Cheating and sport

South African gold medalist, Cameron van der Burgh admitted to cheating in the breaststroke competition. He took extra kicks after the turn. In his words: "It's not obviously - shall we say - the moral thing to do, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it." USA Today.

The short answer is to thank this swimmer for what is described to be an unremorseful and even brazen admission to calculated cheating. On the biggest stage in his sport, he has brought into the open an important philosophical and practical issue. Not only do his words and actions remind us of a spoiled child sticking his tongue out at his parents looking for attention and daring them for action, he is telling the sports world that there is a problem - A problem that needs to be addressed.

The beauty of competition and ultimately winning is to be the best while performing within the rules. To blatantly break the rules means that a competition, as it is designated does not exist. In a sense, this individual is the gold medalist of a non-event. Cheating voids the competition. His award is then meaningless.

Sport and competition at the highest level and especially for a select few is only about winning. However, this does not mean victory through calculated rule violations. How the game is played is part of the entire process. Unfortunately, it is sometimes talented, and obviously hard working individuals like this who hurt sport. Ironically, given the immense skill required to make an Olympic finals, I wonder if this individual could have won playing by the rules?

On the other hand, if everyone with a chance of winning was doing the same maneuver could van der Burgh legitimately be called the winner? If what he did is common place amongst all of the top swimmers, then on that particular day he was the best of all the rule breakers. As you can see, the slippery slope starts to get steeper and steeper. Perhaps, the international swimming organization needs to change its rules or install underwater cameras for all major competitions?

In the end Cameron van der Burgh will have to look in the mirror everyday and know that he won Olympic gold not by simply being the best on that given day, but by being the best with some extra help. His years of hard and dedicated effort concluded with victory by breaking the rules.

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