Athletes: Human beings or state property?

Posted in 2008 Olympics at 9:04 am by Nicole

From Reuters India today comes a story that illuminates one of the many complications of being an elite athlete in the PRC. Athletes are normally considered the property of the state in China, and that extends to the provincial level. Provincial sports authorities stand to make money when their province’s athletes do well in competition. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s a recipe for corruption. Having just weathered the Marion Jones doping scandal in the U.S., I’m pretty down on any sports system at this point in which huge amounts of money are made by people other than the competing athlete and the coaches who guide that athlete, but then, it was Jones’ coach who allegedly provided her with performance-enhancing drugs, so corruption exists at the coach-athlete level as well. Add in the extra layer of a state-sponsored sports development program, and, well, you get trouble.

China weightlifting champion in provincial tug of war (Reuters India)

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