Cheating rates at the London Olympic Games

RETIRED: Yu Yang has retired from badminton after being disqualified from the London Olympics.
RETIRED: Yu Yang has retired from badminton after being disqualified from the London Olympics.

There have been numerous admissions and allegations of match-throwing and cheating during the Olympics, but those at the centre of the claims may have convinced themselves they haven't done anything wrong, a New Zealand psychologist says.

A British cyclist has admitted to it, eight badminton players have been disqualified for it and a Chinese swimmer has been accused of it - but why do even the world's most elite athletes feel they can get away with it?

"We are just so hell-bent at winning at all costs and I think that attitude is more pervasive than ever before," Auckland University psychologist Jason Stephens said.

"People know what's right or wrong, but it's a sense of personal responsibility to uphold that judgement. They start to rationalise and disengage from that sense of responsibility," Stephens said.

"When you're in that moment there's a certain type of haze and our judgement isn't altogether clear."

British cyclist Philip Hindes' judgement has been questioned when he suggested that he crashed on purpose on the qualifying round of the men's team sprint  to ensure a restart, and then went on to win gold.

"It's a kind of fraud," Stephens said.

"It's reprehensible, especially in the Olympics."

Eight women badminton players were disqualified for deliberately throwing matches to improve their draws, and some have come out saying it’s happened before and will probably happen again.

But the allegations don’t end there. Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen has been at the centre of a cheating allegation  after she won gold in the women's 400m IM in a world record time of 4.28.43.

The Australian women's basketball coach Carrie Graf said there were suggestions that her team should strategically lose their game to avoid playing the United States in the quarter-finals.

But the coach insisted Australia played to win, but said that wasn't the case for every basketball team in the world.

"It's not something Australian teams have done traditionally, but over the course of time European teams look at the cross-overs and play different strategic games.

"There are cases across history where that has taken place.''

Whether it's an academic or sports domain, the psychological process behind cheating is universal, Stephens said.

People usually cheated because they were under pressure, either internal or external – from coaches, parents and peers.

"So it can come from others, which could be the case of the badminton team…likely they were following the directions of their coaches, who have gone unpunished," Stephens said.

Most people who got away with cheating took the secret to their graves, but those who were under external pressure were more likely to "crack", Stephens said.

"For some it slowly eats away at them and they’ll come to admit it in time."