Editorial: The true cost of sports cheating

What can we trust in sport any more?

The past month or so has not been good for sport, in general.

First of all we had Lance Armstrong, the newly crowned king of cheating who, after years of denials, almost begrudgingly owned up to being on all kinds of performance enhancers. It was hardly a shock that he admitted to it, especially after so much scrutiny over such a long period of time.

Earlier this week a major investigation into football shed light on to all kinds of claims about dubious gambling on the "beautiful game".

Spot and matchfixing of games and certain decisions left a bad taste in the mouths of sports fans.

Now, we have yet another investigation a lot closer to home, in Australia, one that links athletes in a number of codes to taking performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs). That investigation was like a bomb going off in sporting circles and the ripple effects were felt strongly on this side of the Tasman.

Fans expect the sports they follow to be played fairly and cleanly and any claim or finding that goes against those expectations does huge damage to the sport. Whether it's an athlete who takes drugs, lies about it, then gets found out or someone who deliberately does something because some kind of bet is placed on it, the sport and the person can never claw back credibility.

Because of Armstrong, and many other cyclists in his era, there will always be clouds of doubt over the sport, even if it is proven to now be 100 per cent clean. The harm is done.

New Zealand sports fans feel largely sheltered from some of these undesirable actions that have taken place overseas and would not even contemplate that a Kiwi athlete had got an unfair advantage or had under-performed for money.

To a large extent the absolute purity of sport is now permanently in question, no matter what it is. Great performances will always raise eyebrows, no matter how legitimate the effort, and bad performances will be scrutinised in the same way.

That is the true cost of the cheating culture.

One more thing: News that construction firm Mainzeal had been placed in receivership shocked many, including people and businesses in Manawatu. The firm was one of the largest of its kind and was responsible for creating a number of prominent buildings in the region. From an outsider's view the demise of such a company would be a surprise, considering how much work there is planned in post-quake Christchurch. More will come out in the next few days and weeks, but that doesn't help the people whose livelihoods depend on work from the company.

Manawatu Standard