Olympic cheating scandals taint integrity of sports competitions


Gabriella Backus, Artistic Editor

Unorthodox methods to enhance athletic performances have existed since the very first Olympic games. Ancient Greek runners drank potions to increase speed, and wrestlers were drenched in olive oil to aid in slipping out of their opponent’s grip. Today, cheating is not only a professional issue, but it exists at the high school level as well.
Athletes continually face a common dilemma: it would be easier to cheat, and cheating would ensure a win, but it is morally unethical. Whether it be not doing all that’s asked of them at practice or breaking the rules of a game, Bear Creek athletes have been exposed to cheating.
“At practice, sometimes we have to do like 30 pushups, and we only sometimes do 25 or 20,” water polo player Dalin Nelson said. “One time, I was in a game, and some guy was choking me the whole time, and I was trying to show the ref, but they didn’t call anything, so I just kicked them back.”
Focusing on terminating cheating in high school sports competitions is most important when teams are emotionally compromised because of it. Many athletes say they couldn’t care less about winning the game, and instead focus on improving their own performance to better themselves. When their teammates or the opposing team cheats, it’s most upsetting because they are not playing to the best of their ability and are instead using alternate methods to get ahead.
“I have never understood why someone would want to cheat in a game,” cross country coach Jason Johnson said. “What is the joy in claiming victory, when it was not honestly earned? Should you be proud of a victory in the game of monopoly if you steal money from the bank?”
Should they cheat, professional athletes face serious consequences. Unlike the high school student’s short suspension, a player caught using performance-enhancing drugs can expect year-long bans or even total disqualification as punishment.
“At an Olympic level, they shouldn’t be even allowed to play anymore. Disqualified forever,” sophomore gymnast Alexis Altheide said.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, measures were taken to ensure the legitimacy of all players. Because cheating is unfortunately so common, many professional teams lose their star players after screening. This year, only 278 of the total 389 previously disqualified Russian Rio Olympians cleared multiple drug testings. Even after screening, many other Olympians were disqualified after drug discovery; swimmers Yulia Efimova of Russia and Sun Yang of China have served suspensions for doping this year.
Similarly to the negative feelings associated with cheating at a small-scale event, Olympic deception is unsettling to viewers. It eliminates the competition’s fun that onlookers so dearly anticipate and lessens the excitement of the Olympics.
“It’s the Olympics, not for amateurs,” Nelson said. “They’re trying to figure out who the best is. You’re not the best if you have help.”
In the original Olympics, radical cheating could be quickly identified, typically because athletes fought naked. Those guilty were heavily fined, forced to erect statues of gods, and were publicly flogged or beaten with stones.
Cheating today cannot be similarly eradicated.
“There’s always gonna be someone who cuts corners, who tries to do the wrong thing to get a good outcome,” Nelson said.
In attempts to control and monitor Olympians’ seemingly constant drug use, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established in 1999. Their World Anti-Doping Code detailing the intricacies of illegal athletic substances has been espoused by over 600 sports institutions, most notably the International Paralympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee, and all Olympic Sport International Federations.
Many athletes argue that the Anti-Doping Code is unnecessarily harsh. Drugs such as marijuana are prohibited, even if it does nothing to enhance an athlete’s performance. In 2010, a Gold Coast rugby player recieved a lifetime ban after testing positive for cannabis; although he knew the risks, some argue this punishment hardly seems fitting, as marijuana had no major effect on his playing.
Codes of conduct are constantly updated to solve these problems, but they cannot possibly catch every detail. Countless substances can’t be correctly tested, because science has no conclusive data about their actual danger. For example, erythropoietin, a hormone to increase endurance, has been on the WADA list for years, but is extremely difficult to detect in blood streams.
Some participants may also be unknowingly under influence, or feel extreme pressure to follow their coachs’ demands.
Yuliya Stepanova, a Russian track star set to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, opened up about her previous drug use, for which she received a two year ban: “Since I am a girl, I do everything my coaches say. I train like they say, I take drugs like they say,” Stepanova said in an interview with “The New York Times” writer John Brant.
“This year, a lot of the Russian athletes didn’t even know it was happening because their coaches snuck steroids into their food at their training camps,” Altheide said.
Shockingly, student athletes are just as guilty of cheating as their professional counterparts. In Florida, Miami-Dade County Schools conducted doping tests on 250-300 student athletes and discovered the use of performance-enhancing drugs had risen from 5 to 11 percent since 2013.
“I think that it is a challenge, certainly to fight the external pressures that students face, and we know that, really, kids do face those pressures,” said US Anti-Doping Agency spokeswoman Annie Skinner, in an interview with “US News” writer Alexandra Pannoni. ​ “There’s the pressure to make the high school team. There’s the pressure to do the best you can in high school to get that college scholarship and so the pressures on young athletes are very intense.”
Can cheating, both at a high school and a professional level, ever be completely curtailed?
“Unfortunately, like most rules, people will always find a way around them,” Johnson said. “It is sad that athletes and coaches resort to cheating. I do feel that officials should continue to work to eradicate it…sadly, it will continue.”