What Is Fairness In Sports?

In my organizational psychology class, we looked into multiple levels and reasons behind intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and how they promote success in all areas. One interesting term we were introduced was “self-actualization”. This is a term used in the psychology field that expresses the idea of reaching one’s potential at any specific area in life. It could be career-orientated, goal oriented, skills oriented and etc. It is a motivational level that promotes success and fulfills desires.

From the readings and discussions we have gone through this semester so far, I believe we have defined sports in a way that is not only fun, competitive, but also a game that promotes the idea of reaching one’s potential at some level. In addition, the competitiveness of sports is to help one perform at one’s best under pressure and all kinds of circumstances.

The reading we read this week, Either/Or from the The New Yorker by Ariel Levy delves into a deeper aspect of sports, the idea of fairness. From what I learned from my psychology class, I saw a connection between Levy’s article regarding sports and the idea of reaching self-actualization. From my perspective, I believe we should respect every human being for his or her natural characteristics because everyone is born differently, in terms of socio-economic status, character, appearances, health and etc; therefore, there should be a sense of respect on multiple levels of differences. For example, the first example Levy mentioned is how black Africans in Limpopo train to become cross-country runners – they run bare boot on stones and make scars as they run. Therefore, we clearly see that socio-economic status does create advantages and disadvantages for potential athletes or anyone who wishes to play sports. However, socio-economic status differences do not hinder one’s desire to reach self-actualization in sports, as Levy mentioned many of those children in the running club aspire to enter the Olympics one day.

In my opinion, Caster Semenya, although is an unprecedented and surprising case that is overwhelming to the entire athletic department, should receive the same respect and acknowledgement for her effort and spirit as an athlete. Are we supposed to simply discriminate against naturally born characteristics of an athlete who worked as hard as the other contestants at the Olympic? Should we simply ban her desire to reach self-actualization on her specialized talent and many years of hard work?

Caster Semenya

The point that I would argue is whether sports competition is based on individual effort or the idea of competing with identical qualifications? Should height, weight, bone structure, organ development, hormone levels and other body factors be taken into account as the standard base idea of “fairness”? If so, should all athletes get tested before each round and make sure everyone has the same level of hormones? I don’t think so.

To me, I feel that the entire Caster Semenya case plays a fairly important role for us to re-examine what is the underlying purpose of the Olympics and what is the so called “fairness” of playing sports in general.

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