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Sports Ethics Essay

Vince Lombardi, most likely the best coach to ever lead a team to victory or multiple ones on a football field. His ethics sometimes questionable, but never misunderstood, were always meant to lead and encourage his team to be nothing but the best, and the best was achieved in 1967. After nine incredible winning seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi decided to retire as head coach. The Packers had dominated professional football under his direction, collecting six division titles, five NFL championships, two Super Bowls and acquiring a record of 98-30-4.

After less than a year, however, he realized that he still wanted to coach. He accepted the head coaching position for the Washington Redskins in 1969. During that season, he kept what had become the Lombardi tradition and led the Redskins to their first winning record in 14 years. In January of 1970, his professional coaching record stood at a remarkable 105-35-6, and the NFL named him their acclaimed “1960s Man of the Decade. ”

His statement that “winning is the only thing that matters in sport”, is one of the truths that is still inherent in today’s world of sports. Athletes are willing to cheat to guarantee success, either through the use of performance-enhancing drugs, or through the act of injuring others. These days, drugs, blood doping, corruption, injuring others and the consequences of winning and more importantly losing is all evident. Lombardi’s statement is not only applicable to athletes, but it also applies to the countries that the athletes are representing.

Events such as the Olympics and the World Cup of Hockey, are a source of national pride and some countries are willing, and fully wanting to try and do anything to bring prestige back, many of them resorting to unethical tactics. Lombardi’s statement does not only affect players, or athletes, it also affects coaches, owners, and managers. They too place winning as their number one concern. In many cases, fair play generally takes a back seat to the desire for winning. The truth of the matter is that, some will bend rules, while others will outright cheat.

The corruptness of sports today has lead to the endless methods and desires of unethical behaviour. In the history of ethics there are three principal standards of conduct, each of which has been proposed as the highest good: happiness or pleasure; duty, virtue, or obligation; and perfection, the fullest harmonious development of human potential. When applied to sports, and especially with Vince Lombardi, the third principle standard of conduct, is the most evident, and it will be evident throughout the essay. Other ethical issues that come into the picture is Kant’s.

No matter how intelligently one acts, the results of human actions are subject to accident and circumstance; therefore, the morality of an act must not be judged by its consequence, but only by its motivation. If sports were motivated by Kant’s theory, then winning would not be as important, but the success of participating, and being part of a team, would be the successful outcome. Another ethical theory that comes to play is Bentham’s. He explained the principle of utility as a means of augmenting the happiness of the community.

He believed that all human actions are motivated by a desire to obtain pleasure and avoid pain. Utilitarianism is the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. When analysing this, there are two aspects you can use to analyse this when looking at it from a sports point of view. If we use the greatest amount of people, we can use it as society, where Lombardi’s speech does not benefit the whole, but if we look at it in the context of the greatest good for the team, then his speech definitely is appropriate.

Getting back to the methods used by people to win, and get an advantage, we will see what people and organizations, and even countries are willing to do to accomplish a victory. Winning is a very important thing not only to the athletes, but it is very important to their countries as well. In the early 1960s drugs were used more frequently among the communist nations who wanted to enhance their national prestige through sports. Certain Countries, such as China and East Germany have been guilty of abusing such practices.

The glory of winning a gold medal and what follows is more important to them than anything else. It is one of the major influences behind drug use in sports. A major concern for new athletes representing their countries is not simply about the satisfaction of winning but the rewards of success. The rewards are staggering, as the dollar volume being showered on winners is second to none. The figures have become so mind-boggling that the interests of people involved in this lucrative business is no longer centred around ethical and health-related concerns.

Some athletes are willing to give up most of what they have worked for their entire lives in order to win a gold medal. Not only do some use performance-enhancing drugs to help break records or win gold medals, but blood doping is another example in which athletes attempt to improve performance. Drug related scandals are some of the major concerns with the Olympics. Drug testing was introduced at the Olympics in 1967, when at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Swedish cyclist Knut Jensen took compound drugs to compete in the road race during which he collapsed and died.

This incident shocked the international sports world and the International Olympic Committee established a mandatory dope test for all Olympic athletes in 1967. In 1988 a Canadian shameful Ben Johnson was caught using steroids and had his gold medal stripped from him. Over the years many people have been caught for drug use. These athletes involved range from long-distance runners, weight lifters, and swimmers. In the 1983 Summer Pan American games several gold medal winners were also disqualified for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. The need to win makes athletes do almost anything to find the extra bit that could make the difference.

Many techniques are introduced and employed by athletes in order to gain that advantage in their respective fields. Some athletes try to increase the effectiveness of the drugs by combining them into several combinations. One problem with drug tests is that athletes continue to find new ways in beating the tests. Some of them are now trying to mask their drug use with other drugs that will help them pass. Also, some athletes who use steroids months before the games, discontinue their usage a few months before they will be tested and then resume once again after the testing is over.

This allows them the possibility of not being caught, with the overall goal of gaining an edge on the competition to achieve fame and glory. Other ways athletes seek an unfair advantage without running the risk of failing the drug tests is through a process known as blood doping. Blood is removed from the athlete’s system and then frozen and stored. Over the next several weeks, the athlete’s body makes more red blood cells and returns the athlete’s blood volume to normal. Just before competition, the stored blood is given back to the athlete.

The athlete’s blood now contains an above normal number of blood cells. This increased number of blood cells allows the athlete to perform with greater endurance. Although blood boosting can improve athletic performance, it is an extremely dangerous practice. Athletes who do this have an unfair and unnatural advantage over athletes who do not. It is not in the spirit of fair sports competition, but these athletes are more concerned with winning than sportsmanship or their health. The Olympics have had a history of corrupt judges, from the recent figure skating scandal to the countless years back.

In the Seoul Olympics, all Olympic judges and referees were given everything they wanted in exchange for gold medals. The Russian and Korean boxing judges conspired to keep the Americans from winning gold medals. The American IBF super middleweight champion of the world, Roy Jones, was “robbed” in a fight with Korea’s Park Si-Hun. Jones out-boxed Park, landing more punches than park by a count of eighty-six to thirty-two. The Koreans watching the fight were outraged by this decision and Park himself felt that Jones had beaten him.

In another fight between Lennox Lewis and American Riddick Bowe, the referee interfered with the match when Lewis started getting tired and disrupting Bowe’s concentration, robbing the Americans of another medal. This makes it apparent that it is not only important for athletes to win, but Countries need the status of being a winner as well, no matter how obvious their cheats are. Coaches, players, owners and managers also place a high value on winning. Coaches are seen as being good or bad based on their records.

Those with a winning record are seen as being the good coaches which in turn are the ones who are usually hired by organizations. Those who have losing records for the teams, are usually looked upon as scapegoats, and are fired and replaced. To win a coach might bend the rules. They place gamesmanship above sportsmanship and try to stretch the rules as far as they can. Some see the rules as being the only definition of what is right or wrong and if the situation is not included in the rule book, then that means that its fair to exploit.

For example, in 1932, the rules didn’t dictate what a uniform could look like, except that the number had to be on the back of the jersey, and that is when Paul Brown came up with a strategy to help his team. He cut footballs in half and sewed one half in front of the jersey. While this may seem like good strategy, Brown’s desire to win made him resort to unethical tactics that would seem to be less then honourable as we all know, there are other ways to improve a team’s play. Coaches aren’t the only ones placing a value on winning. Players are placing a great deal of value on winning as well.

These days, playing for the love of the game appears non-existent. Athletes are now competing to make million dollar contracts. Star players on a team are usually paid the most as they are seen to be the reason for a team’s success or a pillar to build the team around. The top players in the major leagues of sports, NHL, NBA, MLB, etc. have multi-million dollar contracts. Players such as Alexi Yashin and Michael Peca have held out on their contracts as they feel that they are underpaid. Last season, John Leclair went to arbitration and received a one-year, $7 million contract.

As athletes grow in popularity, they may also make more money through various things such as endorsements. Player agents are hired on their behalf to negotiate these contracts and endorsements as they try to seek out as much money as possible and increasing their client’s public exposure. Out of the three groups mentioned, owners and managers place the most emphasis on winning. They are responsible for the overall success of their teams. They are responsible for making decisions such as the hiring and firing of coaches and the trading of players.

Teams that are not seen to be competitive try to build their team for the future by acquiring young talent, draft picks, or players that they try to build their teams around. Owners with a competitive team try to make their team more competitive by making key acquisitions through free agency or during the trade deadline. They do all this in hopes of winning the championships, and attracting more fans so that they will make more money. Through all their dealings, winning and making money is the major goal of owners and managers.

To win at a competition, people have participated in injuring others in order to boost their chances of success. An event that occurred prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics is one such example in where this occurs. On January 6th, U. S. national figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a man who hit her on the outside of the right knee with a blunt object. Kerrigan was expected to be a favourite to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games. Two of the people who planned and executed the attack would eventually turn out to be Tonya Harding’s ex-husband and her bodyguard.

They both testified that Harding had knowledge of the attack, which she at first denied and then later admitted to. Kerrigan’s right knee was targeted for the attack because it was her landing leg for jumps. Harding would go on to win the Olympic trials, in which Kerrigan did not participate. To plan an attack on a fellow competitor, further demonstrates the lack of sportsmanship and the importance that people place on winning. Another example can be shown in the 1972 Canada and Soviet Union Summit Series.

Canada’s victory in game 8 of the series over the Russians would be marred by an incident with Bobby Clarke. In game 7, Bobby Clarke viciously slashed Russia’s star player, Valeri Kharlamov, which resulted in a broken ankle. Canada would go on to win game 7 and game 8. It was later revealed that Team Canada assistant coach John Ferguson told Clarke to do it. Whether Canada would have been able to accomplish defeating the Russians in game 7 and game 8 had Kharlamov been at a 100%, is very questionable, but what it goes to show is the importance that Ferguson and Clarke had placed on winning.

Ferguson giving the order and by Clarke’s actions in carrying out of the order shows how much they valued and how important winning was to them. To win a series that many had expected to be a blow-out, Clarke willingly compromised the integrity of Canada’s victory and forever tainted it. In conclusion, through the actions of athletes, coaches, owners and managers, and the actions of countries or by the people on behalf of their country, winning is shown to be the top priority when competing. Athletes will bend rules and sometimes cheat if they need to, to secure a win.

There are different motivations for wanting to win. Athletes who play on teams do it for money. Coaches want to win because it shows that they are competent and successful. Owners and managers also want to win as it also brings them more money. Countries want to win for prestige and bragging rights. Athletes who perform at the international level want to win as it gets them fame and fortune. While there may be many different reasons for wanting to win, it is known that without a doubt the need to win is very important to all that participate in the world of sports today.

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