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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Section: 001
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Sport Ethics

Ethics can be defined as an area of study that examines what is good and bad or a branch of philosophy that deals with what is morally right or wrong.[1] Related to ethics is morality, or “beliefs about what is right behaviour and what is wrong behaviour”.[2] Ethics can be divided into three categories: metaethics, normative ethics, applied ethics. [3] Metaethics focuses on the origins and meaning of ethical principles.[3] Normative ethics focuses on figuring out what is morally wrong and right and what one ought to do. [3] Applied ethics is the study of what is morally right in specific issues.[3] Sport Ethics is the study of how one should act in a sport context, what one ought to do, and the rules that would make an action morally right.

Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) helps govern sport in Canada and give guidance on moral issues encountered in sport. The CCES is a not-for-profit organization formed with the joining of the Canadian Centre for Drug-Free Sport and Fair Play Canada.[4] As part of the World Anti-Doping Program, the Centre also manages all phases of the doping control process and ensures that it is consistent with all other programs in the world.[4]

Mission and Vision

The CCES operates under the following mission and vision[5]:

With the knowledge that true sport can make a great difference for individuals, communities and our country, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport will work collaboratively to:

Mission Activate a values-based and principle-driven sport system;

Advocate for sport that is fair, safe and open; and Protect the integrity of sport.

Vision With a view to:

Sport in Canada that is fair, safe and open to everyone.

Ethical Issues

The CCES has identified several key issues in facing sport in Canada. The issues are: doping, violence, poor parental behaviour, weak community sport governance, lack of access and inclusion, and negative behaviours in pro sport.[6]


Adolescents are at risk for unhealthy performance enhancing behaviours. A study done found that 34.7% of adolescent respondents used protein supplements and 5.9% reported steroid use.[7] The study examined 5 muscle enhancing behaviours including exercising, protein powders, changing diet, steroids and other muscle enhancing substances.[7] Specifically, it also found that factors that influence this went further than the school environment and was driven by social and cultural variables.[7] In addition to doping, Stephens and Bredemeier (1996) saw that the largest predictor of young female soccer players self reported likelihood to cheat was their belief of how likely their teammates would engage in the same behaviour.[8]

Poor Behaviour in Youth Sport

The social environment of the sport environment seems to have a significant impact on the likelihood of poor behaviour in youth sport. Parents, coaches and the team environment all have an impact on the likelihood of poor behaviour. In teams where aggressive norms were promoted the athletes were also more likely to show aggression.[9] Shields et. al. found that one tenth of youth respondents acknowledged cheating; with 21% indicating that they had cheated often.[10] In addition, 38% of youth responded that they had been embarrassed by fan behaviour; with 5% of respondents saying they had been physically attacked by a spectator.[10] Shields et. al. also found that 13% of youth respondents indicated that they had tried to hurt an opponent and 19% had acknowledged that they had done so often.[10] This is detrimental to youth sport as these types of behaviour can negatively impact the environment and experiences of young athletes.

Poor Parental Behaviour

The behaviour of parents affect the climate of the sport and can affect the actions of their children involved in the sport. It has been noted that parents serve as models for observational learning for their children.[11] Shields, Bredmeier, Lavoi and Power found that while no parents reported encouraging their children to hurt an opponent, a few reported that they counselled their children to “get back” at an opponent in addition to the 14% who acknowledged they argued or yelled at an official.[12] This is problematic because while this number may seem low, it could be attributed to under reported behaviours. Coaches also play a parental role in sport and can influence the moral development of a young athlete. Guivernau and Duda found that the coach had the greatest influence on the likelihood a young athlete would engage in negative behaviours.[13]

Physical Punishment

Physical punishment is defined by the CCES as “any activity or behaviour required as a consequence of poor sport performance or some other undesirable behaviour that causes an athlete physical pain, discomfort or humiliation and is: 1. disconnected from, or not logically related to, the sport performance or behaviour it is intended to change; or 2. disconnected from, or not logically related to, improving performance in the sport; and 3. not consented to by the athlete (and/or their parent or guardian) engaged in such activity or behaviour.”[14]

The CCES recognizes the positive short and long term effects of sport as well as the negative effects of physical punishment on the development of children and youth. Therefore, the CCES opposes the use of physical punishment of youth and children in sport and recreation. [14]

Poor Behaviour in Pro Sports

The CCES defines professional sport as “a business first and sport second.” Meaning certain behaviours that occur in professional sport should be seen as entertainment and not normal behaviour.[15] Behaviours exhibited by professional athletes such as extreme aggression in sport or having inappropriate relationships are a part of the athlete’s reputation. For example, Alex Rodriguez, a prominent baseball player, was suspended for 211 regular season games for the use and possession of performance enhancing substances.[16] As these athletes are often models for younger athletes, this can influence behaviour as young athletes may want to emulate this behaviour.

Practical Application

Code for Prohibited Conduct in Sport

CCES has developed a Code for Prohibited Conduct in Sport for organizations to add to their governing documents. The guidelines include prohibition on sexual relations or sexual misconduct, illicit substances, driving under the influence, criminal offences, cheating, bribery, and covering up for another individual.[17]

Ethical Theory

Ethical theory allows for the examination of issues relating to sport and children. Various theories allow for expansion of viewpoints and provides guidance on the correct action in difficult situations.

Kantian Theory

Immanuel Kant had a theory that suggested that actions should be judged based on his categorical imperative. Under this system of view, an act must pass two tests to be considered ethical.[18]

Categorical Imperative 1: Universalizability

The first, universalizability, states that if an act is to be considered ethical, it must be permitted in all cases. [18] For example, if performance enhancing substances use is to be permitted then it must be permitted in all situations; including professional sport.

Categorical Imperative 2: Humanity as a Means and an End

If an act passes the universalizability test, the act is then examined using the second test. This test states that every act must not use humanity as a means to an end. [18] The act is considered unethical if it uses others as a means to a purpose. For example, an a coach should not treat his players as if they were just pawns he can sacrifice to achieve victory.

Utilitarian Theory

Developed by John Stuart Mill, this theory states that the correct action is the one that brings the most utility. [19] Simply put, the theory states the action that brings about the most good while producing the least harm is the correct action. For example, when considering avenues to increase funding, one could say the correct action is to request funding from grants rather than increase user fees as this could create barriers for individuals that cannot afford paying additional fees.


  1. Ethics. 2015. In Feb 27, 2015, from
  2. Morality. 2015. In Retrieved Feb 27,2015, from
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Fieser, J. (n.d.). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  4. 4.0 4.1 About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  5. Mission and Vision. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  6. Ethical Issues. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Eisenberg, M., Wall, M., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2012). Muscle-enhancing Behaviors Among Adolescent Girls and Boys. Pediatrics, 130(6), 1019–1026-1019–1026.
  8. Stephens, D. E., & Bredemeier, B. J. L. (1996). Moral atmosphere and judgments about aggression in girls' soccer: Relationships among moral and motivational variables. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 18, 158-173.
  9. Guivernau, M., & Duda, J. L. (2002). Moral atmosphere and athletic aggressive tendencies in young soccer players. Journal of Moral Education, 31(1), 67-85.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Shields, D. L., LaVoi, N. M., Bredemeier, B. L., & Power, F. C. (2007) Predictors of poor sportspersonship in youth sports: Personal attitudes and social influences. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 29(6), 747.
  11. Fredricks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2004). Parental Influences on Youth Involvement in Sports.
  12. Shields, D., Bredemeier, B. L., LaVoi, N. M., & Power, F. C. (2005). The sport behaviour of youth, parents and coaches. Journal of research in character education, 3(1), 43-59.
  13. Guivernau, M., & Duda, J. L. (2002). Moral atmosphere and athletic aggressive tendencies in young soccer players. Journal of Moral Education, 31(1), 67-85.
  14. 14.0 14.1 The Use of Physical Punishment of Children and Youth in Sport and Recreation. (2013, April 1). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from Position Statement on Use of Physical Punishment_English.pdf
  15. Negative Behaviours in Pro Sport. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
  16. Yankees' A-Rod suspended for 211 regular season games. (2013, August 5). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from
  17. Code for Prohibited Conduct in Sport. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Cavalier, R. (1996, January 1). Deontological Theories. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from
  19. Cavalier, R. (1996, January 1). Utilitarian Theories. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from

External Links

Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES)