VATICAN CITY –– Pope Benedict XVI condemned “doping” in sports and called on athletes and coaches to strive for victory through ethical and legal practices.
“Every sport, both on amateur and professional levels, requires fairness in competition, respect for one’s body, a sense of solidarity and altruism and also joy, satisfaction and celebration,” he said.
All of that is made possible with “authentic human maturity, comprised of sacrifice, tenacity, patience and, above all, humility, which is never applauded, but is the secret to victory,” he said.
The pope’s comments came during an audience at the Vatican with a 200-person delegation from the Italian National Olympic Committee, which included Italian athletes and medal winners from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
If sports are to have full meaning for those who participate, they have to serve the whole person, the pope said.
What’s at stake in the world of sports is not just a respect for the rules, but upholding a vision of the human person as someone in need of education, spiritual fulfillment and “transcendent values,” he said.
“Pressure to achieve important results must never drive (people) to take shortcuts as happens in the case of doping,” the pope said.
Team owners, administrators and coaches are all called “to be witnesses of the good of humanity, cooperating with families and schools for the education of young people,” he said. They must be “teachers of sports practice that is always above-board and clean.”
Team spirit must be channeled not only to prevent athletes from taking “these dead ends” of illegal performance-enhancement drugs or practices, but also to “support those who recognized they’ve made a mistake, so that they can feel accepted and helped” afterward, he said.
The pope also called on all athletes to read about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, “a young man who merged his passion for sport –– he especially loved mountain climbing –– with his passion for God.”
Blessed Pier Giorgio shows how “being Christian means loving life, loving nature, but above all loving one’s neighbor, in particular, people in difficulty.”