If it is true that cheats do not prosper, for a good while it must have felt to the cheats that they’d gotten away with a blinder. This has been a horrible period for sports fans, all of whom must now wonder, when they watch their heroes, whether what they see is real. If matches aren’t fixed for international gambling syndicates then all the athletes are on drugs, right? Hardly a sport has been left untouched by a tidal wave of scandals and suspicions, and somehow the honest professional, and even more so the amateur enthusiast, have been lost in the fray. The good guy can only take so much before the cracks start to appear. The cri de coeur happened today.
This morning Tony Thompson the boxer told the BBC that doping should be legalised. “I think they should allow doping, period, because for me it’s like the gun law… Only the good guys are listening. It leaves the good guys without the guns.” This is the age-old cry of the unjustly treated. Life-long believers in fair play and justice, they ultimately grow weary of losing to the cheat, or of competing on a distinctly uneven playing surface. It is like the dueller, having agreed the terms of engagement with his foe, turning up sword in hand only to find a pistol pointing at him through the murky dawn. It is a mismatch of epic proportions. The bullet wins every time. The virtuous fencer might be forgiven for thinking it were better had he too gone ballistic.
I wouldn’t forgive him. I’d pity him, but that would be just another kick to the puppy. I understand the plight of these fellows, but no upstanding man could endorse the institutionalisation of sport’s greatest wrong in order to level down to the moral poison of the fakes. If there were no honour in sport, and if everyone was hepped up steroids, then I’d sooner watch robot wars. There’d be no real difference. Sport, if it is to mean anything, has to be about the testing of the limits of being human, which is both good to do and good to watch. There can be no spirit of emulation if we cannot be certain that the spectacle is, essentially, a purely human one.
Tony Thompson has forgotten that sport isn’t simply about this competitor or that team. The public cares not a fig for how much money a man might win, but only that he might win fair and square. And if cheating is rife, then the fair man does not advocate that everyone should cheat. The fair man, believing in the true spirit of competition, sticks to his guns (or his weapon of choice). For that man knows that when he wins he will draw satisfaction from having won fairly. I have no idea what satisfaction the cheat derives from his own rocket-propelled ‘victory’. Money, fame and power are all ephemeral. They are the chimeras of our age. They have never been in the past and should not now be the reasons for sporting endeavour. I hope the good guys keep poking at this sore until the boil is well and truly lanced.