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Cheating and the Olympics

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China showcased athletes from all over the world at their best. As always, spectacular performances occurred in a variety of sports. As I discussed in last month’s article, we had the opportunity to watch Michael Phelps put on one of the greatest performances not only in Olympic history, but in modern sports. Athletes in gymnastics, track and field, volleyball, and numerous other sports demonstrated how hard work, dedication and sacrifice to reach your goals can lead to personal best performances and the possibility of an Olympic medal. However, one issue still prevails in the Olympics. That is the issue of cheating. Several athletes were disqualified for using performance enhancing drugs. No matter what testing procedures may exist, it seems that someone is always attempting to beat the system.

However, the most highly publicized story of cheating at the Summer Olympics centered around the Chinese women’s gymnastics team. Once the Chinese women had won the team gold medal, the question was asked by many about the legitimate ages of these young women. Several of these outstanding young women did not appear to be at least 16 years of age, the minimum age requirement to perform in Olympic gymnastic competition. A couple of these girls looked as if they still had their baby teeth.

Did these girls give a gold medal performance? Yes, they did. If age was not an issue, should they be allowed to keep their gold medals? I believe they should. However, the minimum age requirement was 16, not 14 or 13. Information received from competitions from last year showed that several of these girls were 13 or 14 last year. How could they possibly have aged up two years in one year? Because the Chinese sports leaders were obsessed with nothing less than winning more gold medals than any other country, no matter what it took. After this information was revealed, the Chinese stated that last year’s ages were incorrect and that the girls were of age. Did we really think they would admit their athletes were not old enough and that they would forfeit their medals? Of course not.

The International Olympic Committee announced they would investigate these accusations. It is now October and we have not heard the results yet. Will we ever have a clear and honest answer? I doubt that the Chinese will admit they were cheating. Just like the Eastern German and Russian sports programs in the 1970’s and 1980’s, nothing is more important to them than winning. Consequently, if they have to cheat to get their medal, they will cheat if they don’t have the confidence to do it honestly. In my opinion, this is a sad example of what the Olympics are all about.

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