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Winning the Race? Religion, Hope, and Reshaping the Sport Enhancement Debate

Winning the race? Cover

Should high-tech prosthetic limbs be permissible in elite sports competitions? Why are caffeine and altitude tents usually acceptable while some cold medications are not? What will happen as we engineer new enhancing options such as genetic modification technologies that increase muscle strength, or individualized nutritional genomic programs for elite athletes? The ethics debate about the use of enhancements in elite sport is becoming increasingly complex.

However we are not asking what the relevance the religious dimension of sport has to this debate. Through an examination of literature on the relationship between sport, religion, and spirituality, hope emerges as a compelling feature of sport and as a significant part of what makes sport meaningful. I explore four main locations of hope in sport: winning, losing, and anticipation; star athletes; perfect moments; and relational embodiment, and examines how these locations intersect with the enhancement debate.

Using Christian theological reflection to problematize the four main approaches to the ethical question of enhancement use in elite sport, and the underlying values informing these approaches, I ask: How will hope in sport potentially be affected by techno-science, and how might a valuing of sports’ spiritual dimension—and particularly hope—reshape the sport enhancement debate? The clear conclusion is that sports’ spiritual dimension includes hope, and that the locations of hope in sport are morally relevant to the sport enhancement discussion. (Read More)