Marcus Berkmann: Bring on the cheats. They're the best thing in sport

Share
Related Topics

It's been another enthralling week for sports fans, and a real treat for those of us who find the cheating in sport almost more entertaining than the sport itself.

In rugby, the former Harlequins coach Dean Richards – previously found guilty of being called Dean, never a good career move in rugby circles – was banned from coaching for three years for faking his own players' injuries, and he was pictured in all newspapers looking shifty and overfed. At Lord's, it was reported that one of the Australian team had been approached by a man "suspected of links to illegal bookmaking" (presumably carrying a brown paper bag full of readies). And at the World Athletic Championships in Berlin, we marvelled at South Africa's Caster Semenya, teenage winner of the women's 800 metres and about as feminine-looking as Geoff Capes. The authorities are now compelling her to undergo rigorous sex testing, asking her trick questions about Barbie dolls and boy bands.

The femininity or otherwise of leading female athletes has long been a source of controversy, of course. Only last week, women runners were complaining that they will never be able to break world records set in the 1980s by steroid-enhanced athletes who could grow full beards and were often mistaken on the telephone for Tom Waits or James Earl Jones. Flo-Jo may have grown her nails to aerodynamically useful lengths, but we weren't fooled. There was one woman runner from eastern Europe who looked the spit of our own Steve Ovett, except more butch.

Flo-Jo died of a heart attack in mysterious circumstances at just 38, echoing the early demise of a number of successful cyclists who spent years denying they have taken drugs and then spontaneously exploded. I think most of us assume that if you took a blood sample from a bunch of competitive cyclists, a number would be so full of other stuff it would be a miracle if it was still red.

All this has been going on for ever. In the very first England vs Australia Test, W G Grace cheated so blatantly – running out a batsman who had stepped out of his crease to pat down a divot – that he inspired the Australians to an unlikely victory. The Tour de France may never have been clean. If it had been, it's been argued, the cyclists simply wouldn't be able to complete the race. In Formula 1, the public perception is that if one team becomes too successful, they change the rules. Is that cheating, or good business? What's the difference, anyway?

In rugby union, a game that has been in love with its own image for generations, cheating customarily takes the form of brutal physical violence that you hope no one will notice. Behaviour that outside the stadium would get you a custodial sentence is dismissed with an airy wave: that's the way the game is played.

But taking the biscuit must surely be football. Take Maradona's "Hand of God": in what other sport would that have been tolerated? Only in football is there the concept of the "professional foul". My favourite cheat is the way a player kicks the ball out of play and immediately raises his hand to claim the throw-in, corner kick or whatever. This is cheating so stupid it beggars belief. It is said that Americans have never taken football to heart because they can't bear all the cheating. Football haters like me think, "Right on." Football fans think, "What cheating?" It's so embedded in the game they don't see it any more.

But if one of their players were hauled off for gender testing, suspected of being insufficiently masculine, the fans might just spot that.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Independent has always been clear on its position when it comes to Israel and Palestine  

When both Palestinians and Israelis think we are biased, we must be doing something right

Will Gore
Leon Brittan has been accused of being given a dossier on paedophile activity in the 1980s when he was Home Secretary  

The press is using ‘paedomania’ to wrongfoot politicians post phone-hacking

Ian Burrell
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?