Privacy for Athletes

Popular sporting events are accessible to millions of spectators. The 2012 Olympics, for instance, was estimated to be viewed by 27 million viewers in the United Kingdom alone. High-coverage media means that professional athletes are often in the public eye. This essay will consider what this high profile means for the privacy of athletes.

Professional athletes have attained what some might call a celebrity status. Fans yearn to learn about the personal lives of their sporting role models and the media is willing to comply. However, revealing personal details of athletes' life can often override their sporting achievements. For instance, despite not yet being found guilty of murder, recent media attention has proved detrimental to the professional reputation of Paralympic athlete, Oscar Pistorius.

On the other hand, revelations about an athlete's personal life may directly impact on their profession. For example, former road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong was banned from professional cycling after allegations of drug use in 2012. Also notable is the gender testing of female athletes; should a genetic anomaly be detected, this becomes public knowledge, even if the athlete was not herself aware of this. Ewa Klobukowska was the first athlete to fail this test in 1967; not only could she not compete in professional sport ever again, but this information was made public knowledge.

There are also instances, however, in which negative attention can increase the popularity of a sport: the notorious marital affair of golfer Tiger Woods, for instance, meant that golf received more media attention than perhaps ever before.

In a broader context, athletes contribute to the positive impact of sport on society. In particular, young people may be more influenced by their sporting heroes, and so both the media - as well as the athletes themselves - hold an important public responsibility.

In conclusion, athletes have attained what can be described as a celebrity status. However, whilst the career of professional entertainers might benefit from negative public attention, the sporting achievements of athletes cannot. Perhaps for this reason, some hold the belief that the media should focus on an individual's sporting achievements rather than their personal life. On the other hand, without large-scale public attention it is unlikely that large sporting events would happen in the first place.

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