Ethics of Sport Classes Analyze Issues Emerging from the Olympic Winter Games

Cesar Torres in his office
Cesar R. Torres, Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies, and Physical Education, weighs in on the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and how it ties into his course, Ethics of Sport.

Are you discussing the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in any of your classes?

My teaching responsibilities this semester include two sections of PES 460 Ethics of Sport, one of which is cross-listed as PHL 460 Ethics of Sport. In that course, I encourage the students to follow the coverage of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games and bring to class issues that are interesting to analyze from an ethical perspective or that could illuminate ethical theories, concepts, or matters covered in class. In addition, I share with the students some controversies around the event that are relevant to the course’s content and learning outcomes.

Could you mention two such issues?

  1. One is the case of Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skater who helped her team win gold in the team event. Notably, while doing so she became the first female figure skater to perform a quadruple jump at the Olympic Winter Games. However, she was not presented with the gold medal as there were rumors, later confirmed, that she had tested positive for a banned substance. Yet, she was afterward cleared to compete in the individual competition.
  2. Another issue is the disqualification of five female athletes (one from Austria, one from Germany, one from Japan, and two from Norway) from a ski jumping competition for allegedly wearing jumpsuits that did not comply with the rules. Their jumpsuits were purportedly too large, which could give them an illegal advantage (more lift) while performing.

How will you discuss these two issues in class?

It is a bit too early in the semester to fully address them in class now. At this point, I ask the students to contemplate the reasons that make them controversial and to think about the appropriate approaches to fruitfully explore them. Later in the semester, when covering the unit on performance enhancement, the students will explore the nature of advantage in competitive athletics, the arguments in favor and against the use of performance enhancing drugs, and the role that technology should play in athletic performance. The goal is to sort out the means that athletes ought/ought not to be allowed to improve their performance. The Valieva case and the disqualification of the five female ski jumpers will be incorporated into the exploration of these concepts and arguments, and revisited in light of that discussion.

In what other ways does discussing the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games help your classes?

It helps me illustrate with the use of current events the significance of ethical reasoning for social practices such as sport and public life more broadly. That is, it helps me illustrate the need of taking the ethical point of view as well as the consequences —professional, personal, and social— of neglecting to do so. Discussing some of the controversies that have arisen in the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games is a way to invite the students to think, in Aristotelian fashion, what it means to live (sport) well.

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