There’s nothing worse than a cheat in sport. I honestly don’t see the point of winning if you’ve cheated. How could you look yourself in the mirror at night? I suppose the money probably helps though.
My sport is swimming, but I also have a slight interest in watching cycling, which it’s safe to say has had more than its fair share of cheaters over the last few years. While the Lance Armstrong affair hopefully signals the end of a sorry era of cheating once and for all, it is hard for cycling fans to avoid feeling jaded. We have been lied to time and time again by the professionals. It’s little consolation that their towers of lies come tumbling down eventually.
The ray of hope is Bradley Wiggins and the new generation. The Sports Personality of the Year is a breath of fresh air, and managed to win the Tour de France clean last year. He’s outspoken against doping, and it must be incredibly frustrating for him to have his wonderful achievements somewhat overshadowed by the cheats.
The sheer difficulty of an event such as the Tour de France is one of the main reasons people are drawn to cheating. In some ways, I do have a little sympathy. David Millar, for example, is now a fervent anti-drugs campaigner. He reformed after he was caught doping several years ago. In his book, he details the stresses the cyclists were put under. There was undoubtedly a lot of pressure put on the cyclists to cheat if they wanted to remain in their dream job.
On the other hand, I’m sick of the argument that everyone was doing it so it was a level playing field. The simple fact is that these drugs affected people in different ways, so it was in no way level. This is before even addressing the fact that there were many cyclists who stuck to their morals, consistently finishing at the back of the race.
There’s no way around it: careers and livelihoods were ruined as a result of other people cheating.
Despite the evidence, I feel cycling has something of an unfair reputation. Most of the offences that are coming to light now were committed many years ago, and I truly believe the sport has mostly cleaned up.
Then there’s the fact that testing is far more rigorous in cycling than other professional sports. I have my suspicions about other sports that test their athletes far less.
Many people get angry about being lied to when they find out an athlete they admire has cheated. I simply feel sad. Someone who is able to lie and cheat their way to completely hollow victories, defrauding their fans and other competitors in the process, is someone to be pitied, and nothing more.