Are high performance athletes human beings? Rights, responsibilities and social justice.

Authors: Adams, A. and Kavanagh, E.

Conference: Leisure Studies Association (Conference)

Dates: 7-9 July 2014


Once a high performance (HP) athlete is technically no longer a child almost all of the legislation protecting his/her rights disappears. In a HP state funded elite-sport system the athlete is arguably subject to state power to ensure that he/she achieves the potential that has been identified. If we conceive of human rights as universal then some of a HP athlete’s rights are likely to be contravened (Rhind, Cook and Dorsch 2013). Conversely if a relativistic approach is taken we may consider an individual’s rights as being more contingent and hence different in different circumstances. This paper addresses these questions and goes further to explore who are, in such a HP situation, the rights holders, what are their responsibilities and does a HP athlete get social justice. In interrogating such themes we draw on narrative PhD data from a number of in-depth interviews with HP athletes. The results indicate that those who promote elite sport systems should not be sanguine about the correct working of systems that may promote athlete abuse and maltreatment. It is clear that medals and status come at a human cost.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Emma Kavanagh