Girls Gone Wild!! An explanation for increased violence among female athletes

The increased violence in sports has become a heated discussion among players, commissioners, and fans alike, but the rise of violence in women’s sport is being framed as an even larger problem—why is that? The problem lies not only in how we define violence, but in how we regard female athletes.

One of the issues in the discussion of violence arises when we try to define violence itself. People have different definitions of what constitutes violence. The words assertive, aggressive, and violent are thrown around interchangeably, but when discussing violence in sport, they each have a specific meaning. Let’s use Jim Parry’s definitions in this discussion:

  • Assertion is the use of necessary force to defend or protect one’s self
  • Aggression is a proactive means of attaining a goal without the use of violence
  • Violence has to do with the intent to hurt

Both assertion and aggression are deemed acceptable by sports fans and athletes alike—they are both encouraged as “part of the game.”

When examining violence in sport, let’s reference Michael D. Smith’s 4 types of violence in sports:

  1. Brutal body contact: physical practices that are common to sports and are accepted by the athletes as part of the action and risk involved in participating – e.g. collisions, hits, tackles, blocks, body checks
  2. Borderline violence: physical practices that violate the rules of the game but are accepted by players, coaches, referees, and fans – e.g. strategic elbowing/kneeing in soccer and basketball, fighting in hockey
  3. Quasi-criminal violence: physical practices that violate formal rules and informal norms accepted by players and may result in a fine or short-term suspension – e.g. cheap shots, late hits
  4. Criminal violence: physical practices outside the formal rules of sport and the laws of society – e.g. assault that occurs after the game ends

Brutal body contact, borderline violence, and quasi-criminal violence are expected at the professional level of sports—for men. Violence in sport is viewed as an appropriate to strategy to maintain excitement and drama. Violent acts can even be deemed heroic. When women show aggressive or violent behaviour it is often deemed over the top, unnecessary, or a loss of self control. Though violence and aggression are acceptable methods for men to establish dominance and strength, women are not taught to practice violence and aggression, and they are frowned upon when they do. For example, a video of defender Elizabeth Lambert during a soccer game at the University of New Mexico in 2009 went viral after Lambert was spotted pushing, shoving, and finally, pulling her opponent down by the ponytail.

After the video surfaced, there were many mixed reactions from spectators. Some were shocked and horrified by Lambert’s actions, and others saw it no differently than what male athletes do on the field. It was agreed that the hair pulling was unacceptable, but what made Lambert’s actions most shocking was the fact that she is a female. Though women are being afforded more opportunities to play sports, they are still being held to the higher standards than men. In addition to being athletes, they must also be women. Women’s bodies are not yet equal to men’s and clear markers of femininity are still called for.

Iris Young presents a unique perspective on the way women are taught to use their bodies. Her example is a comparison of two young children, a boy and a girl, learning to throw a ball. Boys are taught to throw the ball with all their might, engaging as much of their body as they need. Girls, on the other hand, are taught in a similar way, but with an emphasis on fragility and self-consciousness. Because females are objectified in almost all aspects life, they are prone to viewing themselves as objects, rather than agents. This emphasis on femininity teaches girls to be conscious of how they look performing a task, rather than on the task itself. When women view themselves like everyone else does, as objects, they begin to hold themselves to different standards. Because women are assumed fragile and overly conscious of their actions, when female athletes show the slightest bit of aggressiveness during a game, they are immediately scrutinized for being too violent.

This perfectly illustrates how young girls feel the need to express their femininity in a venue where that shouldn’t matter.

How can the perception of female athletes change in order to allow them to play aggressively without being accused of being overly violent? What would you suggest?

 

For further reading:

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The Issue with Fighting in Hockey

The one aspect that hockey is renowned for is the acceptance of fighting. No other team sport (other than lacrosse) allows fighting to take place. In other sports like baseball, football and basketball, the players who engage in fighting are ejected from the game and face some type of consequence from the league. This punishment can be in the form of a fine, suspension or a combination of both. Either way these sports do not have a tolerance for fighting. However, in hockey, it is still a big part of the game and can even be encouraged for players to do so. The issue with fighting is that it can have a negative impact on the player’s health later in life.

Enforcers, the players who were looked upon to fight on a regular basis, are expected game in and game out to be the agitator. To get under the other teams skin, and to be the one who sticks up and fights for their teammates so that the star players don’t have too. If a team heavily relies on these players to do this, then there is the potential for them to be in many fights during the course of a season. Fights in hockey may add to the excitement for the sport from a fans perspective, but a lot of these players, who fight regularly, have been shown to have serious health risks from it. These players can suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). According to neuroscientist Dr. Charles Tator, CTE is a “specific type of brain degeneration that occurs after repetitive trauma like multiple concussions”. Throughout their careers these players are suffering many concussions and many blows to the head that can trigger CTE. A former enforcer in the NHL, Mike Peluso, who has joined the concussion lawsuit against the NHL, said in an article for the Globe and Mail that “I suffered at least 10 concussions from fighting. Probably many more”. Suffering numerous head injuries can have serious consequences after their hockey careers are over. Former players can suffer from serious depression, among other symptoms as a result of this. Former NHL enforcers who have suffered from CTE and depression, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard, have passed away at an early age from suicide or overdose. Wade Belak was also said to have suffered from depression and passed had committed suicide. He was only 35 years old. These are not the only cases as many other players are suffering from this as well.

According to neurosurgeon Robert Cantu, CTE is the result of a high concentration of protein that builds up in the brain where it should not. The highest concentration of protein occurs in the medial temporal lobe. The functions associated with this part of the brain are:

  • Memory
  • Impulse control
  • Addiction
  • Emotions
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

When this part of the brain is damaged by CTE, they will experience problems with these functions.

Colton Orr, George Parros

Montreal Canadians forward, George Parros, was knocked unconscious after hitting his head on the ice during a fight with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a list of ex-NHL enforcers who were well known around the NHL. These players have suffered from CTE and/ or depression and have passed away as a result of it

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2015/09/22/list-of-nhl-enforcers-who-have-passes-away-gets-longer.html

 

During their time in the NHL, they were expected to fight whenever necessary. The consequence of this was trainers and coaches forcing players back from injury before they were fully healed. Peluso mentions this and says that during a workout he had experienced a grand mal seizure; “I sat out for just two weeks before the team doctors again pushed me back onto the ice. I was never seen by a neurologist”.

In his paper, Dazed and Confused, Brad Partridge discusses “how player health and safety are not always the priority for some coaches”. He further goes on to say how team doctors often feel pressure from coaches to make a rushed decision to clear a player from injury despite the risks to their health. This is evident that this occurs in the NHL (and other sports as well) with concussions. The coaches and doctors may not always prioritize the player’s health due to the mentality of “winning comes first” in professional sports. As a result a player can be rushed back from injury before they are 100%. If they view themselves as part of the team, then the doctors may feel responsible for the result of a game based on their decision to allow a player to play or not. This pressure can further lead to players being prematurely cleared to play. In addition to this, coaches and doctors can feel added pressure from the owners due to the control they have over their jobs. This may result in them putting their jobs before the player’s health. This was evident with Mike Peluso, as he was rushed back to play even though he suffered from a serious seizure. His safety and welfare was not the priority.

Is it right to put the sport before a player’s health? Or at very least without informing the players of the possible health risks associated with playing? Peluso mentions that “we did whatever the league told us to do… foolishly believed they had our best interests at heart. The league failed to take care of us”. Additionally, Peluso wished that the players were sat down, and were informed about the effects it would have on their brains and how it could impact them years after they retired. It doesn’t seem fair for the players to give everything to the NHL and to the game, and in return, when it mattered most, for the NHL to not put their health first.

Throughout an NHL career, a regular fighter can receive countless punches to the head. The outcome of this can be devastating to their long- term health. Players who suffer from CTE will have to fight depression and other symptoms of this injury for the rest of their lives. A sad outcome of this is players have committed suicide to escape depression. No sport should be prioritized before a player’s health. As a result, I believe fighting in hockey should be banned as a player’s health should be the main priority.

 

By,

Sheldon Sawchyn

 

References

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/are-nhl-enforcers-addictions-depression-a-result-of-on-ice-brain-trauma-1.982100

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/when-the-game-is-over-the-enforcers-suffering-has-only-just-begun/article24120626/

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/episode-252-affordable-housing-studying-hockey-players-brains-salman-rushdie-and-ploughing-election-signs-1.3242118/why-a-leading-neuroscientist-wants-the-brains-of-hockey-players-1.3242270

Partridge, Brad. (2013). Dazed and Confused: Sports Medicine, Conflicts of Interest, and Concussion Management. 65-74. DOI: 10.1007/s11673-013-9491-2.

Participation Ribbons are the New Gold Medal.

I know it is cliché to open up with a quote but not quite as cliché as claiming that everybody is a winner. Youth soccer leagues are contemplating ridding of formal score keeping. This means that Vince Lombardi’s repertoire of inspirational quotes becomes meaningless along with the thrill of watching a spanish soccer game without hearing the announcers wail the word “GOAL!” for a sustained 30 seconds.  Leagues 12 and under  soccer teams will be affected by the lack of score keeping that will be implemented in youth soccer across Canada. These young athletes will never know what it feels like to win or lose or even a dreadful tie. As a child, keeping score and winning was the be all and end all of sport. Soccer has made up a huge part of my life, I have played since the age of 4 and can recall the first goal I scored and remember winning my first game ever. It’s the euphoria you feel when winning that makes sport enjoyable.

“Athletes always risk failure. They risk finding out something that they don’t want to know. Because athletic agon pursues the truth, it often destroys comfortable illusions about ourselves and others. On the other hand, we may discover virtues in ourselves that we never thought we had. But winning is only possible if you are able to risk losing, just as wisdom is only possible is you are able to admit ignorance” – Heather Reid

The notion of keeping score seems to coincide with what it is to be a sport. It is winning and losing that teaches children loosely about who they are, for example, how to accept defeat and how to be a humble victor. With the elimination of score keeping in soccer, children will experience a different feeling at the final whistle than say you or I ever did at the end of a gruesome, well fought 90 minutes. Win or lose you discovered an aspect of yourself that stays with your person.

Monica Mcdonald, the mother of Tessa who plays in a north Toronto soccer league feels the effects of the rule change. She fears that the young athletes will not enter a lusory attitude or a level of motivation that makes sports as intense as they should be. In retrospect, knowing that a sport did not involve a winner or loser would strip the whole appeal of a sport. Attending games is a social gathering, building a camaraderie

Some believe that when you put an overemphasis on competition, individual skill development regresses, and that’s what’s happened in our game for so long. In athletics, the main driving force is to beat the competition.  Heather Reid argues that athletic competition and Socratic philosophy both aim at virtue, at human excellence. Athletic competition is not just physical, but to compete athletically is to struggle for a kind of perfection that encompasses the whole body. I cant help but notice the fact that the use of the word competition is scattered throughout her statement and to be redundant, competition to its core requires a winner and a loser.

This rule is in talks of being implemented to reduced athlete drop-out in youth under 15 years old. Organizations fear young athletes will feel an immense stress to be a winner. The fear of being a loser is sought to be the source of drop-out. It is not the score that makes young athletes feel this way but the coaches, peers and even over enthusiastic parents that taunt other children on the feel for not being an all-star.
Sports played at a young age may be played for instrumental goods but as you grow up it has an intrinsic aspect. Intrinsic good is a something that is not means to something else. It is done for its enjoyment and how it makes the individual feel. How winning makes you ecstatic and losing makes you miserable but for some reason you want to do it all again week after week.
Competition is an innate thing is some athletes. Little league coaches  claim that they  aren’t into the philosophy of not keeping score, because it does matter and anyone who says it doesn’t matter is lying because we know that kids think it matters. The kids are keeping score and rightfully so.  Sports have a prelusory goal, in the case of soccer it is to get the ball passed the goal line and into the opponents net. Without the objective of winning, what is the new prelusory goal? Who can have more fun? This sounds facetious but these prelusory goals become so arbitrary to the sport almost defeating the true meaning of soccer.

I don’t want to live in a world where every child thinks they are a winner. Don’t get me wrong, no child deserves to feel like a loser. Psychologists need to discover an age at which children are able to accept defeat and not be traumatized by its sensation. By the age of 12, a child is intelligent enough to keep score and realize if they are winning or losing so why not keep the score public. It is not the competition in sport that cause children to become bitter with sport and drop out as this rule is set out to do. There are extraneous factors that are the reason for the dropping out of many young athletes.

If you reminisce to your elementary years, could you imagine a recess period without picking up the soccer ball and asking your pal, “hey are you going to keep score?” That question was the proverbial whistle that begun they game. Without that question there would be no recess activity and as an active young adult i attribute my level of health and activity due to my enjoyment of sports that was rooted in the idea of competition, winning or losing and marking down the score on my printed out schedule that was held to the fridge with a magnet that enclosed a picture of myself, classically standing in my timbits uniform with one foot on the ball and a smile larger than the Milky Way.

Supplementary reading:

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2013/02/ideological-battles-over-elimination-scorekeeping-youth-soccer

http://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/2013/02/16/ontario_youth_soccer_to_stop_keeping_score_standings.html

http://blog.sportssignup.com/blog/bid/184962/Is-Playing-a-Game-with-No-Winner-Good-for-Youth-Sports-Programs

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/no-winners-children-still-keeping-score-despite-move-to-end-sports-competition

Supplementary Video:

Professional Athletes as Role Models

DISCLAIMER: Not all as Heroic as they may appear

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 11.56.13 AM
4  MLB superstars that all cheated

Every year, there are numerous scandals involving professional athletes that prove they are not the super-humans we believe them to be. These allegations remove them from the pedestals from which they are worshipped. Yes, their lives are heavily scrutinized, but as the famous saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”. These athletes willingly accept the spotlight in exchange for fame, and therefore must act responsibly and appropriately.

Not all athletes are academics, and some have only achieved high school diplomas. Then there are those who had the privilege to go to college, but maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to be there (Derrick Rose). Professional athletes should realize that they are constantly in the public eye, and doing something as unspeakable as assaulting your spouse (Ray Rice) or raping a 19-year-old girl (Kobe Bryant), will surely have negative repercussions.

That is not to say that all athletes are bad people. It is, however, ingrained in us as humans to remember a single bad event, and disregard the hundreds of good ones. This is known as the availability heuristic, or the mental shortcut of remembering events that are salient in our minds, and discount the other events.


Personal Experience

I write about this because I grew up an enormous sports fan. I idolized them, and wanted nothing more than be a pro. The Not-so-great role models Tiger Woods, and Barry Bonds were my heroes. Lance Armstrong, had the same type of cancer as my father, and seeing him overcome it was a source of hope and inspiration to me. If he was able to beat cancer and go back and be the best in the world, why couldn’t my dad?

Okay, so maybe we can forgive the cheaters such as Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong. As David Callahan writes in his book The Cheating Culture “to not dope on the Tour De France is akin to playing by your own rules, rather than the prevailing rules of sport.”[1] – Martin Jemison, who raced with Lance Armstrong

armstrong2

That being said, I don’t think we can forgive the athletes who physically hurt, or endanger the lives of others. Whether that be domestic abuse, or a DUI.


Research

When comparing high-risk athletes to the rest of the population, athletes seem to score higher in narrow-mindedness, and selfishness than non-athletes[2]. This meaning that they are less likely to think about the consequences of their actions, as they cannot as easily see the big picture. Self-control and self-efficacy is high in athletes during the season, and declines during the offseason, providing a valid reason for why most scandals occur when they aren’t preoccupied by their sport[3]


Case in Point

One of my favourite players in the NHL is Dustin Byfuglien He has gotten multiple DUI’s despite being the Winnipeg Jets most beloved player. In the offseason, he continues to set a horrible example for children who want to grow up just like him. Aside from community service, Dustin Byfuglien has gotten off without a scrape, partially because he is a professional athlete. There were no repercussions from the league, or his team. There seems to be a different set of laws for athletes, as they almost never seem to end up in jail. For example, Semyon Varlamov who kidnapped his children and assaulted his wife, was released without jail-time and returned to the NHL within a two weeks’ time. Could this partially be attributed to him being one of the best goalies in the NHL? It is hard to think otherwise.(READ MORE on Athletes being above the law HERE.) Athletes being above the law is a horrible example to set for children, because it teaches them they are invincible, and the crimes they commit aren’t that bad after all.

–> It is unclear whether athletes should be used as role models. It is controversial because they are representing a city and therefore should act accordingly. On the other hand, they are human and make mistakes. This is an ongoing, controversial topic that can be seen many different ways.


After researching this topic, I feel that it is not fair to group athletes together. There are some athletes, such as Cy Young winning pitcher: Clayton Kershaw of the L.A. Dodgers, who runs multiple orphanages in Africa. He has won multiple philanthropic awards, such as the Branch Rickey Award in 2013 for “individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people.”  

Kershaw better.jpg

Clayton Kershaw and his wife at their orphanage

Each athlete should be looked at differently, and it is up to parents to shape their child and teach them who is an appropriate role model.


Class Concept

In Heather Reid’s paper (2005) Athletic Competition as Socratic Philosophy she argues that we must look beyond the game to find its social meaning. It is not necessarily who is the best, but rather the effect the athlete has on its spectators. When she says “athletes know that performance in sport is as much a matter of soul as sinew” it suggests that there is an all-encompassing component that goes beyond the physical aspect of sport. To be an athlete requires the whole person, meaning that they must be virtuous on and off-the-field to be successful.

Plato criticized athletes lives of vice and excess by saying they lack moderation (Republic 410cff). Reid argues that aretē, or moral excellence is the only real and lasting prize in life. People, including athletes that posses aretē; are the people that we should use as role models.


Wrap-Up & Opinion

From the point at which an athlete distinguishes himself from their classmates for their God-given talents, they are excused from assignments, and given special treatment. When they do something wrong, administration is more likely to turn a blind eye because they don’t want their star-athletes being expelled. This pampering of athletes needs to stop because it leads to athletes feeling they are untouchable, and can do no wrong. In my opinion we should hold athletes accountable, and not rely on the bad ones as role models. Instead, we should pick athletes who are good people, and do good outside of the sport. The bottom line is, anyone can be your role model, but choose them for the person they are when they take their jersey off.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think that pro athletes should be viewed as role models to children?

Please comment below and give me your opinion.

Don’t forget to share this article on Facebook, or repost on Twitter!

Note: further reading links provided as hyperlinks within the text. Here are some additional links:

NFL has 15 cases of Domestic Violence in the past two years: http://www.si.com/nfl/2014/09/11/nfl-players-arrested-domestic-violence-assault

Lance Armstrong Admits Cheating to Oprah http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/oprah-winfrey-interview-lance-armstrong-drug-allegations-loss-18167993

NFL trying to stop on domestic violence: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/nfl-announce-new-domestic-violence-742868

 

 Works Cited

[1] Callahan, D. (2007). The cheating culture: Why more Americans are doing wrong to get ahead. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[2] Kajtna, T., Tušak, M., Barić, R., & Burnik, S. (2004). Personality in high-risk sports athletes. Kineziologija, 36(1), 24-34

[3] Paulhus, D., Molin, J., & Schuchts, R. (1979). Control profiles of football players, tennis players, and nonathletes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 108(2), 199-205.

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

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“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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