Today I decided to take a look at the dictionary meaning of the word 'cheat' on a dictionary website. Do believe me that it was not because my normally dormant conscience suddenly woke up to spur me into action to figure out if I am a 'cheater' or not. That kind of thing supposedly happened to Lance Armstrong a few years back in a fit of 'immoral' turpitude. I am one of the rare breed that hasn't read any of Armstrong's books, am quite unaware of his life story and the only significance of Tour de France for me was a scene where I went visiting the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. That was before Ten Sports started showing it LIVE on TV. The LIVE coverage changed my attitude to the Tour as much as the reading of the meaning of 'cheat' changed Armstrong's view on doping.
All I am trying to say is that I have absolutely no views on Lance Armstrong but I decided to look up on the definition of the word 'cheat' to figure out if what he read in his dictionary is the same across all dictionaries and whether all of us can use that dictionary when accused of cheating. And bang on the 2nd line came this
to deceive; influence by fraud: He cheated us into believing him a hero.
There can be a few possibilities why Lance didn't read this because doped he may have been but he still was a pretty smart guy to figure out that he fitted the description perfectly.
- He went to some other dictionary website which isn't obviously as thorough as the one I went to.
- The dictionary website put up this explanation on their site AFTER Lance's interview with Oprah
- He might have misspelled the word 'cheat' like 'chit' or 'sheet'. Readers may say that I just said that Lance was a smart chap and that he would surely know the spelling of the word 'cheat'. But he wouldn't know that he was indeed cheating if he looked at the incorrect spelling of 'cheat' would he?
What Lance said was that he wasn't doing anything that ever made him think that he wasn't competing on a level playing field. In short it meant that everyone was doping and he had to do it as well to compete. This reminded me of the open book exams that happened at my business school. Students were allowed to get whichever book they wanted and answer the question. That meant that those old world 'chits' (and that is the correct spelling) and the high tech tiny earphones were rendered rather useless. One had to be clear conceptually for answering a question. All that Lance is saying that the world of competitive cycling was like an Open Book Quiz. The Book was the Dope. And everyone was allowed to use the book. He went one up on the others. He got the Question Paper itself.
The one problem that the rather small population of the world which has no idea about the inside world of professional cycling was that they thought that it was a normal closed book exam and not a open book one.
I can't pass any judgement on Lance Armstrong as I never invested myself emotionally in his life journey and I frankly don't feel betrayed nor shattered. As a cynical view it's just about where do the sports persons draw the line? Did those Speedo swim suits that gave their wearers a tiny advantage over their rivals constitute cheating? Does anybody who uses any sort of advanced equipment in a sport as compared to what others use cheating? Can one argue that taking pain killers to get fit for a match is unethical as you are artificially repairing your body? The 'level' in a level playing field itself continues to be changed rather raised in most sport. What is unacceptable today is the norm tomorrow.
It is the society's view of 'acceptable' behaviour that keeps on changing. Laws are being passed in the more advanced nations to legalise possession of cannabis if carried in small quantities. Betting is legal in many countries and we hear a lot of Pundits arguing for cricket betting to be legalised in India to eradicate match fixing. There are some absolute limits that can't be crossed which Armstrong did. The moral outrage is also partly because of the manner in which he pretended his innocence and how he let down all who believed in him.
One question to ponder upon is that will those absolute limits stand the test of time in the futuristic world of gene therapies and 'made to order' children?
P.S - This all wouldn't have happened if the BCCI had accepted to use the DRS for all its matches.