Monday, 15 October 2012

Who’s Cheating Who?

The big news this week has been focused on drug abuse within the cycling world, in particular around Lance Armstrong. With this news another star of sport, looked up to by countless people across the world, appears to have been a tyrant all along. Unfortunately, in sport, as in life, there are a number of cheats, there always has been and, no doubt, there always will be. But that doesn’t mean that good honest people need to throw in the towel and start cheating too. You can beat the cheats, whilst maintaining your own integrity.

When I was a kid I was always told that if you cheated you were only cheating yourself, but that’s not true, you’re cheating many people; out of a chance of a place at University, a job, a place in the National squad, a title of note or countless other things. In sport many people have given up, believing they cannot match other athletes who have been cheating all along.

Eventually many of these cheats get caught but it then throws the sport into disarray. Look at the Tour de France as an example. Recent years have seen the Tour being won by riders later proven to have cheated, the title is then passed down to the next guy. In the case of Lance, they have stripped him of his titles but because drug taking seems to have been pretty prevalent during that period it looks like no other rider will be named as the winner, making it a bit of a non event. It’s possible it might switch some people off watching the Tour de France, which is a real shame because it’s a great spectacle, even if it has a tainted history.

As an athlete, having competed at a reasonably high level, I’ve mixed with a lot of International athletes and some of the tales I’ve heard, over the years, have been quite sickening. Athletes that take drugs appear to be known as such, within the elite community, so why aren’t more of them caught. Perhaps the inducements and threats surrounding this practice stop people from speaking out, officially. But we should speak out, if we know people are cheating, remember they cheat us all, including the spectators.

I was a big fan of Ben Johnson and was really pleased when he won the Seoul Olympic 100m, only to have my happiness destroyed by the revelation that he had cheated his way to gold. It’s the same with Lance Armstong, I recently finished reading a book about him, being really impressed with how he achieved his goals, but now I find that it’s all a pack of lies. That’s one book destined for the bin.

But it’s not just drug cheats there are people who openly cut corners in races or deliberately cut across other runners to disturb their stride. Many footballers pretend to be fouled in order to win a penalty or free kick, they’re clearly cheating and often caught on video but not enough is done to make them stop and make football a more honest game. We should all be on the look out for cheats in our own sport and be prepared to speak out against them for the greater good. The good news is, that with more advanced testing and better video analysis, it’s becoming easier to catch the cheats.

On a more positive note this weekend saw Clumber Park hosting the English National Road Relays. Salford had two ladies teams and one mens team competing. All ran well, the ladies ‘A’ placing 9th and ‘B’ placing 34th and the men finishing in 14th position. We did well to get a solid men’s team out and that gives us something to build on, one more man short and I think I was next man in the team, which would have given us an altogether less favourable result.

Having missed the cut for the National Road Relays, I lined up, with a surprisingly large contingent of other Salford Harriers, at Heaton Park. This was the first of the S.E. Lancs cross country league fixtures. A reasonably tough 10k course was ahead of us. Having competed in very few cross country races, over the last three years, I was not at all confident of a good result and because I didn’t know the standard of the league I took a guess that I would find myself in the 20s or 30s, position wise. So I was a bit shocked to find myself with the leading group from the off and even more surprised to find myself, through no fault of my own, leading the race after only half a mile. It didn’t last long, someone made a push and I drifted off the back. I had a good little battle with some runners who were almost young enough to be my grandkids and finished in 9th position, helping the men to 1st in the overall league and 1st in the OAP league. Having analysed my race I’m a bit disappointed with my own run, I feel it was a bit lacklustre. Having said that I must have been trying as my legs still ache and I found today’s quality session particularly hard work. I’m expecting my next race to be a tougher field. I’ll admit I do find cross country races hard, but I love doing them for that sheer challenge and also the camaraderie is fantastic, not just amongst your club mates but also the friendly rivalry with other clubs. Once again, despite many supporters following the team at the Nationals, the Salford support was great and it really does help, even if it didn’t look like it was helping me on Saturday.     

Other news from this weekend; I’ve recently taken on another client who is taking training schedules for the London Marathon. She has found the training hard but enjoyable, well that’s what she tells me. Yesterday she ran her first sub 2 hour half marathon, so that’s a good start, and I’m expecting more improvements between now and the marathon.

Written by Roger Alsop


  1. That's awesome - your client running their first sub 2-hour marathon! Isn't that some kinda record? ;)

    1. Well done Cath, spotting the deliberate mistake I put in to see if my readers were actually making it to the end of the blog without falling asleep. You'll note I've amended the blog to state half marathon, but I'm still pretty pleased with that sub 2 hour half.