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Good Sport

Why Our Games Matter — and How Doping Undermines Them

Thomas H. Murray

(Oxford University Press, 2018)

Why are fiberglass vaulting poles and hinged skates accepted in sport – while performance-enhancing drugs are forbidden? Are the rules that forbid them arbitrary? Should we level the playing field by allowing all competitors to use drugs that allow them to run faster or longer, leap higher, or lift more? In this provocative exploration of what draws us to sport as participants and spectators, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center Thomas Murray argues that the values and meanings embedded within our games provide the guidance we need to make difficult decisions about fairness and performance-enhancing technologies.

Good Sport reveals what we really care about in sport and how the reckless use of biomedical enhancements undermines those values. Implicit in sports history, rules, and practices are values that provide a sturdy foundation for an ethics of sport that celebrates natural talents and dedication. You see these values when the Paralympics creates multiple level playing fields among athletes with different kinds of impairments. They appear again in sports struggles to be fair to all when an extraordinary woman athlete emerges who appears to possess a mans hormone profile and muscles. They are threatened when the effort to assure athletes a fair chance to win without doping is subverted by cheating or by corruption, as in the case of Russias state-supported doping operation.

Performance-enhancing drugs distort the connection between natural talents, the dedication to perfect those talents, and success in sport. Explaining the fundamental role of values and meanings, Good Sport reveals not just what we champion in the athletic arena but also, more broadly, what we value in human achievement.

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