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Sportopedia Glossary

Cheating

Cheating

An action that violates formal rules or informal
expectations to gain an unfair advantage over others in
a situation where relative performance is used for evaluation
and allocation of rewards. It involves dishonesty,
deceit, and a violation of trust, and it occurs most often
in high stakes challenges such as end-of-term academic
assignments and tests and in competitive situations
including sports, games, and gambling.
Cheating has a long history in sports. From the ancient
games at Olympia to recent Olympic Games and other
examples of competitive sports, athletes have bent,
skirted, and intentionally violated rules to gain unfair
personal advantage over competitors. Although it is difficult
to say if cheating occurs more often today than in
the past, the incentives to cheat are generally high in
commercial sports where the stakes for winning and losing
are significant.
It is easy to identify cheating when rules are clearly
broken, as when athletes knowingly use banned
performance-enhancing substances. However, the line
between cheating and fair play in sports is not always
clear. For example, in high-stakes sport competitions,
players may expect that teammates and opponents will
strategically violate rules to gain an advantage, as when
a basketball player commits a hard foul to stop an
opponent from scoring. Coaches and others may refer
to this as a ‘good foul’, rather than cheating.
Additionally, training and performance in sports
today utilize new forms of science and technology that
are not yet regulated by official rules. This occurred
when baseball players took strength-producing anabolic
steroids before Major League Baseball had banned steroid
use.
As athletes commit themselves to the motto, ‘higher,
stronger, faster,’ they seek ways to train more effectively
and improve performance. Sport science has
become increasingly effective in using technology and
innovation to aid athletes in this process. For example,
is it cheating when some marathon runners use shoes
engineered to return more energy to the foot and calf
than the more conventional running shoes used by other
runners? This and similar examples make it difficult for
the governing bodies in sports to develop and enforce
rules that insure fairness without restricting the enjoyment
and creativity of athletes and the support provided
by coaches and team staff.