In Karen Crouse’s recent article, Shades of Gray on Way to Podium, Karen discusses the limits to which athletes will go to “win;” in this case—cheating on the rules of the game.
Using various known examples occurring in London (from the disqualification of badminton teams to a purposeful cycling crash, and even extra dolphin kicks in swimming), she builds a strong case for champion athletes being less than stellar examples of “moral character.” And as much as I might like to state that the opposite is true, I simply can’t.
It is true that there are individuals (and probably always will be) willing to sacrifice just about anything, even their own character, in order to place some medal around their neck or lift some championship trophy above their head. You only need to look at the continued use of illegal PED’s to understand how far some are willing to go.
And by the way, this “cheating” thing, it’s not new in sports. It’s been going on for a long time as doing what’s “right” has taken a back seat many times in the past. The scandal involving the Chicago “Black” [White] Sox from the 1919 World Series is just one older example, as is the East German Olympic doping machine of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and need I bring up the Mitchell Report and baseball?
So again, I cannot take issue with Ms. Crouse’s position that cheating does occur and that being a champion athlete does not guarantee an upstanding, rule-abiding individual. In part, it is one of the reasons behind the writing and publication of Becoming a True Champion; this idea of athletes simply throwing their character and integrity into the trash heap for a so-called win.
Now I am not saying that athletes should be perfect or that rules wouldn’t be inadvertently broken in the heat of competition. On the contrary, we are all human and make mistakes; all of us. In addition, with sports, that is what judges, referees, and umpires are for.
However, to knowingly plan and purposefully carry out wanton acts of cheating is completely contrary to the spirit of the game, fair competition, good sportsmanship, and the building of positive character—all things most believe should be part of athletic competition.
And from my viewpoint, herein lies the crux and conundrum behind this cheating thing:
If you cheat on the rules of the game, you really haven’t played the game, and if you really haven’t played the game and you are awarded a “win” for your performance, you really haven’t won a thing.
One reason for rules is that they keep the playing field as level as possible between competitors, they keep things fair. Finding ways to circumvent them, the rules, horribly taints any achievement that comes out of said competition. In fact, how anyone can take any real pride in something like that is beyond me. You see, in reality, you didn’t really accomplish anything because you didn’t truly play the game.
And sorry guys, stating that everyone does it as justification that it’s OK and makes the playing field level again is utterly ridiculous. Once you travel down that “everyone cheats” path, and others follow suit, the whole competition becomes completely ambiguous—whose cheating was better, how long did the cheating go on, how often did one cheat, etc. There are infinite questions, with the exception of the following:
Do we really want sports to be about who the best cheaters are, or do we want to find out who the best competitors are? They are most certainly not one and the same.
Personally, my vote goes to the latter.