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COMMENTS ON MATTHEW MITTEN’S “Student-Athlete Eligibility Rules Limiting Athletic performance or Prohibiting Athletic participation for Health Reasons Despite Medical Uncertainty: legal and Ethical Considerations.” Jan Boxill NCAA Convention, December 13, 2009 Professor Mitten presents a well thought out discussion of whether student-athletes eligibility rules to promote good health justify limits and restrictions on the pursuit of excellence in intercollegiate sport. In his paper, he raises two concerns: one, whether it is legal and ethical to ban the use of anabolic steroids and two, whether it is legal and ethical to exclude an athlete from participation because of a physical abnormality. After considering all the ramifications, conflicts and apparent contradictions, and even his own development from a “novice to a mature legal scholar” Professor Mitten concludes that the NCAA has valid legal and ethical authority to establish and enforce student-eligibility rules that prohibit both the use of steroids and the participation of an athlete with a physical abnormality. I agree with his assessment and his conclusion and would like to elaborate and perhaps take the argument in a different direction. My comments will focus mainly on the first concern, and since I am not a lawyer, I will limit my comments to the ethical perspective. As Professor Mitten points out the NCAA’s mission includes the “pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics,” and its core purpose is “to govern intercollegiate competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner” … requires that intercollegiate programs be conducted in a manner designed to protect and enhance the physical and educational well-being of student athletes. I would like to combine this with the missions of member institutions, using my home institution’s mission, which is not unlike most others. The mission of the University of North Carolina is to serve all the people of the State, and indeed the nation, as a center for 1
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scholarship and creative endeavor. The University exists to teach students at all levels in an environment of research, free inquiry, and personal responsibility. So as students they are part of the pursuit of knowledge with personal responsibility; and as athletes this pursuit must be conducted in a fair, safe manner. Carrying out the missions of both the NCAA and university requires special responsibilities of all of us—students, faculty, staff, administrators. Sometimes this requires some paternalistic rules; rules that limit ones autonomy for ones own good. But this is not unique to either sports or education; every profession has its mission and usually has a code of ethics that goes with it. What is unique is the nature of sports, and it is this uniqueness which provides for its moral significance. Sports are artificially created activities designed for self-development. Indeed, as I have described in previous publications, there are at
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This note was uploaded on 05/31/2009 for the course PHIL 067 taught by Professor Boxill during the Spring '09 term at UNC.

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