Forms of Cheating in Sport
Review of London Sports Writing Discussion Cheating in Sport.
Cheating in sport was the subject of a talk given by Tour de France specialists Richard Moore and Jeremy Whittle and Summer and Winter Olympic expert Mike Rowbottom. The trio provided a lively discussion on what exactly is cheating and foul play.
They all agreed that cheating - to act dishonestly or unfairly to gain advantage in sport - has been going on for years, right back to the ancient Olympics. It most likely occurs at all levels and in all sports. Cheating has manifested itself in the form of doping and major examples are in Cycling, most recently Lance Armstrong’s seven wins in the Tour De France from 1999-2005, and in Athletics, the infamous ‘Dirtiest Race in History’ which included Canada’s Ben Johnson and Britain’s Linford Christie.
There has been bribing and match fixing in snooker, Stephen Lee got a lengthy ban, and in cricket, Pakistan opener Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were found guilty of spot fixing in 2010.
Finally there have been the deliberate handballs in football, Luis Suarez versus Ghana at World Cup 2010 or the Hand of God incident by Diego Maradona back in 1986, and also as the issue of diving.
Sportsmen and women have always been trying to push the boundaries and some have been willing to take the ultimate gamble so that they can win. What would be considered cheating by a sportsperson? Why would they take the risk? Certain patterns emerge from those cheats that were caught; the athlete that thought everyone else was doing it, the cyclist doing it for the good of the team or a footballer who took one for the team.
The consequence of having cheats in sport has led us to think the worst of people and as soon as we see an athlete do something amazing our immediate reaction is to question it.
A good example of elite sports people’s desire to win was shown in 1988. A survey was conducted on 198 world class athletes between the ages of 16-35 and they were asked if they would take a wonder drug that would let them win for five years but was likely to end up killing them. 52 per cent said yes. This justifies the quote ‘elite sports people that’s where the nutters live’.
If you were to talk to sportsmen such as Lance Armstrong, they would still believe they were not cheats and continue to justify themselves by saying most of their fellow competitors were doing exactly the same thing.
Lots of grey areas in sport were raised in the talk such as diving in football to try and win your side a penalty and sledging (insulting or verbally intimidating an opponent) in cricket which Steve Waugh’s Australia side were renowned for. The later raises the question whether was it just verbal banter or did it cause mental disintegration in a batsman’s mind?
Athletes training at high altitude creating more red blood cells thus improving transfer of oxygen to muscles in the body. This will give them higher capacity to exercise as a result and why most long distance runners have adopted this training method in recent times. Is this however giving them an unfair advantage over their fellow competitors?
The conclusions reached by the three journalists was that whilst athletics and cycling have started to publicly try and clean up their image with anti-doping tests. When it comes to doping, however, the journalists observed that no news may not necessarily be good news. Team sports such as football, American football and baseball have not even begun to scratch below the surface. The temptation of money, fame and prestige does attract some who are willing to take the risk. It is up to the sport to protect the interests of all to detect the cheating and ensure that the appropriate punishment is administered.