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Why are we so surprised athletes "cheat"?

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 8:58pm -- Editor

Why are we so surprised athletes "cheat" when we have sent a clear message that we only care about winning?

Around the world and especially in the US we really only want to talk to #1.  We want our athletes to run faster, ride harder, hit the ball  farther, and be able to recover from an unnatural amount of pain. Then, oh gasp, we get on our moral horse when he or she took something to enhance their performance?  How hypocritical are we?  We are not celebrating the guy who tries the hardest and trains the longest hours.  Good sportsmanship awards were last given out in high school.  Lance, Barry, Marion, and the list goes on and on, but we don't take any responsibility in the situation.  Why is that?  Is it OK just so long as you don't get caught? 

Believe me I have sat at many a round table with friends who are professional athletes and the opinions vary.  Some feel it's cheating, while others understand that especially in some sports if you even want to have a shot you better play that game.  You could be clean, the most talented with a divine work ethic, but dead last.  It is a slippery slope once you start peeling that complex onion.

Which brings me to the circumstances that motivated me to write this.  The Chinese Badminton team that just got kicked out of the Olympics.   Before I rolled into the next story I put myself, as an athlete, in their badminton shoes.  They are one of, if not the strongest teams, in the tournament.  For whatever reason the tournament is organized that if you win, you very well may end up in a more difficult bracket, putting you in a more competitive next match.  Most of the times if you are highly seeded and win you have an easier path until you get to the quarters, semis and finals.  That's how it typically works.  So here the team is at the Olympics and part of their job is to figure out strategies to win.  Who to serve too, which player to attack at which time, etc.  Well, during the course of strategizing they realized it would actually be better to lose to put them in a better position to win later. 

So easy to say "they did not perform with the Olympic spirit" blah blah blah, but if you worked at something for years with the idea of not only trying your very best, but WINNING, what would you do?  So no, not very Olympian of them, but smart.

In the end we need to point the fingers at ourselves in all of this and take responsibility for the demand. Those athletes are only trying to fulfill the tall order that we and our media put on them.  A champion is not defined as a well rounded great person who leads the team, and does their best.  NO, a champion is a WINNER until we turn on them.  By no means do I NOT feel that the athletes should take responsibility as well, but it is important to understand what they are dealing with.

If winning really is the most important things to us then we should just make everything legal and know that the disadvantage will come to the athlete that has better resources and may get a bigger edge.  If we feel that we don't want our Champions taking anything then we have to be satisfied with less home runs and slower times in the 100.

Written by Gabby Reece