Category Archives: Cheating in sport

Rules, ethics, gamesmanship and cheating

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I expect that at least 90% of the world has no interest in cricket but I think it’s a great game – how can you not love a sport where you can play for five days and have a draw at the end of it?

Sadly, cricket has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The Australian captain, vice captain and one of their batsmen were caught cheating in a test match against South Africa.

The three had hatched a plan to use sandpaper on the ball to make it behave favourably for their bowlers.

They were sent home from the tour, have since been banned for 9 or 12 months – and have lost lucrative contracts both in cricket itself and from commercial endorsements. Although apparently not being part of the plan, the coach has now resigned, accepting responsibility for the culture of the team.

As a cycling fan, it reminds me of the (too) many scandals and rumours that plague pro-cycling.

For me, it all starts out fairly simply – if you break the rules you have cheated and deserve the (appropriate) punishment that’s coming to you.

Take TUEs in cycling. Taking otherwise banned drugs can be within the rules if you need them for medical reasons – if you have the medical need and take them, you are not cheating. If you take them, pretending to have the medical need, you are cheating.

The line can get blurred once we get into the grey area of ethics in sport. If you compete unethically, I think you forfeit respect and moral high-ground and I think sport should be played to the highest standards of integrity – but if you are not breaking the rules, in my book, you are not actually cheating.

Part of the difficulty is that people have different standards when it comes to ethics and who is to say that their interpretation is right? At least the rules should be a clear line in the sand.

The Australian captain, Steve Smith, was in tears in a press conference saying ‘I will regret this for the rest of my life. I am absolutely gutted. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness’. Of course, I don’t know him – he might be a great guy who has just made one mistake and on a human level I wish everyone involved all the best.

However, I can’t help wondering what Steve Smith would have been like if they hadn’t got caught. Would he have been sitting in his hotel room, consumed with guilt, because he had done such a terrible thing? I don’t know – but I doubt it.

I’m sure he is really sorry for what he did and I do have some sympathy with the position he finds himself in – but is the difference between satisfaction with a plan that worked, and abject misery for dishonest actions, mainly a question of whether or not you get caught?