The world of cheating is as rife today as it was at the dawn of sport.
There are various reasons people cheat, but right on the top of this list is the mother of them all – to win.
Athletes want to win, some at all costs, because of the lure of financial success and fame that comes with winning a significant event.
Some athletes will do anything to protect their reputation, even cheating multiple times.
Lance Armstrong took on the US government in a $100-million lawsuit against him to defend himself, but that fight was later settled for $5 million out of court.
At the height of his career, Armstrong was earning $28 million a year for cheating and amassed a net worth of approximately $125 million in 2013.
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He was asked an interesting question in a BBC interview about whether he would cheat again, if he had the opportunity.
His response was, given the same circumstances, he would cheat again.
Context to that statement runs more profound than the surface value.
During his career, there was a high percentage of people at elite level who were doping.
If nearly everyone was doping, it would have been sporting suicide not to fall in line.
The hammer came down hard on Armstrong because he was on top, and there was more to gain publicly than going after many other top riders.
So, given that everyone was perhaps doing the same, he would do it again to keep ahead of the pack.
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How many South African athletes would cheat if they were told they would be a star and have all the fame in the world, but could become a villain at the end of their career, and the world would know they cheated?
Would you take those odds for the fame? How about if you a were labelled a cheat for the rest of your life but had R700 million in your bank account after you got caught?
Would you repeatedly cheat for that type of wealth?
Well, that is Lance Armstrong’s approximate net worth today – not bad for being a cheat.
Most athletes are oblivious to cheating, but perhaps if all players become more aware of how it happens, they can look for signs of cheating and call them out, which would lead to cleaning up the game.
Different ways athletes cheat in sport
Performance enhancing drugs – this gives you an unfair physiological advantage over your competition as it is banned in professional sport. This includes anabolic steroids, DNA altering, stimulants, growth hormones or blood doping, to name a few methods.
Match-fixing – there is a lot of money in sports betting, and often players and coaches will be approached to throw a match by missing a penalty, defending poorly or giving half the effort as a goalkeeper. One can’t help remembering the cricket scandal in which Hansie Cronje took money to fix matches.
Pre-match recordings – A coach runs through set plays, game strategies and player selection during practice. Opposing teams send informants in to record the practice and their coaches can prepare counter-strategies specific to their game plans.
Playing dirty – When games have more importance, like a cup match or a final, players will deliberately try to hurt or rough up the best goal-scorer on the opposing team with tackles that are more intense and dangerous. The goal is to rattle the player or break him or her so they become ineffective, which gives the opposing team an advantage.
So, through cheating, the beauty of sport and competition can quickly become an ugly playground.
However, education and surrounding yourself with the best coaches, team and trainers can give you a fighting edge.