Sport Science, Geopolitics, and How Each of Us Can Make a Difference

Click name to view affiliation

Jos J. de Koning Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Search for other papers by Jos J. de Koning in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5596-0282 *
,
Carl Foster University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, WI, USA

Search for other papers by Carl Foster in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0009-0008-1406-9283
,
David B. Pyne University of Canberra, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Search for other papers by David B. Pyne in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1555-5079
,
Ralph Beneke Philipps Universität Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Search for other papers by Ralph Beneke in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
, and
Øyvind Sandbakk Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

Search for other papers by Øyvind Sandbakk in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9014-5152
Free access

We all know that feeling. You wake up early in the morning before work, turn on (or access) the news to find out what is going on in the world, and it’s always bad. If you listen to the news at night, it’s no better. Your home, in which you have tried to make a safe space for your family, seems vulnerable. You experience the nasty feeling of powerlessness when you hear about drone attacks on Kyiv, the bombing of civilians in Gaza, the recent death of Alexei Navalny, the buffoonery of politics coming from the United States and elsewhere. What used to be “earnest” politicians are spouting xenophobia, nativism, religious bigotry, and a general disregard for humanity that until recently seemed impossible—news that makes you sick in the heart and despairing for the future. Your inner voice calls for action.

Even in sport, our area of expertise and influence, there is unattractive professionalism, trash talking that is more than schoolyard boasting, organized gambling, continual doping, and more triggers of concern. In the professional leagues of football, baseball, and basketball in the United States, the use of anabolic performance-enhancing drugs is only met with a suspension of a few games, and there is a certain “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” attitude about testing that nearly guarantees the number of athletes who are caught is absolutely minimal. As a popular country song in the United States says, “The fans like to see the boys hit it deep.”

As Editors of IJSPP, we are not geopolitical experts. We are not politicians, and we have comparatively limited influence on the wider world. But we are acutely aware of the quote, attributed to the utilitarian philosopher, John Stuart Mill, at an 1867 lecture at the University of Saint Andrews, that “the only thing necessary for evil to flourish, is for good men to do nothing.”1 These words resonate just as strongly a century and a half later. What is one to do to make the world a better place? To do more than “rail against the tides?”

In many ways, science, research endeavors, academic life, and academic publishing often become a reductionist activity. It is commonplace to become immersed in the minutiae of a scientific project or experiment, to the exclusion of broader engagement in one’s organization and society. The balance is to be a fully committed scientist, but one with the ability to see the big picture beyond the confines of one’s local activities. Good women and men in science and sport can and should be influential leaders.

The tools we have are limited. We could consider banning individual scientists from offending countries, but that would restrict their work without having much impact on geopolitics. And, truth be told, a lot of countries do things that are patently offensive to much of the rest of the world. We just don’t see it because, in our case, of the substantial common cultural connections between Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, and Australia. Before we criticize Russia or Israel or Iran or others, we’d best look to our own faults first. Bans on individuals, except for highly specific actions such as scientific dishonesty, doping, and other obviously unethical actions, would also violate one of our missions, which is to unite people around the subject of sports physiology and performance, not to divide and polarize. This does not mean that we should turn a blind eye, but that we must speak out.

We can go outside and protest, but we can also choose to stop and take time to think. The simplest way to extend your influence is to get to know as many people from outside your normal sphere of influence as possible. Invite folks to your laboratory or organization, and correspond with like-minded individuals outside your normal area(s) of activity. Ask people to write papers with you. The point is to engage. Get to know them well enough that you have an inroad into asking about why things are the way they are in their country. Maybe in that conversation you have the beginnings of one scientist who says “we shouldn’t be doing this.” Just because your sphere of influence is narrow does not mean it is ineffective.

Light a candle, stare at it and think about what you, as a scientist, can do to make the world a better place. Look for ways to connect people or strategies for fair competition, and a fairer, better world. Think about what your actions could be. And when the Olympic flame is lit this northern summer in Paris, we hope you will remember the thoughts you had while staring at the candle and consider your actions.

References

  • Collapse
  • Expand
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 965 965 73
PDF Downloads 783 783 26