Do Cheaters Prosper?

Associated Press

This week South African swimmer Cameron Van Der Burgh won the Gold Medal in the 100 meter breastroke, and set a world record in the process.

In a dramatic twist, he also admitted to cheating while doing it.

In international breast stroke competition, swimmers are only allowed one “dolphin kick” (wiggling like a worm underwater) before beginning their strokes. Television cameras showed Van Der Burgh taking at least three.

Dolphin kicks maintain the momentum from the dive or wall push, allowing you to continue torpedoing through the water… as opposed to say, swimming.

To be fair, many Olympic swimmers do this. In fact, dolphin kicks were completely illegal until it was discovered that nearly all competitors were performing them, then the governing body decided to allow one.

This giving an inch has led to taking a mile, or in Van Der Burgh’s case 20,000 leagues.

To be honest, Van Der Burgh didn’t volunteer that he cheated, but when confronted, he confirmed and then defended his decision.

“‘If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind.  It’s not obviously – shall we say – the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone who is willing to do it and get away with it.”

How twisted is the logic being employed here?

I’d ask any person who finds themselves quietly agreeing with the Olympic Champion’s sentiments to consider how self-centered his statement is.

“I’M not willing to sacrifice MY personal performance…”

The coup-de-grace of his manifesto of self-justification is found in the coda, where he places the blame for his intentional rule-breaking onto a fictional cheating-type character, who may or may not have been able to beat him by cheating.

“…someone who is willing to do it (cheat) and get away with it.”

It’s the functional equivalent of ME stealing YOUR hamburger, and then saying that it wasn’t wrong because “If I didn’t do it, the Hamburglar might take it first… and that was a chance I wasn’t willing to take.”

Of course, lost in all of this “hypothesizing” about somebody else doing it and getting away with it is the fact that HE was the person who cheated and got away with it!

Congratulations Cameron Van Der Burgh;
You are the Olympic Hamburglar you feared.

Is it possible that Van Der Burgh’s pursuit of a Gold Medal got in the way of his pursuit of the Olympic ideals?

Everyone who competes desires a medal, but if the reason we compete is “for a medal” we become willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it, including cheating.

Remember that medals are the by-product of victory, not victory itself.

Van Der Burgh should ask Marion Jones how her gold medals felt the day it was proved that she cheated to get them. How did they feel when she was serving the prison sentence that accompanied her conviction?

A Gold Medal at the expense of honor and integrity isn’t a victory, it’s the hollow reminder of our willingness to trample on anything for the sake of gratifying our own ego.

It’s essential to understand that “the prize” is simply the by-product of singular excellence in this pursuit.

Most Olympians win without ever medaling;
and some medal while failing miserably.

Sarah Attar finished her 800 meter race nearly 43 seconds after the winner did. 43 seconds is nearly an eternity in a 2 lap race.

As she crossed the finish line, spectators cheered and applauded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female track and field competitor.

Saudi Arabia is a country where “what’s good for the gander” is usually forbidden “for the goose”. For Attar to even train, let alone be sponsored by her government, was an implausibility just a few years ago.

The Kingdom’s fiercest crossed the finish line wearing full sleeves top and bottom, and her head covered.

In doing so she brought honor and dignity to not only herself but the people that she had travelled to represent.

She worked every bit as hard as Van Der Burgh did physically, but emotionally and mentally she overcame so much more didn’t she?

It was the kind of victory that didn’t need a medal to validate it.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”-I Corinthians 9:24-27

*I heard it

2 Responses to “Do Cheaters Prosper?”

  1. Cody August 8, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Jon – Great topic. One I’m personally (I didn’t know it until I read your blog) struggling with.

    Cheaters prosper every day. Most are not caught. I’d venture to say that many are unaware they’re even ‘cheating’. The decision to cheat is sometimes ‘gray’ and other times clearly black or white. Does the fact that the Olympic Committee judging these things is doing nothing about it suggest that the rule was really more of a ‘suggestion’? Consider Lance Armstrong vs. Arnold Schwartzennegar – “nope – never used steroids”. One has his medals stripped away, the other is a Governor. Who makes the rules? Who chooses to submit to those rules? I’d say that Jesus clearly broke ‘the rules’ and got away with it. The rules created and executed by the Pharisee’s and the Sadducees and many others. He followed the rules set by the Roman government. My personal struggle: Who’s rules do I follow? Why? Is it with blind abandoned? Do the rules change with circumstance? We may very well be asked by our government at some point to ‘take the mark’. At that point, I’ll be forced to break the ‘rules’ to follow my faith.

    We are all going to be held accountable for our words and our deeds. Personally, I do my best to run the race well.

    • Jon August 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

      Remember that competitors willingly agree to play by the rules of the game that they are competing in. Jesus wasn’t competing (never agreed to or willingly participated) in the pseudo religious “games” the Pharisees were attempting to force onto God’s people.

      He was however participating in the civil government that God not only expected mankind to live under, but created and appointed. Jesus didn’t merely keep the “spirit of the law” because he was in tune with the “giver of the law”, he never actually broke the Law; justice and mercy, healing and compassion are not actually “work”.

      Even the Pharisees’ interpretive rules acknowledged this when they allowed for the rescuing of animals and transporting food and the sick on the Sabbath. This is why Jesus said, ” I did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it.”

      Should our government begin to punish us for following Christ, it would be safe to assume, like Peter and John, that fearing the Lord is more righteous than fearing men. We like Christ and Paul, always follow man’s rule (even when they make no sense or we disagree) UNTIL they come into contradiction with the rule of God.

      Regardless of whether the Olympic committee has the resources to punish every rules violation, every athlete agrees to participate according to the rules. Part of Olympic enforcement is the code of honor that every athlete takes on when they join their olympic team. Self-Enforcement is the first enforcement, punitive measure is the last.

      Living as if it’s someone else’s job to make us do the right thing reveals the shameful and self-centered nature that chain us to depravity. There’s no room for self-centeredness when you’re representing your nation.

      Like you so aptly point out, this issue is all about “who’s standard we are living up to.”

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