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Ethics in Sport- The Case of Cycling
As one of the world’s more demanding sports, cycling extracts as well as expects a maximum performance from its professional participants. It pits them directly against the world’s best in the sport on almost every outing, thus creating a field of competition whereby they are judged, and rated in almost every outing against the leading stars. Unlike other team sports whereby one’s performance is measured, and or gauged against those of a like skill or position, cycling does not provide this cushion or hedge. One’s performance comes under direct scrutiny each, and every outing with time sheet comparisons to indicate one’s standing, be it the mountain climbing segment, sprints, or overall balanced performance through a stage or Tour. The demands of strength, endurance, intestinal fortitude, and mental stamina that is spread in most cases over days, and in the case of the Tour de France, weeks, creates an atmosphere of pressure to perform that is unknown in any other type of professional sport.
Dr. Alejandro Lucia (Cheung, 2003), a world recognized authority in the physiology of professional cycling, has stated that the training as well as discipline required to participate exact a high mental toll that is also a factor of the high stress of physical conditioning as well as genetics. As would be expected, each country with major participants in professional cycling has its own cycling federation, however, the Union Européenne de Cyclisme, European Cycling Union, is the confederation that oversees the Union Cycliste Internationale, International Cycling Union, which is the professional organization that oversees professional cycling events globally (UEC, 2007). This organization has the responsibility for the issuance of licenses to professional cyclists, along with the enforcement of rules and regulations, which in this instance includes doping (UCI, 2007a). The professional cycling devisions that the the UCI oversees are road cycling events, track, mountain bike, cyclo-cross, BMX, Trials, indoor cycling, and para-cycling (UCI, 2007a).
The International Cycling Union is a non-profit-making organization that was founded on 14 April 1900, and is headquartered in Aigle, Switzerland (UCI, 2007b). The organization’s aims represent:
- The regulation of professional cycling on the international level,
- The promotion of cycling internationally, in every country as well as at all levels,
- The organization of professional cycling World Championships for all cycling divisions,
- The encouragement as well as maintenance of friendly and professional relationships between all cycling divisions,
- The promotion of sporting ethics as well as fair play,
- The representation of professional cycling along with the defence of its interests internationally,
- And the collaboration with the International Olympic Committee concerning cycling events held in the Olympics (UCI, 2007b).
It is item 5. the promotion of sporting ethics as well as fair play, along with morals that represents the focus of this examination. And in keeping with such, the International Cycling Union has adopted a ‘Code of Ethics’ that defines and specifies the conduct of action, and rules governing all professional cycling events (UCI, 2007c). It specifies that all executive, management, administrative, cyclists, and other individuals and associations in any way affiliated as well as coming under the aegis of the International Cycling Union must adhere to said ‘Code of Ethics (UCI, 2007c). It sets forth that on a daily basis, all participants must comply with the rules of the ‘Code of Ethics’ with respect to (UCI, 2007c):
- human dignity,
- principles of nondiscrimmination concerning race, gender, ethic origin, gender, philosophical as well as political opinions, religion, marital staus, or any other forms of discrimination for whatever reason,
- the principle of nonviolence in any form as well as the exerting of any type of pressure, and or harassment by any means, specify physical, professional, mental, and sexual,
- the maintenance of integrity,
- to hold the priority of the best interests of the sport on a daily basis,
- to hold the priority of the interests of the sport as well as its athletes regarding financial interests,
- to protect the environment,
- to maintain neurality in political issues, and
Within this ‘Code’ it is required that all parties uphold the principles as well as interests of professional cycling as well as refraining from any behaviour that might jeopardize the sport, and or the reputation of the UCI (UCI, 2007c). Within this framework is the important concept of ‘integrity’, which means “the firm adherance to a code of … moral or artistic values … (Interactive Playground, 2007). The preceding is specially inportant in the context of this examination as it focuses on the ‘ethical and moral questions’ of drug use in the sport. Integrity represents a skill that is learned over time (Interactive Playground, 2007). As a part of the UCI ‘Code of Ethics’, integrity, under Article 4, is stated as the fact that all parties associated with the UCI shall therefore refrain from the asking for, acceptance of, and or proposal, either directly or indirectly, that any payment as well as commission, along with any advantages and or services of any type that has not been agreed to or authorized by the UCI shall not be undertaken (UCI, 2007c). Furthermore, under inetgrity it also states that when any type of offers of the aforementioned variety are made, that the UCI be so informed (UCI, 2007c). Said conditions under integrity, Article 5, go on to add that parties as covered under their association with the UCI can only accept symbolic gifts that are bestowed in the spirit of freindship as a matter of local custom, and that any other types of gifts are to be forwarded to the UCI (UCI, 2007c). The ‘Code’ goes on to cover such fields as ‘Conflict of Interests’, and Confidentiality’ in laying out specific terms of conduct (UCI, 2007c).
In keeping with the foregoing, the UCI has established an ‘Ethics Commission’, that has been granted authority in the following areas (UCI, 2007c):
- to oversee and ensure that all facets of the ‘Code’ are respected,
- to field and receive complaints with regard to any infringement to the ‘Code’,
- to provide advice as well as assistance concerning ethical matters in all phases of the ‘Code’,
- to provide advice on the avoidance as well as resolution of conflicts of interests,
- to recommend sanctions as a result of offences against the ‘Code’,
- to set forth measures for the application and adherence to the ‘Code’, and
- to put forth proposals recommending programmes to teach and advise on ethics.
The foregoing represents an extremely important facet in this discussion in that the UCI has taken an active stance in the areas of ethics, and morals, as defined by integrity. The foregoing represents a critical aspect in the examination of breaches, and scandals that have befallen the sport of cycling that have made the news recently, particularly in the instance of the most recent winner of the Tour de France.
The Consequences of Individual Actions
As indicated in the UCI’s ‘Code of Ethics’ as well as by the actions taken by this organization as far back as the 1960s when an article representing doping was introduced into the organization’s rules, drugs have been a key consideration in ensuring that a level as well as trustworthy representation of the sport was, and is a part of its operation (UCI, 2007d). The preceding focus was further enhanced by the following subsequent rules, and regulations (UCI, 2007d:
- in 1966 a similar article, on doping as referred to in 1960, was added to the UCI Technical Guide,
- in 1967, the UCI published its first list representing substances that were prohibited,
- in 1967 the UCI put into motion the first sanctions taken against riders that refused to undergo testing,
- 1967 represented the publishing of the first Medical Control Rules, which were the forerunner to the Anti-doping Rules
The above historical understanding of the stance, and active programmes of the UCI is important in the context of recent events on doping in the sport of cycling. This examination shall cover the most noteworthy of these types of events, noting that doping issues have been a part of individual athlete rule broaching since the 1960’s (UCI, 2007d).
The Tour de France represents professional cycling’s most premier, and prestigious event. It’s “…scale and social and cultural significance demands the academic attention that it has not always received …” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 1). Covering in excess of 4,000 kilometres throughout France, and a few neighbouring countries, millions of on-hand spectators as well as hundreds of millions across the globe via television, and other forms of media follow the event. First conducted in 1903, the Tour has been held as a pinnacle of sporting fairness that shows athletes at their best over three weeks of grueling competition through mountains, and flat stages that average around 150 plus kilometres per day (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 228). Waddington (1998, p. 161) advises “…that a good Tour takes one year off your life, and when you finish in a bad state, they reckon three years… You can’t describe to a normal person how tired you feel…”. They add that “…fatigue starts to kick in on the Tour after ten days if you’re in good shape, and after five days if you’re not in your best condition physically” (Waddington, 1998, p. 161). Waddington (1998, p. 161) adds that “Then, it all just gets worse and worse, you don’t sleep so much, so you don’t recover as well from the day’s racing, so you go into your reserves, you get more knackered, so you sleep less… It’s simply a vicious circle”. Robert Millar, a Scottish cycling professional who rode in the Tour, goes on to state that “It takes two weeks to recover from a good Tour, three months to recover from a bad one” (Waddington, 1998, p. 161).
This event is being utilized in the context of this examination as a result of the intense competition between riders to look good on the world stage in cycling’s biggest event. The preceding translates into the fact that the “…Tour de France cannot avoid seeing an increase in the demands on competitors with the ever-growing importance of television, whose systematic coverage of every stage has also brought in, on top of the necessary battle for the stage win, the necessary battle for permanent presence in front of the TV cameras, therefore making races ever faster” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 229). They add that there is a “… long-standing presence of doping in the Tour brings us back to the excessive nature of the race” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 229). The first instance of doping in the Tour de France occurred in 1924 as a result of the confessions of the Pelissier brothers who admitted using “…cocaine for the eyes, that’s chloroform for the gums” ” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 230). The next significant doping issue occurred in 1955 when Tour riders Jean Mallejac, Ferdi Kubler and Charly Gaul” admitted to taking substances (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 229-230). Doping issues were subsequently repeated in ” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 230):
- 1966 representing the first year in which “…-doping tests were carried out in the Tour de France …” (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 230).
- In 1975 the first rider tested positive for doping,
- In 1977 another incident was uncovered,
- In 1980, there was another issue of a rider testing positive for drugs.
But, the most noted example came in 1998 when the winner of the Tour, Marco Pantini tested positive in a subsequent race called the Tour of Italy in 1999 (Appleyard, 2006). In 2000, Frenchman Richard Virengue, a celebrated rider in the Tour, admitted to using drugs during a Festina trial (Dauncey and Hare, 2003, p. 232), with the biggest scandal taking place in 2006 when major Tour riders Jan Ullrich, a winner of the Tour in 1997, and Ivan Basso where forced to withdraw from the event (Leicester, 2006). But, for the first time in the history of the Tour de France in 2006, the winner was later declared ineligible and stripped of his title after testing positively for drugs (Bagratuni, 2006). Subsequent testing after the Tour was completed found that Landis tested positive for the 17th stage to Morzine that he won in what has been termed “… spectacular fashion after a long ride over 130 kilometres …” that included “… three major alpine peaks” (Bagratuni, 2006). The discovery wound up causing the cancellation of a later racing event in the Netherlands as well as Denmark, and set off an international furor over doping that had been building for years (cbc.ca, 2006a). The scandals brought back to the forefront past cycling scandals, as a result of the magnitude of the 2006 Tour winner being stripped of his crown. A lot of journalists stated that the 1998 scandals nearly killed the Tour’s integrity as well as value when an employee of the Festina team was arrested with a carload of “… performance enhancing drugs …” that included one called erythropoietin (EOP), which is “… a hormone that helps the blood carry more oxygen …” which thus lets riders carry on longer as well as faster (cbc.ca, 2006a).
That incident lead to the arrest of six members of the Festina cycling team, out of nine utilized in the Tour, who admitted to the use of drugs that aided in their performance, along with the leader of the Credit Agricole team Christophe Moreau, who later in that same year “… tested positive for anabolic steroids” (cbc.ca, 2006a). The litany continues with the following incidents as well as allegations (cbc.ca, 2006a):
- 2002 saw Stefano Garzelli, the “… leader of the Vini Caldirola team …” (cbc.ca, 2006) tested positive for probenecid. The preceding is a diuretic that is often used to mask the presence of other drugs.
- 2003 saw Igor Gonzalez, a Spanish cyclist, being banned from the Tour de France after he tested positive for an anti-asthma.
- 2004 saw the police in France seize EPO, amphetamines as well as male hormones, and the arrest to Cofidis team cyclists.
- Lance Armstrong, the most celebrated Tour winner was accused of doping allegations, and later cleared.
The preceding has damaged the reputation, and sporting fairness of cycling, and represents a long list of doping scandals that have also rocked other sports. The spectacular performances of the 1970s, and 80s East German swimming teams saw a large number of stellar performers later come down with negative health and side effects “…such as liver cancer, organ damage, psychological defects, hormonal changes and infertility …” that called into question that they might have taken performance enhancing drugs (cbc.ca, 2006b). Kornelia Ender, the winner of four gold and the silver gold medals during the 1972, and 76 Olympics revealed she had been taking drug injections since she was 13 (cbc.ca, 2006b). Her situation mirrors that of other East German swimmers Barbara Krause, four gold and silver medals, Carola Nitschke, and others (cbc.ca, 2006b). Incidents of doping scandals hit the 1983 Pam Am Games that was held in Caracas, Venezula, U.S. Track and Field, professional baseball and football in the United States, and a host of other sports (cbc.ca, 2007a). The pressures to perform in all manner of sports is clear, and in the case of professional cycling has been particularly damaging owing to the international nature of the sport.
The preceding examples as well as histories of cycling, and other scandals have left the sport in a serious state of affairs. These events, and created a situation that has put “,,, cycling at a fork in the road” (Case and Sachs, 2006). The failure of Floyd Landis to pass drug tests after winning the Tour de France resulted in the disbanding of the entire team as sponsors canceled their contracts (Abt, 2006). Gibbs (2000, p. 4) opens up a broad range of considerations in the case of ethics that takes into account that it, ethics, brings with it the responsibility for others. He states that ethics also takes into account that “We also are responsible for each other in a mutual way when justice requires us to become present, one-to-another” (Gibbs, 2000. p. 4). A situation that is made even more the case in cycling as a team is built to promote one rider, and when that rider or members of the team fails, the entire team suffers. The case of the collapse of Floyd Landis’ team after the 2006 Tour scandal is evidence of this point. Gibbs (2000, p. 4) stated the foregoing above, which in a team sport such as cycling makes such a bind more important. He adds that “…we are bound asymmetrically to each other, and ethical mutuality is possible only because of that excess of responsibility” (Gibbs, 2000. p. 4). And add that such represents a community whereby the actions of one affect the standings of others. As a community, cycling represents a prime example of the foregoing.
Mottram (2003, p. 52) brings forth an interesting proposition that “The motivating factors for drug misuse do not necessarily lie in the hands of the athlete”. He (Mottram, 2003, p. 52) points to a number of studies whereby “…the majority of athletes, coaches, medical practitioners and others involved in sport do not favour the use of performance-enhancing drugs”. There is an ‘however’ he states, which represents that “…these results may reflect the respondent’s ethical and moral attitudes to the problem, but in practice the pressures of competition may compel them to take a more pragmatic approach to drug taking” (Mottram, 2003, p. 52). Gibbs (2000, p. 4) adds to the foregoing in stating that “…ethics are the will, conscious intentions, deliberate choices, or the perfection of an individual rational life”. Sports, and in this instance cycling, embody rules of fair play, ethics, and other value systems that the public idealizes, and seeks to believe in a world of uncertainty, corporate, and political corruption. Fans, and more importantly children, tend to view winning athletes as role models, thus when that trust is shattered it damages not just the individual, but the sport as a whole. Dauncey and Hare (2003, p. 182) describe this as “The spectators’ ‘ethical’ analysis of the conduct of their favorite riders is arguably more complex than that of the Tour organizers (limited to the rules of the race) or that of the French state (limited to French law and Republican values towards sport) or that of cycle sport’s international ruling bodies such as the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)”.
Ethics is a concept, ideal, and principle that is rooted in moral philosophy. Plato’s dialogues delves into the question “…of the subjectivity or objectivity of morality provides the focus for the earliest complete works of philosophy …” (Graham, 2004, p. 1). Our belief, and use of moral values represents an evolution of the human spirit that is traced back to Plato, and his teacher Socrates. They held that “… there is a radical difference between the world of facts, and the world of values, between physis and nomos to use the Greek words, the difference being that when it comes to matters of value, the concepts of true and false have no meaningful application” (Graham, 2004. p. 1). Thus, Graham (2004, p. 1) holds that “By implication, then, in ethics there is no scope for proof and demonstration as there is in science and mathematics; ethical ‘argument’ is a matter of rhetoric, which is to say, of persuading people to believe what you believe rather than proving to them that the beliefs you hold are true”. Rist (2001. p. 1) states that there is a core concern in ethics that is “…widely admitted to be a crisis in contemporary Western debate about ethical foundations”. He tells us that we are members of a larger community and that what binds us together in a livable society is the belief, and practice of ethics as a matter of trust (Rist, 2001. p. 205).
He (Rist, 2001. p. 119) brings up the foundational principle of “…the problem of the relation between fairness and justice (in what circumstances and by what criteria should people be treated equally”, and that rules are seemingly needed if fairness as well as rights “… are to be enforced”. He continues that ethics refers to the good life for humans as a whole, and that morality “…is limited to what we are told we ought, or more probably what we ought not to do” (Rist, 2001, p. 120). Hare (1997, p. 1) tells us that ethics can also be termed as a moral philosophy whereby it represents the point that “…philosophers come closest to practical issues in morals and politics”. Outka and Reeder (1993, p. 29) advise that the idea representing moral philosophy is and has been central to the history of philosophy and figures prominently with regard to “…recent moral, legal, and political thought and action”. They bring forth the interesting proposition that “…there is agreement on very general principles … (of morality) … such as the Golden Rule, and disagreement over more specific precepts, or that there is agreement over general moral ends and disagreement over particular means or purely factual considerations”. Morality represents the concept of does and don’ts, and that the “…mark of a civilized society is that its members share this concept, for only because they have it do civilized people acknowledge that human conduct everywhere is properly judged by standards accessible to members of societies other than their own, whose opinions they are not entitled to ignore” (Outka and Reeder, 1993, p. 29). The preceding is central to this discussion of the ethical, and moral questions of drug use in cycling.
The ‘Code of Ethics’ as defined by the International Cycling Union has nine key points, representing (UCI, 2007c):
- human dignity,
- principles of nondiscrimmination concerning race, gender, ethic origin, gender, philosophical as well as political opinions, religion, marital staus or any other forms of discrimination for whatever reason,
- the principle of nonviolence in any form, as well as the exerting of any type of pressure and or harassment by any meas, specify phyical, professional, mental and sexual,
- the maintenance of integrity,
- to hold the priority of the best interests of the sport on a daily basis,
- to hold the priority of the interests of the sport as well as its athletes regarding financial interests,
- to protec the environment,
- to maintain neurality in political issues, and
The foregoing harkens back to Gibbs’ (2004, p. 4) statement that we are “…responsible for each other in a mutual way when justice requires us to become present, one-to-another”. He adds that “…we are bound asymmetrically to each other, and ethical mutuality is possible only because of that excess of responsibility”. That sense of community represents what the International Cycling Union is, and thus the highly damaging effects of individual actions to the whole. As the overall governing body of cycling, the International Cycling Union seeks to make these principles a reality, however, it has failed to manifest these into the consciousness of some of its members, which represents a real source for concern. It, the taking of drugs, has been stated by the International Olympic Committee in the following manner (Mottram, 2003, p. 52-53):
“… the use of doping agents in sport is both unhealthy and contrary to the ethics of sport, …it is necessary to protect the physical and spiritual health of athletes, the values of fair play and of competition, the integrity and unity of sport, and the rights of those who take part in it at whatever level”.
It, drug use, represents a condition that “…is contrary to the very principles upon which sport is based” (Mottram, 2003, p. 53). Dubin (1990) states that “Sport is considered as character building, teaching ‘the virtues of dedication, perseverance, endurance and self-discipline”. He adds the important observations that “’sport helps us to learn from defeat as much as from victory, and team sports foster a spirit of co-operation and interdependence…import(ing) something of moral and social values and…integrating us as individuals, to bring about a healthy, integrated society’ drug abuse would have no place in sport” (Dubin, 1990). Thus, the question, in light of the preceding examples of drug use, is why so many athletes have resorted to cheating”, and “Why are the rules that govern sport often regarded as obstacles to be overcome or circumvented rather than as regulations designed to create equality of competitive opportunity and to define the parameters of the sport?” (Dubin, 1990). The unfair advantage of the use of drugs in sport lessens the outcome, and masks the potential of those who have superior abilities that are hidden by cheaters. It reduces the concept of sport itself, which is defined as “an activity, pastime, and competition … “ (Allwords.com, 2007). The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA, 2007) states “The spirit of sport means competing fairly and performing to the best of your ability…the pursuit of excellence with honor”.
The international implications of doping in sport has drawn the attention of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2005) which drafted doping in sports, whereby it stated that “… sport should play an important role in the protection of health, in moral, cultural and physical education and in promoting international understanding and peace”. The preceding is a broader application of the meaning and purpose of sport than addressed in this examination, but nevertheless is an important facet in the understanding of the attention and implications of sport in our lives, as stated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA, 2007). Such higher ideals were and are behind the International Cycling Union’s ‘Code of Ethics’, and the personal as well as individual responsibility of each and every person as well as organization affiliated or associated with it. Loland (2002, p. 143) advises that “…fair play is commonly understood as a set of norms for rule conformity and justice…”. He continues that (Loland, 2002, p. 144):
- Fairness, represents when “Parties voluntarily engaged in sport competitions ought to act in accordance with the shared ethos of the competitions if this ethos is just”.
- And that fair play provides for an equal platform of rules, regulations, methodologies and systems whereby “…competitors are given equal opportunity to perform by eliminating or compensating for significant inequalities that the competitors cannot influence in any significant way and for which they cannot be held responsible”.
Loland (2002, p. 144) states that unless there is fair play, then the performance of athletes is not based upon talent, but some hidden advantages that corrupt the outcome and prompts inequality. The use of substances to enhance sport’s performance represents an issue that is as old as sport itself (Mottram, 2003. p. 307). Fair play is the operative concept behind the rules and regulations of the International Cycling Union, and is the ethical and moral foundation. The efforts of the ICU, as put forth by McNamee and Parry (1998) is that “… the moral structure of sport in terms of an implicit ‘social contract’ (and thus to offer a rationale for why we should condemn cheating and so forth) needs further careful exploration through studies of both the history of sport and the contract tradition”. Midgley (1974. p. 143) continues that “the social contract is just one sort of analogy for underlying moral structures that seem to bind societies together, as a ‘conceptual tool used by the prophets of the Enlightenment to derive political obligation from below rather than from above’”. Fairness and justice go to the root of modern civilization as the basis for order, and cooperation. Hare (1970. p. 179) argues that it is “…our duty to obey the rule ‘always keep your promises’ is simply part of a game (the institution of promising, in this case), and that we could just as easily decide not to play, in which case the duty would disappear”. He concludes that “For unless one accepts this principle, one is not a subscribing member of the institution which it constitutes, and therefore cannot be compelled logically to accept the institutional facts which it generates.” (Hare, 1970. p. 179).
The preceding are the principles and reasons for the existence of the International Cycling Union and its binding ‘Code of Ethics’ on its members. It is the duty of these members to uphold and adhere to the principles of this ‘Code’ as it represents the foundation for public trust and belief in the fact that the outcome of competitions reflects honest and accurate performances. The ‘Play the Game Conference’ held on 10 November 2005 issued a declaration that best sums up that reasons for fairness, honest, integrity, morals and ethics in sport (Pro Cycling News, 2005). It calls for the organizing bodies within sports to:
- Ensure that corruption, is eliminated from sports,
- And that the integrity of sports management is upheld by maintaining ethical behaviour,
- Through a demonstration of commitments to counter corruption.
Corruption in sport represents any activity that changes the outcome from what it would have been if everyone adhered to the rules. It thus then provides the public with a true recording of performances in an arena they can trust and believe in. The pressures to perform mean little if such is aided by unfair advantages that skew results, thus it is the duty of the monitoring organization to enforce the rules as strictly as possible to minimize cheating, as well as to administer strong drug testing. The community of cycling is larger than the athletes and members of the International Cycling Union. It includes every spectator that has and will ever watch the sport. In light of the recent and numerous scandals, much needs to be done to re-establish a platform of trust that the public can look ate and believe that the ills of the past, are in fact in the past. Such will restore cycling to its former prominence, and help to further bound the community of athletes and fans to fair play, ethics and morality.
Abt, S. (2006) Cycling: Shunned by sponsors, Landis’ team dies. 15 August 2006. Retrieved on 17 April 2007 from http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/15/sports/bike.php
Allwords.com (2007) sport. Retrieved on 18 April 2007 from http://www.allwords.com/query.php?SearchType=3&Keyword=sport&goquery=Find+it!&Language=ENG
Appleyard, B. (2006) Drugs and Debauchery. 3 July 2006. Vol. 135. New Statesman
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