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Prof. Susan Stephens debunks image of the 'noble' ancient athlete in the Stanford Report

Excerpt from full-length article:

The Lance Armstrong doping story is just the latest athletic scandal to highlight the tension between ethical standards in athletic competitions and the drive to win. Although this tension may seem like a contemporary issue, it's actually been around since ancient times. One of the biggest myths around ancient athletics, says Stanford classics Professor Susan Stephens, is that profiting from sports is a product of modern times. "The notion that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose but 'how you play the game' didn't apply to ancient athletes – they wanted to win, and at all costs," Stephens said. "

In reviving the Olympic Games these ancient athletes were imagined as competing solely for glory, but in the ancient games, men with rods stood around the contestants and beat them publicly if they cheated." According to Stephens, we miss the point when we try to idealize or demonize athletes. Rather, she believes, our goal should be to try to understand the complex ways in which athletics reflects and enhances our lives and values.

Full article written by Barbara Wilcox: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/february/ancient-athletes-myth-020113.html