4:28:15 AM

Do we admire integrity or the medal?

Did you hear about the South African swimmer, Cameron van der Burgh, who took the gold medal in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke event, breaking a record in the process? What makes his story even more interesting… he admitted to cheating in order to secure his position at the top of the podium.

Cameron took extra dolphin kicks underwater in order to propel him ahead. Swimmers are only legally allowed to take one dolphin kick at the start and one more at the turn. But with no underwater cameras that the judges are looking at some take extra kicks underwater in the hopes the above-water judges don’t see. If the act is caught a swimmer is automatically disqualified. In Cameron’s case he took two extra kicks, which went undetected (until he admitted it) and secured him the gold medal. (Why he couldn’t be stripped of his medal is beyond me but that’s the case.)

In an interview, Cameron admitted to taking the extra kicks to give him an edge. His justification… a lot of swimmers do it. His exact wording, according to the Sydney Morning Herald... “If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind. It’s not obviously – shall we say – the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.”

Does he realize the way this sounds? Seriously? Isn’t he just a little embarrassed – for himself or his country?

He cheated. He cheated because others cheat; because a lot of others cheat? And if everyone jumped off a cliff… That is the most ridiculous logic and justification I’ve heard.

Oh, but it gets better. He knows it is not the right thing to do; the moral thing as he says. But when it came down to the choice of being a man of integrity or a man with a gold medal, he went for gold and left his conscience on the starting block next to his towel. What a shame.

People of all ages look up to Olympic athletes. They admire their determination to be the best; the fortitude that had them practicing day after day, hour after hour; the spirit of sacrifice for a goal. People around the world cut out pictures of Olympic athletes and tape them to their bedroom walls or the insides of their lockers.

And yes, part of the love and hero-worship comes from the medals the athlete wins. And the sports arena is not always filled with upstanding men and women. But no one wants to admire a person who cheats to get what they want. No one wants to truly emulate a person who admits to being immoral and finds nothing wrong with that admitted fact.


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