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In cricket, there’s “sledging,” which is when fielders verbally abuse batsmen in order to break their concentration. Baseball pitchers will use any number of substances, from Vaseline to pine tar, to get a better a grip on the ball, while football coaches will attempt to decipher their opponents’ calls on the opposing sidelines.

But, above all else, it’s doping that commands our attention, inciting moral outrage and international condemnation. The state-sponsored doping of the Russian Olympic team is only the latest scandal. While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wavered, eventually barring only one-third of the Russian athletes from Rio, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) took a much stronger stance, banning the entire Russian paralympic team.

We tend to think of doping as the utmost assault on fair play. But sporting authorities of the past – who had no qualms about enforcing lifetime bans for other infractions – might have actually found our current angst over doping puzzling. At the same time, sports fans today would likely be confused by 19th-century efforts to exclude the poor from participating with the claim that it was the only way to ensure a level playing field.

It goes to show that as time passes, so do notions of what’s fair.

… Read More

Image: By McSmit – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7704806

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