Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2015


This Essay seeks to explore whether there is a regulatory tipping point for sports-the point at which the government will take action to address a perceived problem in sports-and if so, what the circumstances are that generate such a moment. Such an issue is particularly important now. Troubling stories about athletes' health and well-being and the consequences of our most beloved games are nothing new. Reports of the effects of sports concussions, exploitation of college athletes, and other examples of the harms wrought by the "win at all costs" mentality dominate sports headlines and prompt calls for meaningful change. Many have lost faith in sports regulators to take the necessary steps. This begs the question of whether the government will take action to address these issues. That is, will the steady drum beat of examples, many of which have been presented in detail to Congress, lead to a public policy tipping point that prompts government intervention? For these or other important sports issues, will the government step in and take meaningful action to rein in the so-called excesses of sport?

In general, the answer is no. Using the example of doping in sports, this Essay explains that it takes more than shocking media reports and allegations of harm to athletes. Instead, as the anti-doping example illustrates, what makes the difference and brings us to the intervention tipping point is harm to the games themselves. In such a circumstance, the government has found a motivation to act and has proven well equipped to check the abuses in sports. In this way, the fight against doping in sports provides important insight into possible future sports reforms.



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