A recent article published in The Sunday Telegraph dated 29 October 2017 has highlighted the extent to which cheating is becoming almost normative in sport.
Patrick Sawer, the author of the article points to, “A growing body of evidence is emerging to show that a small but significant number of runners are cheating in amateur races. By using a variety of methods, from banned drugs to taking short cuts and missing out sections of the route, they are able to shave seconds and even minutes off their times.”
According to Sawer, “There have even been cases of runners giving their race number to a faster runner – named a bib mule – and logging that person’s result as their own.”
We are here referring to runs that are organised for a variety of reasons, including some aimed at raising funds for charity.
The growing body of evidence seems to suggest that even when we believe that participating in some of these runs are essentially because of the cause identified or for mere recreation, it is of often the case that some are willing to cheat.
Increasingly though we are finding out that people cheat in all spheres of life, from a simple board or card game to their school exams through to national politics. In many respects it seems that some people are almost obsessed with cheating.
Ben Raddig writing in Men’s Fitness magazine, identified his top 10 cheats in sport. The gold medal winner of the 100m men’s sprint at the Seoul Olympics in South Korea in 1988, Ben Johnson was disqualified after the post-race positive drug test.
“In 2007, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was caught videotaping the New York Jets’ defensive coaching signals. “Spygate” set off a media frenzy.”
The winner of the female category of the Boston Marathon in 1980, Rosie Ruiz, completed the course in a remarkable 2:30.00 only for it to be revealed later that she had actually “disappeared into the crowd, then showed up on the course half a mile from the finish.”
Lance Armstrong, revered by many for what had been sold as a remarkable comeback from cancer, eventually admitted to years of complex and systematic doping while becoming the most successful cyclist in the annual Tour de France road race.
had been doping the entire time he’d been on a bike (all while denying it), the cyclist had to surrender his bright yellow jersey. Sadly, this makes it harder to find the guy and punch him in the nut.
The Spanish team that included 10 able-bodied athletes contested and won the basketball competition at the Special Olympics of 2000.
We thought the guys behind South Park made it up, but no: A group of totally healthy, non-handicapped Spanish basketball players infiltrated the 2000 Special Olympics to win gold. How does that plan end well?
US figure skater, Tonya Harding, hired someone to break the leg of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, on the eve of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, in 1994.
Barry Bonds, once considered a very gifted baseball player, “is now known mostly for his serial steroid use and his perjury and obstuction-of-justice charges.”
Argentina’s Diego Argentina’s Diego Maradona is perhaps best remembered in the game of football for his remarkable “hand of God’ goal in the game against England in the 1986 World Cup. After the match he stated that he had scored the goal, “a little with the head and a little with the hand of God”. 30 years later, he then claimed that the goal was partial payback for England’s defeat of Argentina after the latter had invaded The Falkland Islands in 1982.
“In fencing, points are signaled by a light that indicated weapon-to-body contact. So when Boris Onischenko’s light went off without explanation during the fencing portion of the modern pentathalon at the 1976 Olympic Games, something wasn’t right.” His épée’s grip had been tampered so that he could manually activate the light.
The 1919 World Series Baseball competition was found to have been a fraudulent exercise. Eight players on the Chicago White Sox team accepted money to throw the game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Of course, it has been found that athletes in the high-intensity sports of shooting and archery have used marijuana to steady their nerves to achieve better performances.
At the present time the entire global sport community fails to understand the slothfulness of the International Olympic Committee to act decisively in respect of the startling revelations about the Russian doping scandal.
The Russian case
On 12 May 2016, Rebecca Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz, writers for the New York Times, carried details of an interview with Grigory Rodchenkov, the man who once headed the Russian anti-doping laboratory, in which he exposed the strategy used to attain success at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
It was noted that Rodchenkov had “developed a three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor and provided to dozens of Russian athletes, helping to facilitate one of the most elaborate — and successful — doping ploys in sports history.”
According to the former head, “In a dark-of-night operation, Russian anti-doping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions”
The independent report of Richard McLaren on doping in sport delivered in two parts. On 9 December 2016 The Guardian carried a report on a Press Conference that dealt with the second part of the McLaren report. The newspaper highlighted the following from the report:
“More than 1,000 Russian athletes across 30 sports were involved in or benefitted from “an institutional conspiracy” of doping. The cover-up, which dates back to at least 2011, evolved into a sophisticated doping programme on “an unprecedented scale”
“Among a variety of techniques which went to staggering lengths, Russian officials added salt and Nescafé coffee granules to urine samples to make them match dirty samples and trick testers
“Vitaly Mutko, then-Russian minister for sport and now the deputy prime minister, is implicated via his department’s involvement, but there is no “direct evidence” that he knew of the doping programme.
“The corruption at London 2012 will probably never be fully established but many Russian athletes who competed in the Games were part of the doping programme.”
The sporting world remains well aware that the Russians are not the only ones involved in systematic doping in sport. However, the difference appears to be that Russia stands out for the evidence of direct State involvement in the nefarious activities.
One has only to observe the performances in some sports to understand that the extensive advances in human achievement could not readily have allowed for these without the aid of performance-enhancing substances and techniques.
The abovementioned question has no single or simple answer.
We are dealing with human beings socialised in different ways in different societies around the world.
Some suggest, for example, that in life, parents are tremendously influential in respect of why people cheat. Some place heavy demands on their children to excel at school, prompting some to cheat in exams to prove to their parents that they are high achievers bound for a successful life.
There are some analysts who point to peer pressure as a primary reason for cheating. Some children are so anxious to maintain their friendship with others that they would literally do anything, including cheating, to be part of the in-group. Over time cheating becomes a normal part of their lives and they act without thinking about being caught.
Additionally, some seem to engage in cheating because they have come to see examples of the successes attained by cheats and wish to emulate their achievements or better them. They are the ones that argue, “who says that cheating never prosper?”
UNESCO has responded to the question as follows:
“Most athletes know that doping is cheating, however, some still take the risk.
“Sometimes prizes, money or fame can cause people to make bad decisions. They are told that doping might give them a boost, provide a shortcut to long years of training or help them win. And they are prepared to risk their sporting careers and their health – they are prepared to win at all cost!
“Others feel pressure from coaches, parents or themselves to be the best. They see doping as a way to meet these expectations.
“Some athletes use drugs to overcome an injury. Trainers or coaches might say that drugs can make you forget about the pain or may help speed up recovery, but they often do not mention the health risks and that doping is cheating.”
One of the biggest setbacks in the fight against cheating in sport is the fact that we do not have sufficient testimonials.
Duncan Mackay, writing in The Guardian on 24 April 2003 declared, “Carl Lewis has broken his silence on allegations that he was the beneficiary of a drugs cover-up, admitting he had tested positive for banned substances but claiming he was just one of ‘hundreds’ of American athletes who were allowed to escape bans.
“‘There were hundreds of people getting off,’ he said. ‘Everyone was treated the same.’
“Lewis has now acknowledged that he failed three tests during the 1988 US Olympic trials, which under international rules at the time should have prevented him from competing in the Seoul games two months later.”
While we have admissions from an increasing number of athletes, we do not have them showing any medical consequences that are so much vaunted by physicians engaged in the fight against doping. We have plenty of such evidence from victims of HIVA/IDS that made a huge impact on the numbers coming forward.
Until such time as we have examples of athletes revealing their medical consequences of years of performance-enhancing substances and techniques we are not likely to find any significant decline in cheating in sport.
Additionally, the international sports fraternity continue to place ever-increasing revenues from sport as the primary reason for their involvement rather than the hackneyed claim of facilitating global peace and unity. This continues to allow for a glossing over of the harsh reality that exists even at the very top of world sport.
It is not by chance that Prof Richard McLaren, author of the extensive investigation into doping in sport in contemporary circumstance, appeals for major organisations in sport and anti-doping to collaborate and “end the in-fighting”.
The matter of bringing an end to the curse of cheating in sport cannot be divorced from the broader issue of generalized cheating that takes place at all levels and institutions in societies everywhere.
Cheating currently knows no bounds.