Voluntary informed consent – not as good as gold
In social-scientific research into sport, our concern with human subjects treated as people can be problematic: for instance, how can data that is sound be generated when one aspect of our interchange with our research subjects is inevitably talk in all its varieties? We might seem, though, to be on stronger ground when turning to the ethical treatment of research subjects. For here our problems might seem to more closely resemble those for natural scientific research into sport. This has been a widely debated topic, such that: “[s]tandards . . . for basic science research regarding the ethical design and conduct of research on human subjects are set out in several international codes . . .” (Stern and Lomax, 1997: 288). Moreover, the upshot is often stated bluntly: “[f]or all research involving human experimentation, informed consent must be obtained from subjects” (Stern and Lomax, 1997: 291; emphasis mine). And this can appear unproblematic to sports scientists. So that “[i]nformed consent simply means that the participant has given consent to take part in an investigation about which they have been fully informed” (Williams and James, 2001: 9; emphasis mine). However, much of the debate is misdirected since it too fails to grasp the full range of the possibilities provided through the recognition that our subjects are persons. And that in turn reflects the claims here to be “fully informed” (emphasis mine).