Thirty years from now, tests will probably need to be conducted to see if competitors in international sporting events are human beings or robots.
Getting away with things is becoming as competitive as the sports themselves. Maybe this event should be added to the next Olympics cheating. There would probably be many in the hunt for a gold medal in that one.It is becoming increasingly apparent that too many nations and athletes blatantly abuse the notion of fair play. Cheating isn't a crime. Getting caught is. Integrity? What's that, a maneuver in synchronized swimming?
It has not been a good year for international athletics. Recently it was revealed that Italian officials added considerable distance to a leap by Italy's Giovanni Evangelisti in the long jump so that he could get a bronze medal at last year's World Championships in track and field. The event, you see, took place in Rome. The officials figured the hometown fans needed something to cheer about even if the competition was fixed.
And just last week, one of Utah's own, Ute gymnastics Coach Greg Marsden, described how the United States and Romania conspired to alter scores last fall at the World Gymnastics Championships at Rotterdam. His candor in detailing the shady dealings in the hopes that steps will be taken to correct them is admirable. His defense of why he and others participated because everybody else was doing it and to not do so would put the U.S. athletes at a disadvantage is not.
When nations and individuals find reasons to justify cheating, the steps to cleaning up sports are far apart indeed.
Part of the problem is that high-profile sport isn't just sport. It's politics, business and then sport. Neither the United States nor the Russians had the athletes uppermost in mind when they boycotted the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympic Games, respectively.
And, as Marsden correctly pointed out, the obsession with winning leads to all kinds of flagrant violations. Does the Southwest Conference have any eligible football teams left? At Southern Methodist University, even the governor of Texas had a hand in abuses that led to the football program being disbanded. He and the others had their reasons for doing what they did. They claimed they had to break the rules to be competitive.
The sports room is big enough for both champions and integrity to fit nicely. Joe Paterno, noted for his clean football program at Penn State, has had two national champions the past five years. BYU went 13-0 and won a national championship on the gridiron in 1984. And Marsden's University of Utah gymnasts combined talent, good coaching and innovative techniques to win six national titles in a row.
The commitment to fair play needs to be made at all levels first with the individual athlete, then with the coaches and finally with the sponsoring institution or nation. And if that means occasionally losing to cheaters, so be it. Because if winning and integrity can't co-exist, then the bogus winners will have to vacate the premises. It wouldn't be sporting or fair to have it otherwise.