Cheating in sports

I grew up hearing the phrase "Cheaters never win and winners never cheat." Sadly, I'm not sure that applies to the lucrative world of big-time athletics anymore.

Three of the biggest stories in the sports world this week involve alleged cheaters who appear to have benefited significantly from the unfair advantages they gained – Barry Bonds, the Southern Cal basketball program and the New England Patriots. There seems to be compelling evidence against each of them, so I have to keep telling myself "Innocent till proven guilty."

Bonds, allegedly juiced up on steroids, broke Major League Baseball's single-season and career home run records. He's now facing 14 charges of perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury investigating steroid use. Of course, he's still a multi-millionaire and baseball's all-time home run king.

Southern Cal supposedly looked the other way while freshman superstar O.J. Mayo allegedly received some $30,000 in "extra benefits" during his brief career with the Trojans. Whether or not he padded his bank account, Mayo certainly padded his NBA resume' while at USC. He led the 2007-08 Trojans in points (20.7 per game), steals (51), 3-pointers (88) and assists (109). A first-team All-Pac 10 selection as a freshman, he guided Southern Cal to a 21-12 record and an NCAA Tournament berth. If the allegations are true, that would constitute a pretty good return on a $30,000 investment.

The Patriots, of course, are the focus of the ongoing "Spygate" scandal. The team apparently gained an unfair advantage by illegally videotaping some opponents. How much that contributed to three Super Bowl titles in the past seven years is unclear but their penance is not. In addition to costing head coach Bill Belichick a $500,000 fine, the ruse cost the team a $250,000 fine and a first-round pick in the recent NFL Draft. Still, many observers think the punishment wasn't severe enough. Thus, there may be a Congressional investigation launched to uncover the full extent of the team's misdeeds.

Some people try to equate Spygate with a baseball player stealing signals from the opposing third-base coach. There's a huge difference, of course. The baseball player uses the eyes he was born with – nothing more – to try and steal signals. Conversely, the Patriots used high-tech video equipment in their subterfuge.

If the allegations are true, Bonds and USC also used outside agents to gain a competitive advantage. Bonds' outside agent would be performance-enhancing drugs, of course, while USC's outside agent would be illegal benefits to a star player.

Like most sports fans, I am inspired by stories about athletes who battle back from career-threatening injuries and teams that beat long odds to become champions. And, like most sports fans, I am sickened by stories about those who benefit from blatantly circumventing the rules in a hell-bent quest for victory.

I'd like to believe there's some truth to that adage I grew up with – "Cheaters never win and winners never cheat."

Of course, I'd like to believe that gasoline will go back to a dollar a gallon, too.

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