What constitutes cheating ?

So Marion Jones, the famous sprinter finally came clean (pun intended) last week regarding the long standing suspicions of steroid use that had hung over her. Resignation is what I felt when I read about it. Not shock or amazement… no, not those anymore. And then the realization that I seemed unsurprised at her eventual, belated admission was what gave rise to the feeling of indignation. It made me wonder if in some small way… some tenuous, barely visible link might ever be drawn between the abuse of elite athletes and “people like us”.

Seems barely credible, doesn’t it ? I mean why would we cheat ? No stadium full of adoring fans for us. No prize money. No tantalizing endorsement deals. Just the knowledge inside that we did it. Us… on our own… by the sweat of our brow and the ache of our muscles, exercised in thousands of unremarkable and barely acknowledged training runs across the community.

After our Sunday run we chatted about it over breakfast at The Wild Wheat. Later Iliana continued the thoughts on the Balanced Athlete Blog. Although we all obviously knew that taking a shortcut in a race (Rosie Ruiz story) is clearly dishonest, but beyond that it became less clear. We debated about people (non-elite runners) who we have heard are interested in experimenting with inhaling hydrogen or drinking enhanced water. I related the observations in oddmountain’s blog about folks abusing asthma inhalers prior to races. While we felt that these folk are probably taking it all too far, the question hung there… if it’s not actually illegal and it’s commercially available… is it really “cheating” ?

I plan to run my own race in the Denver Marathon on Sunday and I’m only running against myself. I’ll drink what fluids they provide, eat the Gu from the aid stations and rely on what preparation I can bring to the start line… that’s it.

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~ by John Rankin on Oct 8, 2007.

2 Responses to “What constitutes cheating ?”

  1. “if it’s not actually illegal and it’s commercially available… is it really “cheating” ?”

    That’s a really good question. Probably no one would bat an eye at taking aspirin after a hard run, but what about a preemptive one before a long run? What about an antihistamine to get the lungs moving? Where is the line?

    I think for the non-elite athlete, part of the temptation is to prove to yourself and the people around you that the hours you put into training are paying off somehow. Once you stop improving by leaps and bounds, for some people there is the pressure to improve by any means possible.

  2. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be tempted to cheat because I’m still working out the competition between me, myself, and I, haha. But i could see how after so much time someone may consider alternatives for some extra spark. A competitive spirit can sometimes become a monster.

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