Have you noticed all the talk about cheating lately?
We're hearing more and more about the cheating in professional (and amateur) cycling which apparently hasn't been limited to Performance Enhancing Drugs or blood doping. Now we're finding out about all sorts of incidences of "Mechanical Doping" - motors hidden in bottom brackets or seat tubes. Videos are surfacing of bikes doing some pretty miraculous things - here's a good 12-second example of a wheel that keeps turning after it crashes. Motors have likely been inside bikes since the 90's? We've come to expect this of cycling. I wasn't really surprised when I heard about it - just sad.
Getting a little bit closer to home, Did anyone catch the story on cheating at the Boston Marathon? A business analyst from Cleveland and a few buddies took it upon themselves to sniff how how many people cheated to get into Boston. With the amazing availability and transparency of online race results, photos, garmin/strava uploads - they found at least 47 people and counting. One was a firefighter in his 50's who has a wife and a family. "This is absolutely deflating,” the firefighter said after Runner’s World presented evidence of his course-cutting. “My life and my job are based on integrity. And I cheated.” His wife doesn't know.
In my triathlon years, I've seen cheating at local races a few times. There was a Seattle woman who would hop around age groups finding the one she'd have the best chance at winning until somebody figured it out. At the Danskin quite a few years ago there was a young woman who was running just ahead of me paced by her boyfriend. He kept his eye on me and if I was closing on her, he'd tell her to speed up. I told them at the turnaround to knock it off but he just laughed at me and she kept running...and beat me. It was troubling. Drafting has always seemed a temptation and a nuisance to the sport.
I deeply hope cheating doesn't touch the team I'm on or the races I'm a part of. Is it because I'm appalled by the injustice and lack of integrity? Not really. It's more because l'm a cheerleader for the sport and the people in it. And cheering for people who have worked very hard and laid whatever they have on the line on race day is thrilling. Even when I'm a busy race director distracted by too many details, the athletes have my attention and my admiration. You are inspiring and exciting!
Cheating bothers me because it robs an athlete of the purity of accomplishment - of the joy of an honest result. Look at the people who typically cheat - they are working hard at their sport - they are training and sacrificing and usually performing at high levels anyway. Somewhere on that journey toward success
Are they tired? Desperate? Are they feeling a founded or unfounded weight of expectations from family and friends waiting for their victorious finish or counting on a trip to Hawaii in October? Maybe the elite need those results to keep sponsorships and to pay their bills...to keep racing at all. Maybe they just aren't ready to accept they aren't the best and they can't bear to face it - it's the only thing that they can hold onto that makes them feel worthwhile or unique. Or maybe it doesn't really feel like anything - which is scarier still. Is cheating just another tool in a toolbox toward success?
Pursuing a sport like triathlon can expose the layers of a person - we learn how hard we're willing to push ourselves. We learn about our levels of discipline or selfishness or pain tolerance and a host of other qualities. Sometimes we see things in ourselves we didn't know were there that we're proud of. Sometimes we see things we're ashamed of. But at least we have the ability to SEE and maybe a person who cheats has just lost that bit of vision. If that's the case, then I hope for them that they get it back, because seeing ourselves clearly is a great gift to an individual, their spouse, their children, their friends. And I hope for all of us that we keep our vision and that the sport helps us grow and be who we're capable of being.
Happy Training and Racing in 2016!