The Olympic Games Are An Ethics Train Wreck, And Have Been For Quite A While

Olympic mascots

The 2016 Rio Games Opening Ceremony was the apotheosis of a rotting tradition that has lost the slightest resemblance to its so-called ideals. The Olympics are a TV spectacle justified by dollars now, using fake and dubious values to obscure the obvious.

Some moments that gave my ethics alarms twinges last night—

  • Political propaganda. It’s sporting event, not a PSA for climate change regulations. Shut up and play. Or perhaps “Shut up and cheat” is more accurate.
  • Speaking of cheating, the ceremony featuring Tom Brady’s Brazilian model wife as a special effect was jarring, but maybe that’s just me.

This was all just yucky frosting on the unethical cake, however. Before the Games began, the continuing corruption of the Games was again approved when the IOC announced that 270 Russian athletes would be allowed to compete despite a major doping scandal last year that indicated that the Russians routinely cheated, and that there was no reason to presume that any Russian athlete wasn’t. Never mind: the desire for ratings—the US vs. Russia!—and/or bribes paved the way.

Meanwhile, the swimmers are competing in raw sewage. Ocean water along Rio de Janeiro’s famed beaches are contaminated with bacteria and viruses, so much so that the World Health Organization  warned athletes participating in open water sports to not swallow water, to cover any open wounds during competition and to wash off immediately after exiting the water. Why is the US subjecting its athletes to this kind of peril? Why are any of the nations?

I don’t watch football players damage their brains while the NFL pays them to do it, and I’m certainly not going to cheer young athletes risking brain eating amoebae so NBC can sell beer for Anheuser Busch.

When did the Olympics start churning my stomach? It may have been when the U.S. started using NBA stars in the basketball competition, and relishing the opportunity to beat amateur Angolan players 154-12. Yecchh. It may have been when I learned how the female gymnasts were kept sprite-like long into their teens by inhibiting their puberty, and how many young gymnasts were sexually molested on their way to Gold.  Or when I listened to some of my scuzzier male friends explain what they liked about watching them…. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)

Meet the Press sisters.

Meet the Press sisters!

About a week ago, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)  issued an unexpectedly tough report calling for Russia to be banned from international athletics at all levels for flagrant doping violations and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” within Russian athletics. WADA also urged the International Association of Athletics Federations to ban five Russian athletes and five coaches for life. Why the Draconian measures?

The verdict was doubtless bolstered by considering the repeated examples of Russian cheating going back to the bad old Soviet Union days, when the gargantuan Press sisters were winning gold medals over female athletes half their size and East German female swimmers had shoulders as wide as Volkswagon buses, often because they had been dosed with testosterone without their knowledge. More recently, WADA found that Russia “intentionally and maliciously” destroyed 1,400 urine and blood samples of its athletes and, WADA says, the Russian government was directly involved.

WADA President Dick Pound’s report conceded that “corruption and bribery practices at the highest levels of international athletics” were rampant, but that Russia was in a league of its own. “For the 2016 Olympics our recommendation is that the Russian Federation is suspended. One of our hopes is that they will volunteer that so they can undertake the remedial work needed.”

Then he told another funny joke about a horse, a rabbi and an octopus walking into a bar. Continue reading