Is cheating ruining sport?

Sunday 20 October, 12.15pm until 1.15pm, Frobisher 1-3 Contemporary Controversies

Accusations of cheating are rife in modern sport. In cycling, Lance Armstrong has been hauled off his pedestal and traduced for blood doping and taking supplements. In football, Luis Suarez is vilified for biting, diving and generally trying anything to gain advantage. Even the gentlemanly sport of Rugby Union has had its bloodgate scandal. In cricket, this year’s Indian Premier League was plagued by spot-fixing allegations, while English players were accused of ball tampering in the Champions’ Trophy.

Is cheating really rife in contemporary sport? And was there a golden age of playing the game? Or, have sportsmen and women always cheated to gain an advantage? Does professionalism make things worse? Or is there a moral vacuum in society more generally, into which many sportsmen fall, leading to cheating? How much does it matter anyway?

Duleep Allirajah
sports columnist, spiked; Crystal Palace fan

Dr Emily Ryall
senior lecturer in philosophy, University of Gloucestershire; chair, British Philosophy of Sport Association

Tom Watt
writer, actor and broadcaster

Professor Sir Simon Wessely
president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; head of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London

Geoff Kidder
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters

Produced by
Geoff Kidder director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
Recommended readings
Is that good cheating or bad cheating?

British football fans have long had a schizophrenic attitude to gamesmanship.

DULEEP ALLIRAJAH, spiked, 20 September 2013


A professor of ethics says we should chill out about performance-enhancing drugs.

Tim Black, spiked, 22 July 2013

More than life or death – cheating is cheating

So what can be done about it, to stop football and sport dying a death of a million cuts? I’ve read many ideas, listened to different paths, though ultimately it is the respect of rules and fellow competitors that is central to any progress.

Alan Moore, Back Page Football, 11 February 2013

Cheating in Sport

Thought I would start the year with a nice gentle blog, just to ease back into it, so hence am taking on the subject of cheating... oh yes! Should be plain sailing.

Will Carling, Huffington Post, 10 January 2013

Would lifting the ban on drugs enhance sport?

When the world’s fastest runners take their marks for the 100 metre Olympic final this weekend, how many will owe their place to performance enhancing drugs?

Michael Regnier, Wellcome Trust, 31 July 2012

The Case For Performance-Enhancing Drugs In Sports

The most obvious solution has always been to legalize those drugs that work, and to experimentally monitor new entrants, including dietary supplements, for both efficacy and safety. Biological improvement would be treated much as athletic equipment like baseball bats and running shoes.

Matthew Herper, Forbes, 21 May 2011

We're winning the fight against doping in sports

The use of performance-enhancing substances or methods is prohibited because it is unfair, potentially dangerous to health, and violates the spirit of sport. The issue matters to society because whatever our values are, we should live by them in every facet of our lives.

Caroline K. Hatton, Christian Science Monitor, 24 November 2010

Why we should allow performance enhancing drugs in sport

The legalisation of drugs in sport may be fairer and safer

J Savulescu, B Foddy and M Clayton, British Journal of Sports Medicine 38:666-670, 2004

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