carrying cells that supply our organs and muscles. In an endurance sport such as cycling, a rider looking to gain an edge in performance may look towards increasing the oxygen carrying capacity of  his/her RBCs. There are a few ways to increase red blood cell count in humans: using a drug called EPO, blood doping, altitude training, and using an altitude chamber. Erythropoietin or EPO is a naturally occurring compound in our bodies that signal our bone marrow to create RBCs. Blood doping is a process that involves removing blood from your system and allowing your RBC count to build up once again. Reinjecting the blood that was removed will increase red blood cell count compared to normal values. Sleeping in an altitude chamber or training at a higher altitude creates an advantage within the human body and creates more RBCs to supply an increased amount of oxygen to working muscles. All four of these methods create RBCs but only EPO and blood doping are considered illegal.

This short video gives you an idea of Floyd Landis’ actual altitude chamber, and a brief introduction to the mistrust rampant in sport.

With all the available methods to athletes to enhance performance where do we draw the ethical line in the sand regarding cheating?

If two forms of increasing RBC count are legal, while the others are not, how can we argue against other forms of performance enhancement? All four methods increase RBC count when compared to normal range, but some are legal and some aren’t. It raises the question, what is cheating? An article from cyclisme-dopage.com, which has been collecting data on PED usage in cycling since 1968, claims that 1 in 3 cyclists are using PEDs or other methods that break anti-doping laws. If over 35% of the athletes in a given sport were using a banned method it is easy to see how the notion of performance enhancement can permeate a sport. Some athletes that aspire to be great will do whatever it takes to be the greatest, this includes the use of PEDs. But at what point do we say one method is cheating and another isn’t?

Cheating has always been viewed as gaining an unfair advantage over your competitors. But if one third of your sport (as in the case of cycling) was using PEDs, would you not consider using them to level the playing field? There are some people with naturally high levels of RBCs. If this person were to compete would it be ethically permissible for other athletes to increase their RBC count artificially then? The ethical issue with PEDs does not lie with the players. I believe the athletes who choose to use PEDs are presented with a logical choice to either take steps to be the best or not achieve their goals. The true issue lies within the stigmatization of performance enhancement.

If we look to Aristotle’ views on perfectionism, we see sport as the quest for human perfection. As Heather Reid proposed, athletic competitions aim at human excellence and virtue. Athletic competition demands the athletes to question themselves as to whether or not they have what it takes to achieve greatness. This question will always bring that athlete to whether they should participate in performance enhancement. As the old adage says; in for a penny, in for a pound. If an athlete is willing to do whatever it takes to be great they will eventually turn to PEDs.

This is a controversial concept because we regard PEDs as a negative aspect of sport. If we carry on in Aristotle and Heather Reid’s tradition we must embrace any new method to attain human excellence. This notion will only be accepted if the current cultural norms make a radical shift. We must allow for the use of PEDs in sport and let the athletes make an autonomous choice whether to participate in some, none or all methods available to them. If the ethical issue with PEDs in sport truly lies within the idea of an unfair advantage, this will no longer be the case. Granted, some will have limited access to the methods available, but couldn’t that be said about the general access to sport in our culture today? This idea may create a different sport culture, a culture that embraces safe and effective performance enhancement.

Further Resources:

Live Debate; If there is a concern about creating a ‘level playing field’, then why not find safe ways to dope everyone?:   http://www.iq2oz.com/debates/it-should-be-ok-for-athletes-to-use-performance-enhancing-drugs/

Coping with Doping by J. Angelo Corlett , Vincent Brown Jr. & Kiersten Kirkland found in the Journal of Philosophy of Sport

Aretism: An Ancient Sports Philosophy for the Modern Sports World by Heather Reid and Mark Holowchak

References:

Biography.com Editors. “Floyd Landis.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web.

Chalabi, Mona. “Is It ‘impossible’ to Win the Tour De France without Doping?” The Guardian.com. Web.
Klopman, Michael. “Lance Armstrong’s Tour De France Titles Stripped: Who Gets Them Now?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web.
Macur, Juliet. “Landis Fails Drug Test After Triumph in Tour De France.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 July 2006. Web.
Savulescu, J. “Why We Should Allow Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 38.6 (2004): 666-70. Web.
Lecture information presented by Samantha Brennan for Philosophy 2079F at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.

Removal of “Headers” in Youth Soccer

camduckettblog

“A brilliant ball from Rodriguez… onto the head of Nelson… he

SCORES!!!”

Soccer’s simplicity and fun-spirited nature has made it an international phenomena. Across the globe we can see children kicking soccer balls as soon as they’re able to walk. It’s a sport we can start playing at a young age and carry with us for a lifetime.

For me, soccer was everything growing up. I watched it, I played it, I even dreamt about it – it was more than a sport, it was a lifestyle. In my childhood, never once did I consider soccer as a sport that could lead to serious injuries. The idea of “concussions” certainly never crossed my mind. My naive attitudes changed after I received my first head-injury. I remember the feeling like it was yesterday – dizziness, nauseous, and confusion. I didn’t know who I was or where I was. I had suffered a major concussion…

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Why Hall of Fame Voters Should Allow Pre-2005 PED Users to be Inducted to the Hall of Fame

While the use of PED’s has left a permanent black spot on a what is now known as the “black era” of baseball, it should not defer hall of fame voters from putting these athletes on their ballot.   Simply put, PED’s we’re not officially banned with penalization to rule breakers until 2005, meaning up until that point they were free to run rampant throughout the league. The problem was, the public was completely naive to the thought of America’s pastime being  infested with these drugs that no one even gave the idea a second thought. How do you  fix a problem if you don’t know a problem exists? Barry Bonds gained a whopping 50 pounds over the course of 5 years which many suggest was the direct result of these performance enhancing drugs. Nevertheless,  not one of the fans, owners, or league officials even batted an eye, as the value of entertainment trumped the value of ethnicity. Regular season baseball views has in fact gone down since the implementation of the new drug standards in 2005, along with television ratings.Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.47.25 PM

It seemed that the fans didn’t care, it wasn’t against the rules “officially’, and the results were evidently, prodigiously beneficial to performance. With all this to consider, how can you blame athletes for taking them. How can Hall of Fame voters neglect the performances of some of the best baseball players to ever play the game over the depreciation of baseballs integrity. The whole debate comes down to the theory, just because you are playing under the rules , does not mean you are playing the game fairly. In a book published by Jose Canseco called Juiced he claims that “over 80% of major league players we’re taking PED’s between the 1990’s and early 2000’s”. If that is the case then the game may have been on a fairer playing field then it has ever been on. The best pitchers in the game, PED induced, verse the best PED induced hitters in the game. The game is forever evolving of ways to gain an advantage while still playing within the rules. It started with spitballs , and has since evolved throughout the years to corked bats, pine tar, PEDs, wetting baselines and so forth. All of these things were not against the rules at the time they were being abused, so how can those that took part be victimized for a non-rule breaking action.

steroids-in-baseball5

Yes, the game was not being played the way it was intended to be played and its integrity may have been diminished but the rules we’re still being followed and players we’re just maximizing their performance to the extent the rules let them. Yet, we penalize them for this and disregard their accomplishments because we see it as cheating. Not fair, yes, but cheating, no. In fact Major League Baseball almost forced players to take PED’s by giving them the option too. It was either take these drugs and try and keep up with the games evolution or keep the integrity of the game  and potentially get left behind. In fact even players that succeeded while staying clean throughout that era still face clouds of suspicion on whether their achievements should be credited, because they could have taken drugs. The Nash equilibrium at the time was certainly to take performance enhancing drugs. Though they would receive a greater surplus if now one took drugs, the most realistic decision for athletes at the time was the use, due to the high reward and little to no risk.

Also, taking a performance enhancing drug does not automatically make you an amazing baseball player. Barry Bonds hold the single season home-run record, and all time home run record , and is an admitted steroid user. Gregg Zaun is a below average hitter, long time back up catcher that only hit over ten home-runs in his career twice, and is an admitted steroid user. How is it that as soon as the word “steroid” is mentioned, hall of fame voters refuse to write the players name on the ballot and credit all their accomplishments to the use of drugs. Barry Bonds has been on the ballot for four years now, and still has not received enough votes , nor will he ever in my opinion, to be inducted into the hall of fame. This is not only a crime against baseball, but a crime against morality.

I am all for the banning of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, and I do believe that it degrades the integrity and the morality of the game. It takes away from the notion that handwork can get you anywhere, and it promotes youthful consumption.  The necessary rules are now in place to prevent permeation of drug use, but it was not back then. I also believe that all cheaters should not be allowed to be inducted into the hall of fame. In order to to determine if these players were cheating you have to see what contemplates as cheating. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency code , one is considered cheating if the drug takes away from the spirit of sport.  Surely the spirit of sport was violated but where to pin that blame is a very curious subject. Do you penalize the players who were encouraged to take these drugs, with no penalty or rule set in place to monitor it? Or, do you penalize the institution basically encouraged their players to take drugs, turned a blind eye to the problem, and now wants to lash out at them in an attempt to cover the profit-crazed motives? It is not the players to blame for taking away the spirit of the sport, it is the organization itself, and it is a shame that some of the greatest baseball players to ever live such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa may never be inducted to the hall of fame.

For further reading, on the greatest ethical case in sports history, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/26/sports/baseball/its-time-to-reconsider-barry-bonds-for-the-hall-of-fame.html, provides great insight on the behind the scenes battle these players faced with the organization that bread them.

References :

http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/hof_2015.shtml

http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/baseball-hall-fame-steroids-candidates-010115

http://www.ibtimes.com/baseball-hall-fame-2015-voting-results-steroid-era-players-miss-out-tide-could-turn-1774918

Fighting in Hockey

Currently, there is lots of debate about the topic regarding whether or not fighting in hockey should be allowed. Fighting is an essential part of hockey because it allows players to be punished for a dirty hit on another player, and is not limited to the referee’s discretion. A dirty hit in hockey is any hit that is unexpected or unnecessary with the intent to severely injure a player.  Fighting has always been a part of hockey and I believe removing it would make the sport even more dangerous.

People think that fighting should not be allowed because it is too similar to a street fight. I do not agree with this belief because fighting in hockey occurs in a strictly regulated environment; consent is present between the two players and there are referees present to help oversee the fight. Referees will intervene if the fight gets out of hand or once a player is on the ground. Yes, fighting in hockey is violent and the intention of a fight is to beat your opponent, but ultimately it is the players’ decision as they both have mutually consented.

Fighting in hockey can occur when a dirty hit on a player is thrown, in which one of the victim’s teammates will step up and fight the player who delivered the hit. An example of this was is in a game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Montreal Canadians. A star player from the Canadians got hit from behind which caused an injury to his back severe enough to warrant a trip the hospital. For some reason the referee did not think the hit was worthy of a penalty and a player from the Canadians skated right over to the guy who made the dirty hit and initiated a fight. This demonstrates great teamwork because you want to make sure that your teammates always have your back and will stand up for you. It allows for star players to not worry about being headhunted, as other opponents fear potential retaliation.  For further reading on a first person perspective about fighting in hockey, read the article called Why We Fight written by a player from the Montreal Canadians, http://www.theplayerstribune.com/why-we-fight/.

Hockey with fighting allows the sport to be safer because the players know there will be consequences for implementing dirty hits. The “enforcer” of the team is an unofficial role in hockey but it deals with the response to violent plays by the opposing team. Most likely, a dirty hit will be executed on a star player in order to reduce their level of play. These actions should not go unnoticed and that player needs to know not to unfairly hit their player again. Without fighting, playing hockey would be dangerous for smaller, more skilled players to be on the ice for fear of the opposing team’s dirty hits. Fighting is a way for players to receive a consequence, otherwise not given, for their actions that may deter them from repeating the same behaviour.

A study was conducted analyzing 710 hockey fights and out of those, only 17 caused injuries, five of them to the knuckles. The study also showed that the “risk of concussion in a fight was much lower for brawling hockey players (0.39 percent) compared to the risk for those who checked one another (nearly 4.5 percent).” People who think fighting in hockey is the main cause of injury will be surprised to learn that the risk of simply partaking in the sport leads to more injuries. Both players involved in a fight are aware of the risks that are involved and choose to engage regardless of the potential injuries. To read more about the study analyzing 710 fights and the conclusions made, read Randy Dotinga’s article titled, Hockey Fistfights Rarely Cause Injuries, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/bones-joints-and-muscles/articles/2011/10/21/hockey-fistfights-rarely-cause-injuries-study-claims.

Aggression is prevalent in hockey due to the sheer nature of the sport; two opposing teams in constant physical struggle for the puck and trying to get it through a wall of defenders to have a clear shot on net. According to Jim Parry in his article, Violence and Aggression in Contemporary Sport, the type of aggression found in hockey is considered offensive aggression. This type of aggression encompasses activities that are allowed in a sport to gain an advantage over another player. Parry believes, “violence in a sport might be seen as: harm or injury to others which is against the rules.” I look at fighting in hockey as being part of the rules because there are guidelines outlining penalization for taking part in a fight. With this being said, is fighting in hockey not considered violence? The definition of violence is “behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” According to the definition, fighting in hockey is considered violence because there is an intent to hurt the other player. However, Parry’s definition of violence fails to encompass the violent acts in sports that are seen in the confines of the rules. I think fighting in hockey should be considered violence due to the aggressive nature of play. Those players who do resort to fighting will be penalized by being awarded a penalty that will deem them unable to play.

When two players agree to fight, they know that they will be in the penalty box for 5 minutes, unable to assist their team. Fighting in hockey is necessary in certain circumstances only if the benefit out weighs the 5 minute penalty that will be awarded to both players. If fighting was removed fully from hockey, there would be a lot dirtier playing and more injuries resulting from players not being able to let off some steam by dropping the gloves. Removing fighting could result in players settling disputes off the ice which would be more dangerous and lead to worse repercussions.

There will always be a place for fighting in hockey. If you remove fighting from the game, there is no real back lash for players taking runs at each other.Does the penalty a fourth line player receives really proper punishment for injuring a star player? If the hit is to bad the player may receive a game suspension or just a penalty for interference. The consequences don’t really matter to a player on the third or fourth line if he takes out the opposing teams star player. With a star player being injured, it can turn an entire series around. If fighting is removed, and players are not worried about the consequences of a dirty hit, more player will get injured from open ice hits.

References:

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/bones-joints-and-muscles/articles/2011/10/21/hockey-fistfights-rarely-cause-injuries-study-claims

http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/nhl/nhl-safer-with-fighting-players-say-1.2416907

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/why-we-fight/

Pictures:

Hyperandrogenism Should not Effect Athlete’s Careers

I have been a sports fanatic for as long as I can remember. Every game or competition I compete in, I envision it as if I am competing to be the best. Like every other sports fan, I envy and look up to professional athletes who display dedication, perseverance and ultimately are successful. However, when I hear about athletes such as Cyclist, Lance Armstrong, and Canadian Olympic Sprinter, Ben Johnson, cheating their way to the top through the use of performance enhancing drugs, it leaves me feeling a little distraught. Why would athletes who are so naturally gifted try and better themselves through cheating? However, then I think about athletes such as Caster Samenya and Dutee Chand. These athletes are barred from competition due to their biological make-up, since the natural testosterone levels in their bodies are too high to be considered female. This seems to be contradictory, since professional committees are trying to encourage athletes to use their natural abilities in competition, rather than resorting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and ultimately cheating, however they then in turn bar athletes who use their natural abilities to their advantage? There is something a little perplexing about that1390290848454335267

 

Caster Semenya was the first athlete that brought gender testing to my attention. She was subjected to gender testing by the International Associations of Athletics Federations, after she won the 2009 World Championships in Berlin because of her muscular masculine appearance and her success. She was accused of not being a female. Caster was barred from competition for nearly 11 months while they debated whether or not she should be able to compete in the women’s category.

gender-science-and-sprinting-dutee-chands-fight-to-prove-shes-a-woman-1424959479

Gender testing was then abolished in 2009 and different rules and regulations were implemented.

Dutee Chand, a professional sprinter and National Champion from India, was supposed to compete in the Commonwealth games last year, when she was pulled away by doctors. They were appointed by the Athletics federation of India, to poke and pry at her body to determine what was making her so successful. Dutee was deemed unfit to compete in the women’s category due to the standards outlined by the International Olympic Comittee (IOC). The IOC had new rules and regulations that states if a female athlete is found to have hyperandrogenism “that confers a competitive advantage (because it is functional and the androgen level is in the male range),” she would not be eligible to compete as a woman (Camporesi, 5).” Women who exceed the testosterone limit, under the IOC regulations, have two choices: to either alter their body by undergoing hormonal or surgical procedures or to give up competitive running. Both of which are very invasive and demeaning treatments.

Dutee responded: 

 

“I AM NOT CHANGING FOR ANYONE”

 

If Dutee were to follow through with the hormonal or surgical procedure she would be altering the state of her natural body, and altering the state of an athlete’s body is the reason why performance enhancing drugs are prohibited from all forms of professional sports. “Impurities underpinning regulations become evident in the spaces where punishments diverge from their staged goals of preserving body purity, the places where bodies are sanctioned for transgressions that do not fit in WADA’s [World Anti-Doping Agency] stated missions (Patel, 92).” Every human has a unique set of characteristics which they receive from their parents, and it is beyond their control what their biological make-up consists of. Cheating and doping are highly frowned upon because they give athletes an unfair advantage, but they are PREVENTABLE. Most of these women have no idea they have hyperandrogenism going into a competition and only find out after they are accused of doping or not being a female. The rules implemented by the IOC are there to try and make the competition equitable, however exploiting these athletes and accusing them of being male is completely unfair and belittling. 

Testosterone is not the sole factor for determining and athlete’s success, male or female. If a women has abnormally high testosterone levels but does have the proper coaching, facilities, diet, and does not put the desired hours of training to achieve success, regardless of her testosterone levels she will have no advantage on any professional athlete. However, “there is no evidence showing that successful athletes have higher testosterone levels than less successful athletes(Karkazis, 7).” These women work and work hard and it may be, but not proven to be, that genetics or biological factors are in their favour but that is no different than having a 7’1 basketball player in the NBA.

Many Olympians or professional athletes have abnormal body types that are advantageous in their chosen sport. For example, lets take a look at USA Olympic swimmer, Micheal Phelps. “Obviously you don’t get to be the most decorated Olympian of all time without a boat load of dedication and steely focus, but being a biomechanical freak of nature can’t hurt. (Siebart, 1). ” Michael Phelps has an extraordinary wingspan which stretches out 6 feet 8 inches, exceeding his vertical height. He has size 14 feet with extremely flexible ankles that resemble flippers allowing him to push through the water. Phelps’ torso is much longer than his legs, allowing him to glide through the water with little to drag behind him. Finally, he produces less lactic acid than a regular person does and thus has a slower onset of fatigue. Michael Phelps’ was blessed with natural endowments but like any other professional athlete he had to endure a long road to success. 

wingspan

Micheal Phelps – Designed to Swim

How is Caster and Dutee’s biological advantage categorized any differently from Michael Phelp’s? It is unethical for committees, like the IOC, to be determining who is too manly to be competing as a  woman and base it off of the sole factor of testosterone levels. Testing hyperandrogenism is completely invasive of the athletes privacy and could potentially be detrimental. I believe that with increasing diversity of sexes in society, it may potentially be easiest to abolish categorizing athletes as male or female. However, no athlete should be barred from competition due to biological factors because the human race is way to diverse to make it justifiable.

 

 

For more information:

http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/11494007/fair-ioc-gender-testing-policy-exact-opposite

http://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/32809982

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/sports/international/dutee-chand-female-sprinter-with-high-male-hormone-level-wins-right-to-compete.html?_r=0

http://www.sportsnet.ca/more/why-hyperandrogenism-shouldnt-end-athletic-careers/

References:

Camporessi, Silvia. “Somatosphere.” Somatosphere Caster Semenya and Athletic Excellence a Critique of Olympic Sextesting Comments. 26 July 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.
Karkazis, Katrina, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Georgiann Davis, and Silvia Camporesi. “Out of Bounds? A Critique of the New Policies on Hyperandrogenism in Elite Female Athletes.” The American Journal of Bioethics: 3-16. Print.
Patel, Seema. Inclusion and Exclusion in Competitive Sport: Socio-legal and Regulatory Perspectives. London, 2014. 92. Print.
Siebart, Valerie. “Michael Phelps: The Man Who Was Built to Be a Swimmer.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Ethics in the UFC: Barbaric Spectacle or Ethically Permissible Sport?

The picture above was taken after UFC 189, a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event held on July 11, 2015. The fight itself was for the UFC Welterweight Title and as you can probably judge from the picture, the fight was an extremely violent one. In the end, the champion Robbie Lawler (pictured right) defeated Rory Macdonald (left) in the fifth round of the fight via Knockout. After the fight, both fighters received “Fight of the Night Honours” (bonus salary given to fighters that put on the best fight) and many fans speculated that it was one of the best fights of the year.

I believe the story of the fight between Lawler and Macdonald is a perfect introduction to the discussion of ethics and MMA. These two fighters who displayed such violence and inflicted significant damage upon each other, were praised and rewarded extra for their performance after the fight. Both fighters entered the octagon cage, the standard UFC setting, with the intention of causing physical harm to their opponent. Overall, the scene looks more like a modern depiction of gladiator combat than a sport, and at first glance, certainly doesn’t seem ethical.

Founded in 1993, the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) is the premier MMA organization in the world. Despite existing for over twenty years, the UFC has skyrocketed in popularity in the last ten years or so. UFC fights consist of two athletes who are locked in an octagon cage and are given three rounds in an attempt to knockout or submit their opponent. If both fighters are still able to fight at the end of three, five minute rounds, the winner is decided by a panel of three judges.

Fortunately the UFC reflects more than just brutality; there is also a technical side. UFC fighters are not just bar brawlers or tough guys who have something to prove, they are highly trained martial artists. Many have been training their craft since they were young, they follow strict nutrition in order to stay in peak condition, and follow rigorous and sophisticated training programs. As mixed martial artists, most have knowledge of a collection of different fighting styles like wrestling, muay thai, jiu jitsu, and kickboxing. Mixed martial arts differs from practically every other fighting-based sport because almost anything is allowed. Fighters can have so many different fighting styles and all have different strengths and weaknesses. By understanding this, you can see that MMA is extremely complex and involves a lot of tactical decision making. The best fighters in the UFC understand this. They prepare by studying their opponents, learning their tendencies and habits, and then building a game plan for how to defeat them. The seemingly chaotic nature of fights may deceive a casual viewer, but fans of the sport understand that there is a lot more going on than just the apparent barbarism.

With this, you can see why it’s quite difficult to get a read on mixed martial arts from an ethical perspective; it is a unique blend of barbarism and technique. As for whether it’s a sport, the answer is yes. Boxing, kickboxing, and wrestling all qualify as sports; it seems ludicrous to call mixed martial arts something other than a sport when it is just a combination of multiple sports. Determining if MMA is ethical is another matter entirely.

The fact is this, when two UFC fighters are locked into the octagon cage, they will do anything they can to injure their opponent to the point of not being able to continue. That is, at least at its core, the point of any mixed martial arts fight. You have three rounds (five in the case of a title fight) and five minutes per round to physically beat your opponent with whatever methods you deem fit. Violence is in the very nature of this sport, and although violence itself could be argued as unethical, in a UFC fight it is not against the sports’ rules. One could argue that there are plenty of other sports that involve similar amounts of violence, like football for example, however there is a strong distinction between the two. Football involves only instrumental aggression, which is essentially aggression that occurs because of non-aggressive goals. You make a big tackle in football so your quarterback can score; that’s instrumental aggression. Reactive aggression is the aggression present when you have intent to harm or injure. In UFC, you exhibit reactive aggression, as well as instrumental aggression.

The other thing that makes MMA even more ethically troubling is the presence of gratuitous violence. Gratuitous violence can be defined simply as when violence exceeds what is necessary for success. There are rules that fighters must follow during fights, however because of the nature of the sport, fighters can still get away with a lot of illegal contact. It is quite common to see fighters getting in an extra punch after the bell sounds the end of the round. Or perhaps most shockingly, when fighters get a few extra punches in after a knockout, even after the ref has called off the fight. The grisly truth is that in a sport as violent as MMA this sort of thing is bound to happen, and its almost impossible to fully regulate these incidents.

MMA fighters also reflect some of the most violent people in society: the volume of domestic violence arrests involving MMA fighters is more than double that of the average US national rate. 

With all this being said, it is hard to morally defend MMA or the UFC. Like many other fighting-based sports, there is an inherent violence at the very core of the sport. However it goes beyond that, MMA is more violent than virtually any other fighting sport, as all of the different fight techniques lead to different ways that damage can be inflicted upon an opponent. The central goal of MMA is to inflict harm or to injure, reflecting reactive aggression, which is certainly a more dubious form of aggression to the more common, instrumental aggression that is present in most other sports. Lastly, the presence and frequency of gratuitous violence, where violence goes well beyond what is needed for victory, is extremely common and sets MMA apart from many other fighting-based sports.

What do you think? Do you feel that the MMA is unethical? Do you think its appropriate that such violent sports entertainment is readily available online and on cable TV? Feel free to comment below any opinions.

References & Additional Reading:

Can Martial Arts Be Ethically Defended

MMA and UFC Have No Place In Civil Society

No Holds Barred Sport Fighting: a 10 year review of mixed martial arts competition

McNamee, M. J., and S. J. Parry. Ethics and Sport. London: E & FN Spon, 1998. Print.

Tank? No tank you.

Tanking. The definition of tanking in the sports world is to deliberately try and lose in order to get a better draft pick. It is the dreaded word that no sports fan or player wants to hear their beloved team use. Why should they? Competition is a natural human instinct and the main aspect in sports. No one likes to lose, especially the players and the loyal fans.

According to Nicholas Dixon, There are two types of fans: Purist and Partisan. The purist in simple terms is a ‘bandwagon’ fan, one who supports a team who exemplifies the greatest virtues of the game and a partisan fan is one who is loyal to their team, win or lose. Dixon says that ideally, fans should be moderately partisan. A moderately partisan fan is someone who combines partisan aspects and purist aspects together; admiring the loyalty of a partisan fan and the realization that a team that violates rules or the spirit of the game do not deserve our support. What they should be and what they are, are not always the same. However, when you see teams tanking, most, if not all fans are moderate partisan sport fans. If a fan attends a sporting event, and they team they came to cheer for underperforms, fans will show their lack of appreciation by booing.

There are many examples in recent sports where teams are tanking and quite openly doing it as well. A couple more recent examples of these teams would be the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA and the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. For the past several years, these teams have been deliberately attempting to lose games in order to finish lower in the standings and have a higher chance at securing a top draft pick. With the 76ers ,it was trading top players in exchange for multiple draft picks and with the Sabres, it was trading top players for draft picks and young players who are not ready for the NHL yet in hopes of securing the next hockey phenom, Connor McDavid. The thought process of these two teams is that it will make them better for the future, but is there no moral obligation to the players, the opposing teams players, the coaches, but even on a larger scale, to the league and its fans. Truth be told, fans run the league. Without fans purchasing merchandise or tickets, there is no league. How is it fair to not reciprocate to loyal fans by putting a winning team on the ice or court? By trading away top players for future assets, it takes away the skill from the current club without even guaranteeing the success of future clubs.

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The leagues are supposed to provide entertainment value for spectators which is what makes sports enjoyable, the competitive game and the exhilarating action that comes with the price of admission. However, with tanking such an issue right now it is in fact quite the opposite; it is blatantly anticompetitive and the games become worth less. It is a shame that fans must pay lots of money to witness poor displays of sports only to sit and wait through this tanking phase.

It is one thing for a team to try and fail, but when a team like the 76ers over the past two seasons went a combined 37-124 in the win-loss column by trading away an all-star point guard, a reigning rookie of the year and keeping their recent top 10 pick out of the NBA fails, it is not because they are trying. They are simply failing on purpose. This is a more than just a wrongdoing to fans, it is borderline unsportsmanlike. James Keating says that sportsmanship is fairness and a high sense of honour. Purposely losing is neither of these.

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When we talk about sportsmanship it is usually in reference to individual players and whether they play within the rules, but in this case, sportsmanship is referring to the rest of league play. How is it fair for a team such as the 76ers or the Sabres to skew the outcome of the season? It sounds extreme, because of the term ‘any given sunday’, any team can win on any given day, but the odds of them doing this are slim. More specifically, look at the 76ers. Over the course of two 82-game seasons, they won a measly 37 games in total. 37 games. Out of 164 games, they only won 37 times. A team that is tanking, such as the 76ers could have a huge outcome on the season. Imagine, two teams fighting for the final playoff spot, one team is facing a team that is looking to look up home court advantage and the other team is facing a team like the 76ers. One matchup will be a ‘dog fight’ to get the win, while the other matchup will most likely be a ‘cake walk’ by the team who is head over heels more skilled than the other. This is not fair, nor is it a game of honour any longer. None of this is the players fault for not being too skilled, but rather the people who assemble the roster and put lesser skilled guys on the court/ice to ensure losing more games than winning. The general managers who are trying to lose are no longer honouring the competitive aspect of sports.

There is a moral obligation in sports to compete and play hard and to put on a show for the fans. With tanking present, the atmosphere it creates shadows the beauty of sport.

Tanking. The word no fan or player wants to ever hear.

Further Readings on this topic and possible suggestions:

  1. http://www.sloansportsconference.com/?p=5496
  2. http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/70028708/to-eliminate-tanking-the-nba-should-abolish-the-draft
  3. http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/9893551/anonymous-nba-gm-why-team-tank-season-espn-magazine

 

Necessary or Just Entertaining: Fighting in Hockey

Since the early 1900’s when hockey was first popularized in Canada the game has always contained the physical aspect of fighting. Fighting as a part of the sport, has been there for so long and would lead some to believe it is tradition, and to remove fighting would be changing a fundamental part of the sport. The real question: Is fighting in hockey mandatory to maintain the sport or is fighting purely for entertainments sake?
Throughout the years of watching many hockey games for me fighting has become a part of how the game is meant to be played. The NHL has rules that help those players who want to fight making it legal in the professional sport. The fights in hockey can be viewed as fundamental to a team’s strategy during game play. To intimidate players would be to use fighting as a tactic to scare the other team into not wanting to fight based on the players willing to fight on their team’s behalf. Disallowing fighting in the sport would change the structure of the teams as we know it, teams would evolve to have smaller faster players with very few players used as goons. It can be argued that the players used as goons are there purely to add excitement, but on the other side of the argument they could be used as key strategy players when the time is right to change the dynamic of a game.
The allowance of fighting is also thought to reduce the amount of violent outbursts and illegal contact within the sport. For example, a friend of mine played on a rep hockey team in high school, she was in her last season before leaving for university. In girls hockey it is a rule there is no fighting allowed, but my friend disregarded the rules in her last game to go after a girl she disliked throughout her hockey career. Both girls willingly fought each other and both got kicked out of their last game. Arguably this could have been avoided if fighting or even minor contact were allowed, the two girls would not have had to take illegal jabs at each other all game until finally they snapped and fought against what the rules had stated. Fighting in hockey would allow an outlet for aggression and could still be maintained in the rules potentially decreasing the risk of more serious injury due to a blow out of illegal conduct.
There are negatives to fighting in hockey an in the NHL due to a number of injuries to players. “Concussions and head injuries are under the microscope and the NHL has taken steps in an effort to lower the number of head injuries. An increase in penalties, the famous rule 48, and stiffer suspensions for violent hits to the head have been the biggest changes that the NHL has implemented” (SportsMedBC). There has been a number of head injuries in the past few years in the NHL leading to stricter fighting and hitting rules to be put in place. The severity of head trauma in hockey hits is a reason to cut down on fighting, hitting and hockey violence over all. One of the most well know series of concussion had come to Sidney Crosby whom has spoken out about his experiences with concussions. “When you get a typical injury you’re given a time frame, you’re gradually working towards getting back,” Crosby said. “With concussions there is not generally a time frame or a span where you’re feeling better. You feel like you’re getting better and it can be one day and you’re back to where you started. It’s a frustrating injury and one that anyone has gone through can relate”, (The Globe and Mail). Hockey is a dangerous physical sport with a risk for injury, the fighting increases the risk. Fighting in hockey could be a reason to make changes to make the game safer for all players.


Fighting in hockey could also be used as it is intended to protect; players can protect their teammates including the star players and the goalies. During a fight in hockey games the crowd is fully engaged it is an exciting time and it allows for a chance to potentially change the outcome of the game. A fight has the ability to change the mood of the spectators and potentially the momentum of the team. It can change the whole dynamic of a game giving one team a competitive edge they may not have had without a fight. Although fighting is exciting the use of fighting to create a balance between the teams and potentially as a tactic to try and get the other team a penalty is a positive use of fighting just as long as it stays safely within the rules of the sport.
Hockey without fighting is not really hockey at all, there may be some serious injuries occurring to players and some of the rules may need to be rewritten to make fighting more restricted; but taking fighting out of the sport entirely would change the whole sport into something it has never been before. Fighting is entertaining, but more than that fighting is necessary to the fundamentals of game play, it can be used for strategy, intimidation, balance, and changing up the game allowing a player or fan to get the most out of a game. Fighting in hockey is not just entertaining it is practical in game play.

 

Works Cited

  1. Kennedy, Ryan. “Fighting in the NHL: Should it stay or go?” The Hockey News. N.p., 18 Jan. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. http://www.thehockeynews.com/blog/fighting-in-the-nhl-should-it-stay-or-go/
  2. Buccigross, John. “The pros and cons of fighting in the NHL.” ESPN. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?columnist=buccigross_john&id=2724254 .
  3. “Fighting in the NHL.” SportMedBC. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. https://sportmedbc.com/news/fighting-nhl .
  4. Hargreaves, Josh. “Crosby discusses lengthy recovery road from concussions, safety of the game.”
  5.  The Globe and Mail. N.p., 5 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/crosby-discusses-lengthy-recovery-road-from-concussions-safety-of-the-game/article14118504/

Other Resources:

The Pros and Cons of Fighting in the NHL

Fighting in the NHL: Should it stay or should it go?

Ethics of Hockey Fights

 

 

Fair Play and Sportsmanship in Women’s Soccer: A look into the CAN vs. USA 2012 Olympic game.

It was 3-2 for Canada. Erin McLeod had just made another amazing save and was sending the ball down the field when…*TWEET* the whistle is blown. To everyone’s surprise, referee Christina Pedersen makes the unexpected call to give McLeod a foul for violating the “six-second” rule. A free kick is taken, a handball is called against a Canadian player and it’s all down hill from there.

The issue with both of Pedersen’s calls wasn’t that they weren’t correct, there is a rule against how long a goalie can hold the ball (though it is rarely enforced especially in such a high-profile event) and the ball did hit the arm of Marie-Eve Nault (though it wasn’t intentional). The issue was that neither call could be considered apart of fair play. There are rules to the game and there are rules to fair play, and the calls that Pedersen made in that semifinal Olympic game did not qualify as following the rules to fair play.

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The reason for why Pedersen made these calls isn’t fully known but there have been many theories that have circulated. In an interview done by Dan Wetzel with American Olympic soccer player Abby Wambach, she admitted to counting out loud beside Pedersen whenever McLeod had the ball. Obviously Wambach’s tactic to get inside the referee’s head by continuously counting and intimidating her worked. In Robert Butcher and Angela Schiender’s article “Fair Play as Respect for the Game” they touch on intimidation. “…recount the case of a football couch who used to send dead flowers… to his team’s opponents and another case of tennis players coughing during the opponent’s serve…Both examples seem somewhat pathetic, and as well as inappropriate. The respect for the game model of fairness can be used to support this feeling. Do these practices enhance the playing of the game? Do they make for better sport?… Quite obviously not, so on the ground of fair play, they should be avoided.” Wamback’s actions were unnecessary and childish and overall ruined that game.

In this situation, Womback did not act with any sportsmanship. James W. Keating author of “Sportsmanship as a Moral Category” even understands that being a good sportman can be difficult but is still necessary.A quote from his article shows that “to ask him to act with fairness in the contest, with modesty in victory, and an admirable composure in defeat is to demand a great deal, and, yet, this is the substance of the demand that “sportsmanship” makes upon the athlete.” Keating continues on to say that the goal for any athlete is honourable victory and that nothing should be done before, during or after the game to cheapen that victory. Though the referee wasn’t one of the players in that Olympic game, she was still apart of upholding the right to a fair and honest victory.

Afterwards, Canadian player Christine Sinclair described her feelings about the game as being cheated. Their game, their win was taken away from them so unfairly. Even the penalty kick resulting from Nault’s handball was an unfair call. Couch John Herdman expressed his shock when discussing that penalty, thatwith a ball moving that quick, Nault wouldn’t have time to respond and that the ball hitting her arm was obviously not intentional, yet Pedersen called it anyways.

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For years women weren’t taken seriously in the world of sports. Many stereotypes are still present due to social constructs we have made about females and femininity, such as women are weaker, slower and less aggressive then men are. Women competing in elite sports are a relatively new occurrence in our society. It wasn’t till 1900 that women were allowed to compete in the Olympics. Recently though, the view on women’s sports and their quality has improved dramatically! But then a game like this one takes place, where we see poor sportsmanship and inappropriate calls that take away from the quality of play these female athletes have.

It is a universal thought about this game that Pedersen was way over her head. Sine 2007, Pedersen has been a referee but after this Olympic game, criticism about her competence arouse. Her name was notably absence when deciding who would be the referee for the gold and silver games after Canada vs. USA semifinals. Even recently, the release of potential candidates to referee the 2015 Olympic games came out, and Pedersen was not one of them.

I had once been in a similar (yet highly insignificant compared to an Olympic game) situation as the Canadian team when playing house league soccer. My teammate fired off a corner kick straight to me and after yelling out “MY BALL” I was about to make the winning score. Then the unexpected whistle of the referee blew. Ever player on the field and our families on the sideline didn’t understand what I had done to receive a penalty. It turns out that yelling “my ball” could confuse the other team and was ultimately illegal in the rules and resulted in the opposing team gaining a free kick. Never before in my years of playing the game had I ever been penalized for calling that out. Especially in house league where majority of players are far from competitive athletes and the couches and referees that are involved are all volunteers.

Some may argue that calls like these ones that were made in both that Olympic game and my situation followed the rules of soccer. In that case, Pedersen would be in the right and shouldn’t get criticized for her decisions made. As someone who has competed in soccer  in the past though, I can’t help arguing that it is unfair calls like these ones that ruin the game for not only the players, but also the audience watching. A call like the one Pedersen made confused the players and audience and turned and exciting game in to something uninspiring. This example just goes to show how fair play and sportsmanship really are important when competing in sports.

Additional Reading

“Fair Play as Respect for the Game,” by Butcher, Robert; Schneider, Angela Journal of the Philosophy of Sport;1998, Vol. 25 Issue 1

Sportsmanship as a Moral Category, by  James W. Keating, Ethics, Vol. 75, No. 1 (Oct., 1964), pp. 25-35, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2379145

http://www.thestar.com/sports/olympics/2012/08/06/london_2012_canadian_women_robbed_in_soccer_semi_kelly.html

https://ca.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/eh-game/norwegian-referee-christina-pedersen-won-t-working-bronze-205404614.html