Cheating In Sport: Gradually, And Then Suddenly


In his most recent installment of #thefourminutemull, Ross Tucker of The Science of Sport uses the recent example of Australian ball tampering in cricket to make a larger point about cheating, or more specifically, athletes who are playing in the “gray zone” of sport.

“Once you enter the gray areas, then you get progressively darker and darker and darker gray,” Tucker says. “And at some point, there’s a line, but by the time you get to that line, you’re so deep in the gray that you can’t see a black line on a dark gray background. And you cross that line.”

Tucker, as he tends to do, just nails it here. And while he doesn’t mention running or athletics specifically, there’s no reason the same argument can’t be applied (investigations and revelations over the past few years support it, in fact). There’s a percentage of people in any sport, he argues, who will do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s pushing the boundaries of what’s allowable by using TUEs, getting unnecessary prescriptions, or what have you. Others will just outright break the rules. The problem of cheating, however you want to define it, is a cultural one that builds gradually, and then suddenly comes to a head. The solution? There can be only one, Tucker says (and I agree with it): Change the culture, change the mindset, and target the systems that enable cheating to happen in the first place. Going after individual offenders isn’t going to solve a widespread problem.

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