Ethics in Sports: Defeating the Spirit of Competition
Firstly, it is imperative to understand the underlying ethics in
sports and competitions. Then, we need to highlight the differences between
gamesmanship and sportsmanship.
Gamesmanship is entirely about winning. It doesn’t consider if
athletes or their coaches are using fair means to win or not. The athletes
mostly resort to unfair means to gain a significant competitive advantage and
in the way if doing so, they put at stake the honesty and spirit of the
competition. Gamesmanship also engulfs the concept that unless caught, it is
alright to indulge in such unfair activities. The referee has the job to stop
this from happening and there is no binding on the players to refrain from such
The daily examples of gamesmanship that we see around us include
faking injuries to acquire free shots/kicks, trying to get a head start in a
race, tampering with equipments (Afridi biting the cricket-ball incidents
depicts this behavior), use of steroids/drugs to enhance one’s performance,
hurting an opponent and faking one’s credentials in order to make
himself/herself eligible to play.
All of these examples place greater emphasis on the outcome of the
game than on the manner in which it is played.
A more ethical approach is sportsmanship. Under a sportsmanship
model, healthy competition is seen as a means of cultivating personal honor,
virtue, and character. It helps in building a community of respect and trust
between competitors and in society. The goal in sportsmanship is not only to
win, but also pursue victory with honor by giving one’s best effort.
Ethics in sport requires four key virtues: fairness, integrity,
responsibility, and respect.
All athletes and coaches must follow
established rules and guidelines of their respective sport.
Teams that seek an unfair competitive
advantage over their opponent create an uneven playing field which
violates the integrity of the sport.
Athletes and coaches are not
discriminated against or excluded from participating in a sport based on
their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Referees must apply the rules equally to
both teams and cannot show bias or personal interest in the outcome.
Similar to fairness, in that any athlete
who seeks to gain an advantage over his or her opponent by means of a
skill that the game itself was not designed to test demonstrates a lack of
personal integrity and violates the integrity of the game. For example,
when a player fakes being injured or fouled in soccer, he or she is not
acting in a sportsmanlike manner because the game of soccer is not
designed to measure an athlete’s ability to flop. Faking is a way of
intentionally deceiving an official into making a bad call, which only
hurts the credibility of the officiating and ultimately undermines the
integrity of the game.
To be sportsmanlike requires players and
coaches to take responsibility for their performance, as well as their
actions on the field. This includes their emotions.
Many times athletes and coaches will make
excuses as to why they lost the game. The most popular excuse is to blame
the officiating. The honorable thing to do instead is to focus only on the
aspects of the game that you can control, i.e. your performance, and to question
yourself about where you could have done better.
Responsibility requires that players and
coaches be up to date on the rules and regulations governing their sport.
Responsibility demands that players and
coaches conduct themselves in an honorable way off the field, as well as
All athletes should show respect for
teammates, opponents, coaches, and officials.
All coaches should show respect for their
players, opponents, and officials.
All fans, especially parents, should show
respect for other fans, as well as both teams and officials.
The sportsmanship model is based on the idea that sports both
demonstrates and encourages character development, which then influences the
moral character of the broader community. How we each compete in sports can
have an effect on our personal moral and ethical behavior outside of the
Some argue for a “bracketed morality” within sports.
This approach holds that sport and competition are set apart from real life,
and occupy a realm where ethics and moral codes do not apply. Instead, some
argue, sports serves as an outlet for our primal aggression and a selfish need
for recognition and respect gained through the conquering of an opponent. In
this view, aggression and victory are the only virtues. For example, a football
player may be described as mean and nasty on the field, but kind and gentle in
everyday life. His violent disposition on the field is not wrong because when
he is playing the game he is part of an amoral reality that is dictated only by
the principle of winning.
An ethical approach to sport rejects this bracketed morality and
honors the game and one’s opponent through tough but fair play. This means
understanding the rules and their importance in encouraging respect for your
opponent, which pushes you to be your best.
develop their organization’s guidelines for ethical behavior, set example, and
enforce the rules they want to play by.”
1. Code of Ethics
Also called codes of conduct, state the importance of conducting
business in an ethical manner and provide guidelines for ethical behavior
Purpose is to establish moral guidelines to monitor the behavior
of those under its authority
It can address issues such as player recruitment, treatment of
players and officials, dealing with parents, sponsorships, relations with other
and example of top management
primary responsibility is to lead by example
Managers set the standard because employees tend to imitate
If employees are not punished for unethical behavior, they will
continue to pursue questionable business practices
keep people honest, many organizations create ethics committee
committees act as judge and jury to determine whether unethical behavior has
occurred and what the punishment should be for violating company policy.
I. Teleological theories
Ø They are characterized by a focus on
are based on what will result from those decisions.
that lead to good and valuable consequences are right, whereas actions that
lead away from them are wrong.
It is the belief that all people act in self interest.
An egoist club manager will develop a
topflight club program not for the benefit of the participants but for his own
benefit (e.g.monetary reward, enhanced reputation, personal glory).
It is the belief
that the only moral duty is to promote the greatest good for the greatest
number of people, such as to promote the greatest amount of happiness.
sport club manager will make decisions that will be of the most benefit to the
greatest number of people within the club.
– Situation ethics
do not take into account overriding moral principles or rules.
managers practicing situation ethics evaluate acts in light of the situational
Sport club managers who practice deontological ethics believe they
have an obligation to do right without considering the outcomes of their
do not determine the rightness of actions.
A sport club
manager with this ethical orientation will not recruit a player away from
another club because it is wrong.
Ø The Golden rule
” Do unto others as you would have them do
-based on the assumption that all people want
to be treated well.
A sport club
manager will not try to recruit an athlete away from another club because he
would not want that done to his club.lines for Ethical Behavior
Golden Rule: treat others as you would have
them treat you
Platinum Rule: treat her people as they want
to be treated
Ø Four-way Test
Is it the
Is it fair
to all concerned?
build goodwill and better friendships?
– Will it be beneficial to all