Perhaps the worst kind of cheats in the world of sport are those who cynically disregard the ethics of the hard but fair provision which almost everyone understands.
Of these, the serial offenders – and banned American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who illicitly amassed a huge fortune, falsely claiming seven drug-fuelled Tour de France titles – is a prime example.
Armstrong consistently claimed to be riding paniagua – a derivation of the Spanish phrase “bread and water” – as a serial doper.
Worse, he involved the teams he rode for and ruthlessly led, and in doing so was a prime factor in getting the whole peleton psychologically in a “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality which moved the sport a quantum distance from anything like a diet of bread and water.
It eventually added up to a systemic abuse of cycling it is still fighting to fully free itself from and a flouting of the rules so arrogant it is mind-blowing.
Yes, Armstrong erred in a contemptuous disregard of protocols, but in logical terms it must be argued, so did the authorities.
A parallel to this form of cynical manipulation of the rules emerged during the US Open golf championship at Shinnecock Hills last weekend when five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson hit a moving ball in Saturday’s third round of a tournament he has never won.
Nominally, putting a stroke on a moving ball incurs a two-stroke penalty, but the general consensus is that Mickelson had another agenda – hitting an initial putt that was going to roll off the super-slick 13th green, chasing after the moving ball and hitting it back toward the hole while it was still in motion.
The USGA, who control the championship, ruled in “Lefty’s” favour and invoked the regulation two-shot sanction.
But many feel that Mickelson’s use of a rule was bending things in a manner unbecoming the game to improve his lie and feel strongly that Mickelson should have been summarily disqualified.
The player has issued what sounds like a somewhat grudging apology this week. “My anger and frustration got the best of me last weekend. I’m embarrassed and disappointed by my actions. It was clearly not my finest moment and I’m sorry.”
You said it, Phil… you said it.