Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can

The world of sports has been a competitive one since it all began during the times of the Greeks and Romans approximately 776 B.C., but of course winning in those times didn't include a pay raise and a commercial deal! The more current sporting world has become a cut throat industry where athletes from a young age are aspiring to be a famous sports star and all the luxuries that come along with it. Though it is because of how much money is now involved in sports on a global scale that sportsmanship and passion for the game has been drowned out by signing bonuses and endorsement deals. Competition for these types of financial rewards is quite fierce and athletes are willing to go to extreme lengths to reap the benefits of being the best at their sport. The rise in athletes cheating is due to the overwhelming financial aspect present in today's sporting world. This is observable first within the increase of athletes desire to cheat and second on how the owners and coaches conduct their teams performance to reach a certain outcome and lastly the effect that gambling has had on sports.

Athletes are willing to put everything on the line to ensure they will have a better chance of making it to the professional level of their sport by taking performance enhancing drugs due to the financial reward. The improvement of play, leads into a motivational aspect to get larger salaries, greater signing bonuses, sponsors and endorsements. It is not only because the athlete has a desire to compete, but to compete at the highest level of play possible as the financial rewards are often higher with good performance. It does not matter if an athlete is in the PGA or the NCAA; there is always a desire to cheat due to the financial rewards that accompany it. It is because of this some sports are more prone to cheating athletes compared to others. The Ultimate Fighting Championship or more commonly known as the “UFC” has had its share of substance abuse, with the most recent case being of Stephan Bonnar. Bonnar, who was the runner up of the reality television show “The Ultimate Fighter”; was set to take on his long time rival Forrest Griffin. After the fight in which Stephan Bonnar would lose unanimously by the judge's scorecard, his urine tested positive for Boldenone Metabolite. Boldenone Metabolite is an anabolic steroid that was developed for the sole usage by veterinarians for horses (Pao, 2004). Once the results were confirmed, Stephan Bonnar was suspended for 9 months and was fined $5,000 (Trembow, 2006)which can be quite a large sum of money to an up and coming fighter. The UFC has done drug tests after every fight on all competitors and this event was no different. Once suspended Bonnar was quoted by saying:

“My right elbow had been bad for a while, and I hurt it bad getting ready for Rashad [Evans on June 28]. Right after that fight, I thought I'd have some time off to do some therapy, rehab and heal. And five days later, I get a call to fight Forrest in a month and a half. I was worried. I was looking for something to speed up the healing. I just was worried I was not going to be able to fight, and they needed me. This wasn't an undercard fight; it was the main event. Pulling out was not an option” (Stupp, 2007).

However, contrary to his statement Bonnar could have dropped out as it is done frequently by fighters as they are very injury prone due to their sport and their training. Bonnar would fail to mention the amount of money that was on the line for that fight which ended up being $32,000 for the victorious Griffin and Bonnar the loser received $16,000 (Comission, 2006). The entire fight was 15 minutes long; Bonnar would earn just over $1,000 per minute of that fight, which is hard to pass up when most fighters only have a few fights per year to improve their rankings in the hope of making top dollar in their sport. Top UFC fighters can make up to $600,000 sin one fight, which is strong motivation to compete and have the chance to move up in the rankings. The power of money and a sense of greed were shown in this instance, and this is just one of many examples in which athletes are willing to cheat in this case by form of anabolic steroids. The rising issue of the usage of performance enhancing drugs has also had a large effect on young athletes and their perception on the usage of it. Steroid expert and past Olympic doping investigator Dr. Bernard Griesemer released a statement that consisted of many disturbing statistics, “Somewhere between 5 percent and 11 percent of high school athletes have admitted to using anabolic steroids, along with about 1 percent of junior high athletes” and when asked why teens are doing this, Griesemer replied with “because their heroes are doing it, and because youth sports have become a highly competitive industry” (Griesemer, 2008). The “industry” he says is competitive, it's interesting to note how he worded his statement, when most people think about an industry, little league soccer and baseball don't come into mind, but rather oil industry or even the food industry. It is all the money involved in all levels of the “industry” that has made it hard for even teenagers to ignore the potential if you can be a great athlete the rewards are endless. Coaches and owners of the sporting world regularly take a seat in the cheating scandals, as a high performing athlete or team usually leads to bigger crowds and bigger revenues all of which is often too hard to resist to a white collar owner.

The owners of various sports teams are involved in the sporting world with their primary focus being on the business aspect of the team and team performance is a close second. The New England Patriots football team which has been known as a dynasty in recent years is valued at approximately $1.4 billion just behind the Dallas Cowboys of $1.6 billion (Forbes, 2009). The two teams in this case have a few things in common that attribute to their overall value; large and very loyal fan base, above average success per season and lastly more star players. It's quite an enjoyable lifestyle to an owner if you happened to find yourself with a winning team and continuous financial support. Though in order to keep this profit going or if your team has not been able to find financial stability unethical behavior has been known to occour. Having a superstar on your team helps create profit as it attracts more fans which sells tickets, which then sells the popcorn and hot dogs at the stadium and an entire domino effect has now been created due to one player. The NHL is a great example of how even a single player can affect an entire organization's profit margin. During the 2003/2004 season the Pittsburg Penguins had an average attendance of 11,877 per game but fast forward two years later due to the lockout season and an average of 15,804 people were in attendance per game (Stepneski, 2008). The team didn't relocate, nor did they get millions of dollars worth of stadium renovations done; all they needed was Sidney Crosby. Sidney Crosby was the answer to the increase of almost 4,000 people per game; he was in all the media due to his astounding statistics and dazzling deke's that carried him all through junior hockey and now he was Pittsburg Penguin property. This has been an ongoing pattern seen to be true with notable first round draft picks such as Lebron James (NBA) or Peyton Manning (NFL) all of whom seem to have a large effect on their financially struggling organization. It is because of this realization by many teams of how noticeable attendance and overall fan base increases by having top draft picks or superstars that has led into controversy. Rob Bryden the owner of the Ottawa Senators during the 1993 season, was accused of “tanking” which is losing purposely in order to secure the first overall draft pick next season as the lowest ranking team gets the first pick overall the following year (Campbell, 2009). Former players of the team during that time would later admit to accepting bribes in order to perform poorly, all in the name of making a few extra dollars on the side. Though all allegations were of course denied by Bryden and the senators at the time, many years later he would admit the accusations were in fact true. The power of having a possible franchise player on your team is a very tempting goal in order to hopefully secure financial stability. The accusations could not be investigated as there was no evidence to support the claims; however, to avoid any further tampering or cheating the lottery system was introduced the following year in order to deter future owners from doing the same thing. This system has been implemented in professional leagues other than the NFL such as the NBA which was the first league to use the system. The lottery system is a completely random system similar to the present lottery system; however, teams with lower rankings get more chances to be chosen with the increased amount of draw balls in the lottery. In this way there is a greater likelihood to be chosen if you are last, though now with this system implemented it is not a guarantee. Owners have such a large presence in the athlete's life and athletes succumb to cheating by accepting bribery or under the table gifts so the owner can reach his or her goal. Most recently in the large business of sports, gambling and sports betting has become the new wave of cheating in order to achieve personal financial gain.

Betting and gambling goes hand in hand with sports and there has been no shortage of cheating scandals with athletes when it comes to gambling rings and match fixing. Many athletes who are looking for financial support give in to “under-the-table cash” to throw a match. This is often for a large financial gain for the bribe givers and the player themselves. Referees and coaches have been known to be a part of this rising issue, though it is commonly poorly paid athletes that give in to the persuasion more repeatedly. Athletes have both good and bad game streaks which is why it is hard for post secondary schools and governing bodies of major sports to recognize discrepancies. As one student who was involved in a sport gambling ring in which he was an athlete himself stated “"I just didn't play up to my full abilities. I just tried not to do too many things that would stick out. If you went back and looked at the games and didn't know anything, it wouldn't be obvious” (Saum, 1999). Cricket has been a popular sport in which many athletes have accepted bribes in order to perform poorly, the lack of sponsorship from companies and minimal salaries is a large factor. In cricket there have been 3 life time bans imposed on players all of which were due to involvement of match fixing. The National Gaming Impact Study Commission states that illegal gambling on sports is upwards of $200 billion that was wagered on sports and the FBI has reported that illegal sports gambling industry is a $100 billion industry (Putsavage, 1999). Though involved in one of the first publicized cricket scandals were with South Africa's cricket captain Hansie Cronje. It was discovered that Hansie had received over $100,000 in bribe money over the course of several years (BBC, 2001). A lifetime ban was then issued to him even with the appeal; it was dismissed immediately without hesitation by the committee. The power of money has been able to throw off many vulnerable athletes who have a very slim chance of making it to the high rankings and are willing to even get physically injured in order to get a payout. Ex-heavyweight boxer Thomas Williams accepted bribes during his matches in the early 2000s. During that time it was revealed that Thomas Williams was in his words “broke and desperate” and was paid $40,000 to get knocked out in the 3rd round of fight he probably could have won (Press, 2005). Another amount of money of $15,000 was once again offered to Williams who accepted and would lose the next fight (Press, 2005). The article writer reported:

Thomas Williams told a federal judge he was broke before that August 2000 fight and took it to make money. Williams, though, stopped short of admitting he threw the fight, and his lawyers said they will appeal. "If I could go back to when I took this fight, I never would have accepted it," Williams said. "I would have stayed broke (Press, 2005).

With the rising issue of money being gambled in sports, athletes are becoming the definite way to predict the outcome. Once again the usage of money has been shown to be a great motivating factor when athletes decide to go against the ethics of sports all in the name of personal gain.

The influence that money now has on sports is an overwhelming phenomenon that has overtaken the actual competition of sport and has now made it into just another business. It is because of the large amounts of money to be gained that athletes now more than ever in sporting history have given into cheating for financial gain. With athletes and owners alike caring about how to make the most money as their ultimate goal, sports as a whole has surely suffered. In addition, gambling in sports has now been on the rise due to the potentially large amounts of money that has been offered to athletes to play to a certain outcome. Cheating in sports is likely never to stop as there are too many people that have their livelihood relying on their sport for financial income. Though there are many athletes who have chosen to stay away from cheating in their respective sports as not only are they cheating the fans, they are in fact cheating themselves. Sophocles said it best “I would prefer even to fail with honour than win by cheating”. We can only hope that present and future athletes equally share this vantage point.

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