The high performance sport system of the former German Democratic Republic
(GDR) was based on a well organized and supported search and support for
talents. The “Sport Schools for Children and Youth,” which
were invented in 1952 and extended into perfectly organized places of
training for future Olympic winners, represented the main branch of this
system. 80% of the Olympic participants of the GDR were “formed”
in these 24 “Sport Schools for Children and Youth” and won
the main part of the 572 Olympic medals reached by the GDR at Olympic
After the German reunification this form of elite shaping was considered
skeptically especially when it became obvious and public by Prof. Franke
(Heidelberg, Germany) that the majority of the athletes training and living
at these sport schools were involved – consciously and unconsciously
– in a secret doping system. The scientific analysis of these schools
revealed in spite of many positive aspects also a frequent disregard of
In the meantime sport high schools, again, have become one of the main
institutions in training Olympic talents in Germany. It is now of interest
if ethical standards are considered in the trainers’ behavior and
if ethical standards and Olympic values play an important role in the
pedagogical formation of the young athletes.
In 1984, Meinberg developed a set of principles for a humane high-performance
sport for children in the wake of a public debate on the participation
of children and teenagers in high-performance sports. Many institutions
published different demanding catalogues of ethical principles but Meinberg’s
principles are of such a given broad-based character that these principles
can also be taken as outlining an ethical foundation of other catalogues.
The following ethical principles were published by Meinberg:
- The call for using the other person as a purpose of himself instead
of using him as a means to an end,
- the principle of respect,
- the principle of equality,
- the principle of solidarity,
- the principle of fairness,
- the principle of suitability for children (youth),
- the principle of reasonableness,
- the principle of helping,
- the principle of confidence/trust,
- the principle of participation,
- the principle of responsibility,
- the principle of achievement and the call for avoiding a fetishism
- call for a child (youth) suitable body ethic and the avoidance of
the exploitation of the
The paper investigates which status Olympic values have for teenage high-performance
athletes and in how far these values are taught by their trainer and their
engagement in high performance sport.
In addition to that the paper is supposed to show whether the athletes
think that their trainers observe Meinberg’s 13 ethical principles
and whether there is a correlation between their implementation and other
factors such as the kind of sport, gender, etc.
Research data were collected through a survey using a standardized questionnaire.
Under this survey, 181 students (age 14-18) of different sports high schools
(Coubertin-High School Berlin, Pierre-de-Coubertin-High School Erfurt,
Heinrich-Heine-High School Kaiserslautern, Karthause High School Koblenz
and the House of Athletes at the Olympic Centre Frankfurt-Rhein-Main)
in Germany replied to the questionnaire in writing. The replies were analysed
with the statistics programme SPSS 11.0.
The evaluation of values shows that the youth high performance athletes
consider those values to be more important which are closely connected
to the achievement principle (for example ambition, competitiveness, ability
of pushing through…). In addition to that the trainers teach those
values connected with the achievement principle more often than other
values like for example honesty, fairness, equal opportunities or luck.
The results regarding the implementation of ethical standards show that
the majority of trainers are largely guided by ethical principles in their
work with the young high-performance athletes. At the same time, however,
the athletes also noted incidences of unethical behavior. In the implementation
of the individual principles, up to 40% of the trainers transgress ethical
boundaries. Only in isolated incidences, correlations between the kind
of sport and transgressions of individual principles could be found. As
no broader patterns could be observed, this indicates that the adherence
to ethical principles depends more on the individual personality of the
trainer rather than on other factors.
The survey results show that ethical principles should not be developed
and verified for specific kinds of sports. The general ethical principles
are flexible enough to adapt the trainer’s behavior to the individual
athlete and the specific situation. In analysing the implementation of
ethical principles, more attention should be given to a teleological ethic
alongside the ethic of principles, as this allows for more focus on the
individual athlete and the specific situation in the trainer’s behavior.
The limitations of this empirical research are that the standardized questionnaire
is not able to register situation-specific behavior. It was tried to counteract
this problem by taking into consideration the teleological aspects at
the interpretation of the results.
The partial disregard of ethical standards makes it obvious that the
conditions and the situations of young high performance athletes have
to be examined regularly and at all kinds of sports even at those institutions
which are closely connected to Olympic values and the pedagogical emphasis
of their work.
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