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The life of an athlete is both messy and idealistic, prestigious yet a little shady. The pressures put on an athlete are high, but not insurmountable. The use of unethical techniques to increase success in any sport degrades the athlete, the sport, and fellow competitors. This heartbreaking tale of deceit has ended many fruitful futures and brought disgrace to athletes who were once admired. Cheating athletics has undermined the institution and integrity of equal play while further lowering the expectations of world-class competitors.
Athletes Cheat in Sports in Many Ways Many athletes, some of whom were world-renowned, have gone to great lengths to ensure that they are the very best at what they do. However, the means they used were unscrupulous and unlawful (Haberfeld, & Sheehan 67). A popular means used by athletes to cheat is by doping. Doping is the enhancing of one’s physical abilities beyond the normal point. It commonly involves taking of Anabolic steroids or injecting them directly into the bloodstream (WADA Prohibited list 2). Anabolic steroids work by increasing the size of the human muscles resulting in ameliorated strength in the individual. It is common among amateur athletes who tend to look past its disadvantages because they are too busy looking forward to the amazing fits they are sure to perform during sporting events. Wrestlers, football players and boxers come on top of the list for abusing this drug. Among the horrid effects of Anabolic steroids are liver damage, infertility in both sexes. The disadvantages of Anabolic steroids outweigh their advantages by far.
Gene doping, contrary to Anabolic steroids, is permanent and it alters an individual’s genetic composition (WADA Prohibited list 5). It works by modifying genes, either by deleting defective DNA or inserting of new DNA. It is difficult to detect and can go unnoticed if not for the abnormalities that come with altering a person’s genetic constitution. Gene doping is highly dangerous and could result in the death of an athlete.
Stimulants are drugs that affect mental functioning by stimulating an individual to feel excited and as a result, there is less fatigue. Examples of stimulants include Cocaine, Amphetamine and Modafinil (WADA Prohibited list 6). The stimulants also decrease pain felt in muscles, significantly raises the reaction speed of muscles and makes the athlete more aggressive. The disclaimer is that the stimulants are highly addictive and can cause heart and liver complications which, over a period of time may be fatal.
Blood doping resembles blood harvesting; only, in this case, the blood is reintroduced back into the blood stream of the recipient. The main goal to be achieved is to increase the number of red blood cells in the athlete that will increase the oxygen-carrying capacity thus improving cardiovascular performance. Blood doping suits the description of what a long distance runner or a cyclist would prefer to increase their endurance time during competitions. It is, however, accompanied by kidney and heart failure which may result in a death of the athlete.
Cheating in sports not only involves drug use, but also the bending of rules by the athletes. The Spanish basketball Paralympics team won the gold medal in 2000. Everyone thought how great of an uplifting story it was for the handicapped to overcome their disability and take the win. It was however discovered that ten out of twelve men in the team were not handicapped. The players had to relinquish their medals. Fernando Martin Vicente, the founder of the National Association of Special Sports, had to resign following the scandals.
Coaches and trainers also engage in malpractices to win. Some coaches allow players who are above the required age into their teams (Palou et al 297). This applies mainly to amateur sports and little league games. Some athletes have successfully cheated their way to gold medals and accolades without being discovered. This continues to happen to this day.
Why Athletes Cheat in Sports
However, there are some documented reasons as to why these athletes cheat. It should be noted that these are not solid reasons but just excuses. The first reason is the desire to win. Athletes will go through great pains just to emerge the victors. As others may argue that they are staying true to the spirit of competition, it is but a false analogy. The true spirit of competition does not include bending the rules to gain an upper hand over one’s opponents.
Athletes cheat to get paid. More often than not, the more victories athletes have to their names, the bigger the paycheck. This is enough motivation for ambitious athletes who are seeking their fame and fortune. Poor performing at their respective disciplines receive less attention from fans and subsequently get smaller paychecks.
Some athletes take a more mental approach to cheating and its consequences. They believe in their invincibility. They carry the notion that they will not be caught by any drug test, any official or camera. This belief could be likened to luck where in this case the athletes have a deep-set belief. Surprisingly, most of these athletes do get away with their misdemeanors. People cannot help but wonder if the athletes are truly invincible or if the screening system for cheating athletes is dysfunctional.
The support teams of the athletes also have a role to play in this. Excessive pressure from coaches pushes the athletes to go against the rules of their respective disciplines. This is because coaches teach their athletes to win at all costs. Respective team managers may also chip in to add to the pressure on their athletes. Athletes resort to cheating either with the knowledge of their coaches or without it; it does not really matter because the main objective is to win. Governments may also act in a likewise manner on their athletes especially during high ranking international competitions such as the Olympics. The pressure to perform well for their countries and to take home the gold medals is enough to make athletes cheat.
Ways to Curb Cheating in Sports
One of the most important achievements in the fight against sport has been the drafting, acceptance, and implementation of a uniform set of anti-doping rules, the World Anti-Doping Code (Lippi, et al. 96). The WADA code has brought harmonization to anti-doping efforts that were previously not present. It is a big challenge to curb cheating in sports since the cheaters get smarter and more creative each time. Countries are getting more involved in the fight against doping in athletes and this can only spell defeat to doping athletes.
One of the most commonly used means of cheating is breaking the rules. This may occur when a player trips another player in football or when a high tackle is performed on an opponent in rugby or when swimmers don’t hit the mark at the other end of the pool. A quick remedy for this is setting up more cameras around the arena. In rugby, whenever a foul has been committed and the referee did not see it, he calls for a playback on a big screen commonly referred to as TMO. The referee then punishes the cheating player and the player’s team.
Urine samples of competitors should be checked and tested frequently during competitions. Since athletes have found a way around this, blood sample checks should also be made. With regard to biochemical and hematological monitoring of athletes, some other initiatives have been carried out worldwide, including pre-competition blood screening and adoption of the hematological passport (Lippi, et al. 98). This initiative has helped foster the anti-doping campaign and has almost returned sports to its former glory. Athletes caught with banned substances in their bodies need to be punished accordingly. A ban from competing in their respective disciplines for a given duration should be enforced on them.
Cheating in sports has greatly injured the spirit of competition. Many athletes do not even know the importance of keeping sports clean and the effects of the ill-usage of performance-enhancing drugs on their health. Despite the efforts of international corporations such as World Anti-Doping Agency, many athletes still use these drugs. It is the plea of every sports-loving individual that cheating is eliminated from competitions worldwide in the hope of reviving the true spirit of competition.
Haberfeld, Maria R., & Dale Sheehan. Match-Fixing in International Sports. Springer, 2014.
Lippi, Giuseppe, et al. The British Medical Bulletin. Br Med Bull, no. 86 (1), 2008, pp. 95-107
Palou, Pere, et al. “Acceptance of gamesmanship and cheating in young competitive athletes in relation to the motivational climate generated by parents and coaches.” Perceptual and motor skills, no. 117.1, 2013, pp. 290-303.
World Anti-Doping Agency. The substances and Methods Prohibited At All Times. World Anti-Doping Agency. 2015.
World Anti-Doping Agency. The World Anti-Doping Code. World Anti-Doping Agency. 2017.
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