Health & Wellness

Upper School Contemplates the Upper Hand

Dr. Rayvon Fouché speaks to Upper School students about sports ethics.
At what point does an athlete’s competitive edge become an unfair advantage? That’s one of the many questions Laura Akesson’s biomedical design class tackled with input from Dr. Rayvon Fouché, director of Purdue University’s American Studies department, who spoke to Mrs. Akesson’s students in the fall.

Dr. Fouché—a former competitive athlete himself—specializes in sports and technology in society, and spent much of his time exploring the idea of fairness. When one student questioned whether athletes should be allowed to technologically enhance their bodies, Dr. Fouché prompted deeper thought by responding with another question: “Isn’t the whole sports system built around the concept of gaining the largest advantage over your competition?” he asked.

The half-hour conversation touched on numerous topics including nutrition, biometric tracking, performance-enhancing drugs, and socioeconomics. Time and again as students reached seemingly resolute conclusions, Dr. Fouché posed counterarguments that deepened the conversation.

“One company has designed an extremely effective distance running shoe molded to the individual athlete’s foot-strike,” Dr. Fouché pointed out. “Is that fair to athletes who can’t access that shoe?”

“About 80% of Middle and Upper School students play a school sport,” Mrs. Akesson said. “What do they want the world of athletics to be like? How do they want to compete in it? I hope students will start thinking about their role as scientists to answer those questions.”

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