Time to bring back lifetime bans for sports cheats
Salary rorts in the NRL, Oscar winning performances on the soccer field, underage Olympic gymnasts and drug-cheats in the cycling peloton.
It’s all cheating and, as an elite athlete, I’m angry.
Not only at those who cheat, but also those around them who allow it to happen.
Where has the sense of fair play gone and how come so many fans, athletes, coaches and officials accept the lying, match-fixing, doping, corner-cutting and rule bending?
The Storm’s salary cap deception was clearly against the rules and there’s talk that stories will soon emerge implicating players as complicit and in the deals. If this is true, then the cheating goes way beyond club boss and scapegoat Brian Waldron.
Yet since then the club has signed a huge number of new members. Even though I accept they are supporting their club in its time of need, what sort of message does this send? They are indirectly condoning the illegal actions of the Storm.
Shandong Luneng, who played Adelaide United in the final pool match of the Asian Champions League last week, used diving and time wasting tactics to hang on for their 1-0 win.
Chatting to a member of the Reds after the game, I quizzed him how this sort of rule-bending can happen. “It’s just part of their culture,” he told me. And why don’t we do it? “Our Aussie fans would never let us get away with it,” he replied. Strong evidence of the power of peer-pressure.
After putting her real birth date on a form at the Beijing Olympics, China’s Dong Fangxiao has been caught out as a 14 year-old when she won her bronze medal in Sydney 10 years ago. She was well below the strict minimum age of 16 for an Olympic gymnast. This is clear and blatant cheating that must have been supported by Chinese coaches and officials.
In cycling – a sport in which I am now an international competitor – with every doping investigation and positive test, I cringe. So I do that a lot. But what disturbs me most is how a drug cheat can come back, be forgiven, race and win, so soon after a drug ban.
I raced against caught-out drug cheats in the Giro Donne in Italy last year and watched with amazement when they were welcomed back into the fold and literally embraced by our fellow cyclists.
I could never again look a fellow athlete in the eye I if I cheated, let alone if I got caught, banned and then came back to the sport. I could also never forgive one of my competitors if they cheated.
Yet acceptance just seems to be a part of the cycling culture – in the same race I saw a bunch of Italians accept a lift up the last 4km of a mountain from a local police motorbike. When I told my Team Director about it, he shrugged and told me “that’s racing”.
Even the fans are complicit. Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov served a two-year ban after being caught doping in the 2007 Tour de France. He won a major race recently and even though ‘Vino’ was booed by some as he crossed the line, he is still a crowd favourite.
I expressed my disgust at him to some fellow cyclists on the weekend and I practically got shouted down. “He’s served his time, leave him alone.” “Surely he’s learned his lesson?” “Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?”
In my opinion, no. He betrayed us when he made the choice to cheat, and the shame that he should feel from us – his fellow cyclists and former fans – should deter others from the same path.
I started elite sport more than 10 years ago (in rowing) when they still had life-time bans for drug cheats. I say bring it back.
Before you disagree, you should read this edited excerpt from Bikepure.org :
One factor that has totally been overlooked (in the shorter ban) is the beneficial performance factors from prolonged use of drugs.
The use of EPO gives a rider the proven ability to train harder, for longer and quicken recovery. If training/racing is done also with an anabolic agent, this will also artificially build, advantageous lean, muscle mass.
Even after a period of non drug use where the ‘hemo’ levels return to normal and the bodies’ natural hormone levels are restored: the doper’s body is left with muscles that are trained to work harder, for longer.
..Only a forced period of total inactivity would see these artificial gains reduced.
A paltry ban with forgiveness from fans and competitors is clearly not enough to ensure sports are clean.
You think it’s hard as an athlete not to cheat? If others didn’t allow it and accept it, it should be the easiest decision in the world.
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