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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.

According to the dictionary, is held up as a passive structure means; 'pay attention to, single out'. That may be true,but don't you think that in this sentence it doesn't work? What do you think would be the best equivalent?

  • It seems fine as it is to me. The meaning is clear, I don't think that the dictionary extract has given all the possible connotations and/or contexts. You could reword as "... whether we should expect them to behave in accordance with a formal code of conduct". – crowne Apr 22 '17 at 9:52
  • It looks like a once-off sense of the phrase, based on the sense noted in one of the answers ("expose", as when you hold a small object up to the light to examine it). It's used in your example to mean "compare", or "measure against." – user31341 Jun 21 '17 at 13:31
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The phrasal verb hold up with the following senses makes the sentence in question clear and meaningful.

hold up: (Collins Dictionary)

5. If you hold up something such as someone's behaviour, you make it known to other people, so that they can criticize or praise it.

Examples:

She said the picture that had appeared in a Sunday newspaper had held her up to ridicule.

He had always been held up as an example to the younger ones.

hold up (M-W)

3 : to call attention to : single out.

His work was held up to ridicule.

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