'Clean Sport:' a Twofold Challenge in the Contemporary History of the Modern Olympic Games

By Wassong, Stephan | Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

'Clean Sport:' a Twofold Challenge in the Contemporary History of the Modern Olympic Games


Wassong, Stephan, Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research


Introduction

In sport history and contemporary Olympic studies the term 'clean sport' has developed a twofold meaning. The first meaning refers to amateur sport, keeping it pure from the danger of professionalism. In the 1890s, for example, the YMCA developed a clean sport rule as an ethical codex by which athletes should be reminded to observe the rules of fair play and withstand the temptations of making money out of sport. (1) Baron Pierre de Coubertin and his American mentor William M. Sloane interpreted amateurism as clean sport in order to mark its noble and chivalric character. (2) Above all it was their aim to protect Olympic sport from the threatening influence of money, betting and corruption. The second meaning refers to the more contemporary and contentious issue of drug abuse. In fact, among journalists, politicians, educators and sport officials today, the term "clean sport" has become a popular synonym for drug-free sport.

The fight to protect clean sport against professionalism and doping was and still is a major issue for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which has sought to promote "an image of sport as an ennobling, uplifting, educational undertaking." (3) Over decades the IOC developed a variety of policies on amateurism and anti-doping. This article aims at describing and comparing these policies and at evaluating the question how the IOC has dealt with the two major issues of amateurism and doping to protect the integrity of Olympic sport.

The Educational Rationale behind the Revival of the Modern Olympic Games

A historically guided introduction into the topic of clean sport leads directly to Coubertin, who originated the IOC's self-imposed objective to represent sport as educationally orientated. The idea to reI establish the Olympic Games is based on Coubertin's appreciation of sport as an educational tool. (4) According to the French Baron, sport could develop its educational effectiveness on both a personal and intercultural level.

To take personal development first, Coubertin stated that sport did not only make a contribution to the improvement of one's health, but also to the development and dissemination of highly moral and social character traits that include fairness, solidarity, democratic behaviour and regulated achievement orientation. (5) Coubertin never claimed that those thoughts were his own, but reflected prevailing attitudes of the educational Zeitgeist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He breathed this Zeitgeist by his contacts to progressive-minded French educators (6) and by his studies on the integration of sport in the Anglo-American educational system. (7)

Referring to the intercultural level, Coubertin regarded sport as a valuable opportunity to support the development of a peaceful internationalism, which came into existence during the end of the 19th Century. (8) Research shows that Coubertin had close contacts with the key personalities of the peace movement, including Hodgson Pratt, Frederic Passy and Jules Simon. (9) According to Coubertin, the universality of sport, which had already existed before the revival of the modern Olympic Games (10), provided a good basis for establishing opportunities for international contact between nations. International sport meetings, which Coubertin had already organized between France and the USA in 1891 (11), offered a chance to support the development of mutual respect. Coubertin was of the opinion that the building up of trans-cultural tolerance was a prerequisite to lessen the chance of war-stimulating prejudices against the customs of other nations. (12) The use of sport as a tool for peace education was an idea originated and promoted by Coubertin himself. From the perspective of historical orientated sport pedagogy it could be of interest to analyse possible parallels between Coubertin's early thoughts on peace education and those developed by representatives of the New Education Fellowship Movement in the decades after World War I. …

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