As people who read my blogs know, I am a keen sports fan and amidst all sorts of serious stuff I often blog about some sporting event or phenomenon. Sport is meant to brighten people’s life and give it an extra dimension but sometimes things happen, as has happened on this occasion, that has the opposite effect.
Last week, I thought about responding to the story titled: “Athletics doping crisis: UK Athletics wants to reset world records” but decided on balance not to. Given today another story to do with cheating has been unraveling concerning another sport: “Tennis match fixing: Evidence of suspected match-fixing revealed”, it seems a good time to say what is on my mind. The first story is a response to recent revelation that some top level athletes, notably from Russia, have been found to taking drugs. Several of the measures suggested, e.g. re-writing the record book, to tackle the problem, were pretty harsh and this gave rise to debate how far athletics needs to go to eliminate cheating. The second story states that some top rated tennis players have taken bribes to throw matches. These are by no means isolated incidents as I recall in recent years a number top rated sportsman, most of which were household names, and in a variety of different sports and circumstances, have been found to have cheated, creating serious repercussions.
It seems to me that the attraction of sport should be that it gathers people form every background, competing at their best with each other, in the right spirit and according to the rules, in order to find out who is the best. If there is cheating such ideals quickly go out of the window and people rightly feel let down. This is particularly pertinent at the highest levels when it is reasonable to expect that those competing will have trained hard and will compete to win. It is both a shock and a disappointment when it is discovered that some competitors have gained an unfair advantage over his/her opponent(s) by taking performance enhancing drugs, and what is now becoming a common occurrence with the growth of the betting industry, especially online, with some who to satisfy their greed are prepared to throw a game (in the recent example it is tennis) in exchange for accepting a large sum of money.
It is easy to state the obvious that cheating is unacceptable in all circumstances, should be punished and there should be stronger measures in place to detect cheating, particularly early on, and this especially in the light of some examples of cheating that we have since found out has gone undetected for a long time and in a few cases these will never be proven beyond reasonable doubt. As with any law breaking matter, I am conscious there will be those advocating the harshest penalty, including a lifelong ban from the sport, and those suggesting a more lenient approach and allowing of second chances. As usual in such cases, I am for balance and moderation but also feel those involved in the administration of the sports affected should do all in its power, without fear or favour, to detect and weed out cheats or else face the consequences.
One would like to think that sportsmen are motivated by the desire to use their natural talent and train hard in order to do well. One then wonders what it is that then causes some of these people to cheat, including those who are household names and seen as sporting heroes. On one hand, there are those who are tempted to under perform in exchange for a large sum of money, and no doubt easy gains like these are tempting. On the other hand, there are those who want to perform beyond their natural capability for some psychological reason like wanting to be seen as the person at the top of his/her sport. Having recently discovered how to cheat when I play online chess (by using powerful chess playing software to tell me what my next move should be) I know how tempting it can be to cheat. But if I do, I will let everyone down: myself, my friends, my family, my team mates, those who follow chess, etc.
The message therefore is simple: DON’T CHEAT and DON’T ALLOW CHEATING. I also learned from an early age that “cheaters never prosper” (at least in the long run). Sport is a great activity for developing health and fitness and good life skills. It also brings people together, gives a lot of pleasure and enriches the lives of many. It will only continue to do so if we can get rid off cheating