Dishonesty, trickery commonplace in today’s sports world - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Dishonesty, trickery commonplace in today’s sports world

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Posted: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 6:06 am | Updated: 3:47 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Rosie Ruiz took the subway to beat the competition at the 1980 New York Marathon. Ben Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids after winning the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Olympics.

A Little League team from New York rode a pitcher who was two years older than the allowed limit to the 2001 World Series.

And with the news Monday that Floyd Landis had tested positive for synthetic testosterone, it appears the Tour de France winner can add his name to this hall-of-shame list.

Unfortunately the latest news isn’t all that surprising.

Cheating in sports has a long history — the Chicago White Sox brought it to the big time when eight members of the 1919 team were given lifetime suspensions for fixing that season’s World Series — but today the two seem to be synonymous.

The offenders are too numerous to list and no sport seems immune.

In a culture where cheating carries such a negative connotation, how did this happen?

“That’s a book,” said Andrew Askland, a former ethics professor with a doctorate in philosophy who is now the director of the Center for Law, Science and Technology at Arizona State.

However, there are a few key factors.

The first is the most obvious.

“The almighty dollar, and it starts from a long, long time ago,” said Mark Grace, the Diamondbacks TV analyst and former player. “People are so competitive, and if you are in the top 1 percent of your craft, you’re going to make an awful lot of money.”

In his book “The Cheating Culture,” author David Callahan expands on that thought.

“Professional sports are an extreme environment,” he writes. “Success can transform you into a cultural icon and a centa-millionaire, while failure can leave you injured, broke and barely employable. People act in extreme ways with stakes like these.”

It helps that there are new and improved performanceenhancing drugs (many of which are undetectable) being developed all the time, which makes the practice easier and allows athletes to achieve something else many covet: Fame.

“This is a sort of a winnertake-all society,” Askland said. “We identify very strongly with that small percentage of people who excel.”

For those who do get caught, that punishment often amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Askland said the reprimand cheating athletes receive is similar to what white-collar criminals get.

“They tend to be fairly lightly reprimanded because he or she seems to be otherwise an outstanding citizen,” he said.

For those who are suspended or banned from their sport, they still get to keep the millions of dollars they made along the way.

There typically isn’t much backlash from fans, either.

“People are still wearing Mark McGwire’s number. Barry Bonds is still playing. He gets booed in some places, cheered in others,” Askland said, referring to the two baseball superstars who have never tested positive for banned performance enhancers but have a dark cloud of suspicion hanging over them.

It hasn’t helped that behaviors that are not permitted in society are accepted in sports.

“I think what underlines all of this is we have an ambiguity about cheating in the culture that we don’t like to talk about,” Askland said. “We do celebrate the clean farm kid who excels, but we have allowed a place for — if it’s not cheating, being shrewd or clever at the periphery — (we) recognize that as a valuable trait. It is something we encourage and celebrate.”

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