Boxing and Equestrian Dressage Should Be Removed From the Olympic Program

Boxing has for a long time been one of the main games featured among the dozens of Olympic sports since 1904. However, 8 years before Boxing was featured in summer Olympics of 1896 in St. Louis United States, the International Olympic Committee had removed the sport from the Olympic program, arguing that it was too risky. However, the sport was very popular in the U.S., thus was re-introduced in the 1904 games. Moreover, controversy has surrounded the presence of Boxing in the Olympic sport ever since, with many calling for the game to be removed completely from the Olympic Games. This essay looks at a moral perspective that would support the said removal (Matthews, 2011). Another sport that has caused a bit of disagreement among the committee members is equestrian dressage; an event similar to triathlon that involves the use of horses to show-jump and run across a field with different obstacles. Though, the sport is often enjoyed by the wealthy, it is perhaps one of the most dangerous games to both the rider and the horse in the summer Olympics. A slight miscalculation in jumping the obstacles can cost a rider his life (Cooke, 2012).

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The Olympic Ideal

The Olympic charter states that Olympism is a way of life that exalts and tests the mind, body and will. That Olympism combines sports with education and culture, creating a competitive program that rewards effort while focusing on the respect for fundamental moral principles. The charter further states that the objective of Olympism is to use sport for the peaceful development of humanity, with the aim of developing a harmonious society that focuses on the preservation of the dignity of man (IOC, 2015, 13).

However, one can easily see that Equestrian dressage and boxing can expose the sportsmen and women to injuries that can be possibly life threatening. The sportsmen in these games have to fight and likely harm their opponents for them to be rewarded. Thus, how can these two sports be in harmony with the Olympic Charter? (Matthews, 2011)

Olympic Boxing

Philosophers have come up with a moral principle to enable man gauge the possibility of harm to others through the estimation of its likelihood or benefit to others. This is the principle of welfare for others. A component of developing this principle involves learning how to separate good moral from bad. One of the key pillars of this principle is that it is unnecessary to cause harm to others, instead one should strive to do good for those around him or her (Matthews, 2011).

However, in boxing, things are completely the opposite. The idea of the sport is that the athlete should try to punch his rival and at the same time avoid getting punched by the rival. The punches are often directed towards the head and the abdomen (Wacquant, 1992). Many boxers competing in the sports often try to win the game early by throwing heavy punches so as to knockout the opponent. In other words, to win at boxing, one must hit his opponent as hard as he possibly can. This presents a moral dilemma, as Davies (1993) puts it, boxing is the only sport that allows one to legally harm his rival. Thus, how can one reconcile such a sport with the Olympic ideal of respect for universal ethical principles?

Training in boxing involves learning how to cope with pain and suffering. Thus, those for the game have argued that knowing how to cope with pain and suffering can increase dignity and lead to a more harmonious society. Opponents have, however, contended that there is a need to knockout an opponent or cause harm to them so as to get this knowledge, and does this sport actually make the world more peaceful or is it just another of the many avenues through which youths are exposed to and entertained by violence (Morgan, 2006; Matthews, 2011).

Thus, it is difficult for one to see how the ethical principle of welfare for others is upheld in the Olympic sport of boxing. There is no possible way that one can reconcile a sport that encourages men to train for months and perfect their fighting skills so that they can cause the most harm in the ring, with the Olympic ideal of respecting human dignity and ethical principles (Wacquant, 1992; Davis, 1993-94)

Olympic Equestrian Dressage

Olympic dressage has been part of the Olympic program since it was first introduced in 1912. The sport is a subject of controversy among many people worldwide. Many riders have died trying to compete in Equestrian dressage. The sport has not gotten any safer; in the last hundred years, it has been in existence with about twelve recorded deaths of riders between the years 2007 and 2008. Apart from the deaths, every year numerous riders are injured or hospitalized with life-threatening wounds for competing in the sport. Horses have also been harmed in the sport. In spite of the improvements done to safety equipments, equestrian dressage remains a more hazardous sport than rugby, skiing, football and even motorcycling (Ball, Ball, Kirkpatrick & Mulloy, 2007). While injury can occur from simply handling horses, falling from a horse that is moving at speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour can be far more dangerous (Ball et al., 2007). Many riders often do not consistently use protective equipment when training in equestrian dressage.

There is often much concern for riders who have been injured. Similar concern is, however, lacking for horses that have broken their limbs when being pushed to travel faster so as to win events. Such horses are often either put down or sold according to BE’s Simm. Sold horses can end up being bought by neglectful individuals. Thus, horse owners are often faced with the dilemma of either patching their horses or putting them down. Some of the more famous horses that have died in equestrian dressage include Porloe Alvin, who broke is back after flipping over a jump at the 2010 Brunham Market horse trials. Another is Sugoi, who broke his neck during the Tattersalls International Horse trials in Ireland. These are just some of the few cases documented. Thus, it is clear that equestrian dressage is a dangerous sport to both the horse and the rider, and is completely not in agreement with the call for enhancement of human dignity and respect for fundamental moral principles in the Olympic charter (Cooke, 2012).


It has been shown above that permitting boxing and equestrian dressage in the Olympic Games is not the right decision since both “sports” could cause life threatening injuries to the participants. In boxing, one has to injure or even knockout an opponent to win a medal; this is obviously not in agreement with the moral principle of welfare for others as envisaged in the Olympic charter. While in equestrian dressage, the likelihood of causing harm to the horse is very high. The likelihood of the rider being injured is also equally high. Thus, it is even difficult to understand why the sports were even introduced to the Olympic Games in the first place. Thus, considering, the lack of moral good in boxing and the risk to riders and horses in equestrian dressage, both “sports” ought to be removed from the Olympics program.


Ball, C.G., Ball, J.E., Kirkpatrick, A.W., Mulloy, R.H. (2007). Equestrian injuries: Incidence, injury patterns, and risk factors for 10 years of major traumatic injuries. Amer. J. Surg., 193, 636-640.

Cooke, S.V. (July 28, 2012). OLYMPICS, Equestrian Eventing: The Olympics’ Most Dangerous Sport?

Davis, P. (1993-94). Ethical issues in boxing. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. XX-XXI, 48- 63.

IOC, (September 2015). Olympic Charter, retrieved from on 26 January 2016

Matthews, C. (2011). ‘The Thrill of the Fight’ – Sensuous Experiences of Boxing — Towards a Sociology of Violence, A Doctoral Thesis

Morgan, W. J. (2006) Why Sports Morally Matter, London: Routledge

Wacquant, L (1992). The social logic of boxing in Black Chicago: toward a sociology of pugilism. I: Sociology of Sport Journal, 9: 221- 254.

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