This all raises the question as to whether it is appropriate to look to athletic figures as role models and whether they should be held up to circumspect levels of conduct. With the constant chronicling of every athletic misbehavior, are athletes the right symbols?

According to the dictionary, the definition of is held up to is pay attention to, single out, but these definitions don't make much sense here. What do you think?

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One sense in which 'held up to' is used in this context is to mean 'expected to maintain' as in "athletes are often held up to (expected to maintain) higher standards of conduct and integrity than the general population." The dictionary meanings you quoted 'pay attention to' and 'single out for' are also related to this sense as in "athletes are singled out for their least errors in ethical matters because they are held up to the highest standards of conduct and integrity. People pay attention to all their actions because they are considered role models for children. They are therefore held up to the highest moral standards."

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