Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cheating: One definition fits all in Sport?

‘To gain an advantage over or deprive of something by using unfair or deceitful methods; to defraud’
A clear succinct definition of ‘cheating’ offered by the Oxford Dictionary; would a sporting personality offer you the same definition if questioned? Some would say it’s dependent on the sport in question. Should the doping revelations of Lance Armstrong be looked upon with the same severity of other cheats in the sporting arena, a hand ball from Thierry Henry? Most definitely ‘C’est ne pas juste’ especially in the eyes of the Irish, but would we categorize Henry in the same band as Armstrong?
Cheating; it has one meaning, one meaning only, and so should be treated in the same manner across all sports. Cultivating a culture of cheating whether on the soccer field, or rugby pitch by falsely winning a penalty, or by utilizing sports enhancing drugs to increase your chances of a win, undoubtedly demeans sport and, furthermore, it calls into question the credibility of sports people who chose not to engage in any form of cheating. How many young people today who once idealised Lance Armstrong, will feel as passionately about cycling as a sport, as they once did? Has the actions of one man tarnished this sporting activity permanently? When we see an honest sportsman, who excels on the basis of pure talent and gruelling training sessions, do we suspect foul play, possible drug interference? This is the world, a culture of cheating creates – a world of scepticism, where every apparent foul on the soccer pitch on Luis Suarez is a mere rouse for a penalty opportunity, where every cyclist worthy of a Tour De France title must be doping. There is no place for competitive sport in a world laden with doubt and deception.
Yet cheating across a myriad of sports is not assessed in a similar fashion, for example, last year, only 21 drug tests were carried out on professional tennis players, whereas thousands of cyclists were tested for performance enhancing drugs. Some sports stars have spoken out against testing authorities, and the fact that they must be present on a daily basis at a specific hour should they be selected for random drug testing. However, given recent doping revelations, it is now evident, that if the sports community want to stamp out cheating, they cannot decry testing authorities.
The severity of treatment resultant of different forms of cheating is most definitely evident across the sporting world. This is in my eyes unjust. Given the role, sports people play in society, as mentors to those wishing to pursue a career in sports, it is integral that those professionals are ‘cheat free’; from unsavoury tactics on the rugby pitch to the utilisation of performance enhancing drugs. Otherwise the foundations upon which we chose to partake are flawed, the future of competitive sport is threatened, and our future sporting heroes are not heroes at all, but mere cheats in disguise.
To many people, sports are the building blocks for life, built on strong foundations of integrity, sportsmanship, pride. The testing authorities must ensure that every sporting activity is regulated against cheating in the same manner; otherwise, the foundations of sport will ultimately be crushed.
In sport, cheating has one definition, and in terms of the genre of sporting activity, one definition should fit all, but unfortunately for the sporting arena, the definition of cheating in the mentality of sports people isn’t always akin to that of the trusted Oxford dictionary. 
- The Forgotten Irish Graduate, 13th February 2013