Cheating is simply a part of sport

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

 , ,

49 Have your say

    Cheating is the hot topic in sport at present. Apart from the drawn-out ASADA investigations into the Cronulla Sharks and the Essendon Bombers, we’ve also read about allegations of match-fixing against ex-New Zealand star all-rounder Chris Cairns.

    Meanwhile, no World Cup can be held without the dreaded ‘c’ word being uttered.

    Australian star Tim Cahill accused Chile of cheating in their match versus the Socceroos. There’s also the obligatory footage of Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal from the 1986 World Cup, which is shown ad nauseam every four years.

    Shockingly, it seems like cheating is everywhere in sport, yet the real shock to me is that people are actually shocked.

    Cheating is simply a part of life, even outside of sport.

    Extramarital affairs. False tax returns. A spare ace up your sleeve. Election promises that were never going to be kept. Insider trading. Dying your greying hair.

    Cheating happens, folks, especially in sport. In fact, it happens all the time in sport.

    A bowler appealing for a caught-behind when he knows the batsman didn’t hit it. A striker taking a dive in the goal square. A rugby league winger claiming a try when he knows he has knocked the ball on. A blindside flanker continually slowing down the ball. A basketballer flopping for a charge call.

    All are forms of cheating.

    Those examples are all on the lower end of the scale, but if you step away from the playing arena, that’s when the high-level cheating can be discussed. Just ask the Melbourne Storm or the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

    Cheating is everywhere, and it happens all the time.

    Heck, occasionally the cheating isn’t even intentional. Rugby league teams have been penalised for accidentally having 14 players on the field, and there have been a number of fielders in cricket who have claimed a catch when replays clearly show that it was ‘grassed’.

    Sometimes the cheating is so whacky, it’s humorous.

    At the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, the Spanish basketball team were stripped of their gold medal, after it was revealed that the intellectually disabled squad were not actually intellectually disabled.

    It was alleged that the Spanish Federation of Sportspeople with the Intellectually Disabilities (FEDDI) deliberately chose to sign up athletes who were not intellectually disabled to win more medals and gain more sponsorship.


    In 2009, rugby club Harlequins were found guilty of using blood capsules in order to make strategic substitutions for players during the Heineken Cup. You know a scandal has made the big time when it gets awarded ‘gate’ status, and the story is now know as ‘Bloodgate’.

    Bloody hell.

    When it comes to whacky cheating stories, they don’t get much crazier than Tonya Harding’s. The American figure skater hired a hitman to assault her biggest competitor Nancy Kerrigan, so that Harding could win the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships and qualify for the 1994 Winter Olympics team.

    How that plotline hasn’t been made into a movie yet is beyond me.

    Faking disability, blood capsules, and hiring a hitman to take out your competition may all seem a little bizarre, but they do indicate the levels that some individuals will go to in order to gain an advantage.

    There are certainly various degrees of cheating, and not all forms are equal, but it’s been happening for centuries, and will no doubt occur for centuries more.

    Trying to gain an advantage is what competitive sport is all about.

    Sadly, cheating is as unfortunate as it inevitable. I’m not saying it should ever be condoned or accepted. It should be dealt with swiftly, before moving on just as swiftly, but it’s always going to exist, so it shouldn’t really be a surprise when it’s revealed.

    Why? Because as long as we revere athletes, put them on a pedestal, and shower them in adulation, we’ll have people aspiring to be athletes. And with aspiration comes motivation. Mix motivation with questionable ethics, and you’ll have cheats.

    Likewise, when club CEOs, coaches, doctors, etc, are rewarded by winning, those with a slightly questionable moral compass start to look at any ways to improve their team’s performances.

    I’d dearly love for all sport to be clean and devoid of cheating, but sadly that’s just never going to be the reality.

    Now, where is that hair dye?

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (49)

    • June 25th 2014 @ 7:22am
      Big Marn said | June 25th 2014 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Sad but true! There should be no shock

    • Columnist

      June 25th 2014 @ 7:45am
      Geoff Parkes said | June 25th 2014 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Hi Ryan

      I don’t mind cheating so much if the perpetrator is appropriately punished. Take James Hird for example, text book case, forced into exile, bailed up in some French hell-hole, with only over-rich, buttery croissants, rare steak and dodgy Beaujolais to sustain him….

      • Roar Guru

        June 25th 2014 @ 9:45am
        Dogs Of War said | June 25th 2014 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Not to mention his weekly stipend that hardly makes ends meet.

      • June 25th 2014 @ 1:22pm
        Bobbo7 said | June 25th 2014 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        Agreed. Apart from the player’s welfare the biggest shock is that Hird is still considered a hero. He allowed his players to be drugged in the name of cheating and then gets punished with a paid trip to France with his job back next year. He needs to go.

        • June 25th 2014 @ 3:24pm
          BigAl said | June 25th 2014 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

          Hird’s status as ‘a hero’ is tumbling fast ! I don’t remember the last post on the Roar lauding him. There used to be plenty just after the whole mess went public – correspondingly those calling for his head have climbed.

          Also the number of #StandbyHird banners at games is plumetting.

        • June 25th 2014 @ 5:10pm
          Bosk said | June 25th 2014 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

          Hird is only still considered a Hero by the more delusional of Essendon supporters.

          …the rest of us realized soon after the Essendon Drug saga broke that he is an extremely ordinary bloke.

          • June 26th 2014 @ 2:40pm
            Kink said | June 26th 2014 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

            I applaud this sensibility. I can understand Essendon supporters seeing beyond Hird’s failures. However it has gotten to the stage now that if James was in charge again everything will turn sour eventually.

        • June 25th 2014 @ 8:56pm
          jutsie said | June 25th 2014 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

          i assure you as an essendon fan only the most rusted on supporters consider him a hero. Personally the biggest issue for me is that he put the well being of his players at risk not whether he cheated or not. and now he is still putting himself ahead of the players and club, what an a*****hole

          • June 26th 2014 @ 12:42am
            Bobbo7 said | June 26th 2014 @ 12:42am | ! Report

            Good to hear. I guess you never hear from the silent majority

      • June 26th 2014 @ 3:35pm
        thank Goddard said | June 26th 2014 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

        garbage, Hird has been villified by the press and opposition reporters for 18 months, his family abused, he was stood down as coach. (Forget the money, he would have earnt that as coach)…with no chance to defend himself …until now..let’s see what happens now and let the cards fall where they will

        PS forget about rusted on supporters, the vast majority of Essendon supporters I’ve talked to support him 100%…not delusional, what is required is a fair hearing in a court, not an hysterical trial by media/supporters and ASADA

        Jutsie, go find another club …

        PS just as in the past 18 months… note how the PR war against Essendon is heating as the court date gets closer with all sorts of ‘revelations’ … you blokes are the deluded ones, led around by the nose by the PR experts.

        • June 29th 2014 @ 10:23pm
          handles said | June 29th 2014 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

          … proving Bosk’s point above!

    • June 25th 2014 @ 8:12am
      Realist 1975 said | June 25th 2014 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      And in general life as well Ryan. Good article IMO. Cheating is human nature especially if there are financial rewards to do so. Look at the Armstrong saga and the Tour De France. I believe there is a possibility that Flandis might be compensated millions for testifying against a fellow cheat in Armstrong. Go figure. How about the AFL and their draft. I was able to make a mint each year as I know which team would tank come towards the end of the season. And they tank or cheat or whatever you call it maybe under perform in their pursuit of obtaining better draft selections.

    • June 25th 2014 @ 9:05am
      nordster said | June 25th 2014 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      A brave effort there, love it.

      I think if we want to be successful in sports like football especially we have to embrace more of a cut throat, win at all costs mentality. And yes that will mean …ummm….Pushing the Boundaries of the rules in place…

      In many cases, sport is over regulated anyway so it is natural that those fixated on performance and the elitist end of the spectrum will seek to find an edge and any loophole they can.

      “Cheating” takes so many forms …some of it for me is perfectly acceptable, such as utilising any available knocks and subsequent forces of gravity in the penalty box haha! And of course attempts to undermine egalitarianism in the economics and regulatory frameworks around sport. Salary cap ‘rorters’ are perhaps often just unrealised Randian supermen 😉

      Sport after all should be about unrestrained pursuit of performance and excellence…nothing to do with contrived level playing fields and certainly not equality.

      As for ‘drugs in sport’ they are all predicated on the idea of ‘banned lists’ which really is somewhat arbitrary in the long view of things from a sports science perspective. Some strategies are ok, others are not. Things which are ahead of the ‘banned lists’ are ok until they are not. Really with the way medical technology is heading ….well….with some folks at one level pursuing transhumanism haha its a losing game for the doping control authorities most likely!

    • June 25th 2014 @ 10:24am
      astro said | June 25th 2014 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      Three of my favourites =

      1. Refs handing games to the Lakers in 2000 against Portland, and 2002 against the Kings
      2. The Bulldogs salary cap violations in 2002
      3. ‘Spygate’ – the Patriots taping the Jets defensive signals

      Sorry Ryan…couldn’t resist!!! Ha!

      • Columnist

        June 25th 2014 @ 10:28am
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 25th 2014 @ 10:28am | ! Report


        After reading that comment, is it any wonder I wrote a piece (somewhat) defending cheating?!

        • June 25th 2014 @ 12:59pm
          astro said | June 25th 2014 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

          Don’t worry…As a Manly fan who grew up in the 80’s, I fully support your article.

    • June 25th 2014 @ 10:45am
      AR said | June 25th 2014 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      The most brazen example is the Spanish Mens Basketball team. Now THAT is cheating. And what makes it worse, is *who* they were cheating…all the genuinely disabled athetes who the Spaniards were trouncing each game.

      Staggering is right.

      The East Germans and Chinese obviously get honourable mentions for systematic cheating, but for sheer brazen fraud in sport (Spain aside), it’s hard to go past the Fine Cotton episode.

      • June 29th 2014 @ 3:03pm
        Minz said | June 29th 2014 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        East Germans, Soviets and Americans in that cold war era have to take the cake for cheating, surely? Not only drugs, but other things – like the Soviet’s professional athletes in the amateur era.

        IMO, the solution is for us all to realise that sports are just games – enjoy ’em, but they’re not actually worth anything!

    , ,