Ethical Issues in Sport


Sportsmanship is ‘behaviour that shows fair play, respect for opponents and gracious behaviour, whether winning or losing'.

Sportsmanship is about how the participant behaves. It involves showing respect for others and being gracious in victory or defeat, this can also be known as good etiquette.

Sportsmanship is important as it is not only a practice of respect in sports but can carry over to other aspects of life. It is important that professionals show good sportsmanship as young athletes see them as role models and repeat their behaviour.

Examples of Sportsmanship

  • Kicking the ball out of play for an injured player
  • Shaking hands after the game/event and being gracious in victory or defeat.
  • Following the rules and accepting the officials decision.

Gamesmanship & Deviance


Gamesmanship is ‘the use of unethical, although often not illegal, methods to win or gain a serious advantage in a game or sport'.

In many sports competitors are seen to ‘bend the rules’ or to put aside sportsmanship and use gamesmanship to seek an unfair advantage.

There are sportspeople who may cheat in a subtle way that is difficult to control by the rules.


  • Faking injury to waste time towards the end of the football match
  • Taking injury timeouts in tennis to stop the opponents momentum.
  • Grabbing and holding an opponent in boxing to prevent punches and recover.


Deviance is ‘human behaviour that is against your society's norms and values. Behaviour of this kind is often against the law’.

This is when a player, spectator or anyone involved in sport behaves in a way that intentionally breaks the rules or goes against the ethics (sportsmanship) of the sport.

Deviance is deliberate and can be dangerous; examples include cheating, violence and drug abuse.


  • An intentionally high or late tackle in Rugby
  • Fighting during a match/event.
  • Taking performance enhancing drugs to improve performance.
  • Hooliganism
  • Match fixing

Performance Enhancing Drugs

  • Drugs come in different forms such as medical, recreational or performance enhancing.
  • Many performance enhancing drugs are banned in sports due to their ability to have a positive effect on performance and give the taker an advantage.
  • The drugs banned may vary sport to sport and it is the performers responsibility to know their sports anti-doping regulations.

Reasons for taking Performance Enhancing Drugs

Performers may take performance enhancing drugs because:

  • They have a desire to win at all costs.
  • They lack moral boundaries and don’t believe it is wrong.
  • They might not be good enough naturally.
  • Taking them will result in more success, media attention and money.
  • They are influenced by others (coaches/teammates).
  • They feel under pressure to win.

Anabolic Steroids


Anabolic steroids are drugs that mimic certain natural hormones in the body that control how the body works and develops (eg. testosterone).

Anabolic steroids could be used to benefit performance in athletics power events and weightlifting.

Effects on Performance:

  • Increase muscle growth increasing strength
  • Repair muscles quickly after training
  • Allow you to train harder for longer without getting tired

Side Effects:

  • Increased aggression
  • Liver and heart damage
  • Females develop male features

Beta Blockers


Beta blockers are drugs that control the heart rate by blocking hormones such as adrenalin.

Beta blockers could be used to benefit performance in events that require a steady hand or fine motor control such as target sports.

Effects on Performance:

  • Slows down the heart rate, having a calming and relaxing effect
  • Slows down adrenalin production

Side Effects:

  • Heart problems – reduces heart rate to dangerously low levels
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness and nausea



Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the body physically and mentally. Examples of these are coffee, nicotine and cocaine.

Stimulants could be used to benefit performance in anything that requires a quick reaction, for example sports with a sprint start or boxers.

Effects on Performance:

  • Increase alertness
  • Reduce tiredness
  • Increase endurance

Side Effects:

  • Raise blood pressure
  • Very addictive
  • Can cause heart failure

Violence In Sport

Controlled aggression is a fundamental part of many sports.

Sometimes, however, this can spill over into an uncontrolled situation where serious physical injury can be caused.

Violence is ‘behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill someone’.

Reasons for Violence In Sport

The frustration of losing

Media Pressure

Pressure/aggravation from the crowd

Retaliation to a challenge/verbal comment

Over arousal during the game

Annoyed by poor decisions from the officials

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