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11:28 AM Mon, Oct. 22nd

It's a contest to find the better athlete, not who wins

A co-worker of mine commented earlier this week that there seems to be some sort of scandal going on in just about every major sport. There are a number of doping allegations in the Tour de France, a betting scandal in basketball, dog fighting in football and the continuing saga of doping in baseball.

"Well, you can always watch hockey," I said. But now that I think about it, I think that sport also had a scandal in the past year or so.

Oh well, I'm not much of a sports fan anyway.

What I am a fan of is fair play. And using steroids, drugs, hormones, blood transfusions and other methods to get a leg up on the competition is flat out cheating.

There are some people out there that see nothing wrong with athletes using drugs, blood transfusions or supplements. They say it's no different than lifting weights or cross training to improve your stamina and muscle mass. Drugs and the other methods are nothing more than a different type of training tool. Make 'em legal so everyone can use them and then no one has an unfair advantage because everyone will have access to the same tools, they say.

It's still cheating to me. Using drugs and other items to improve your performance in sports is not the same as weight lifting or cross training. Weight lifting and cross training require work, time and effort. Drugs and supplements don't require any work. It's a quick fix.

The whole point of sports is to pit one team or individual against another. It's a contest to see who is the better athlete, not who can win.

My hometown team, the Cleveland Browns, loses nearly every game they play, usually spectacularly. But they probably have one of the biggest fan bases in football. Why? Because they play their hearts out every time. The fans see that they're trying.

Now there's a possibility that some of the players on the Browns might be doping. I have no idea. But I seriously doubt it. If they are, they're taking the wrong stuff.

As the saying goes, "It's not winning that counts. It's how you play the game."

And how you play the game affects not only the fans but also the next generation of athletes. The kids who are playing Little League, soccer, running track and practicing pee-wee football - these kids look up to these sports stars as idols.

What lessons are these athletes teaching our children when they use drugs or other methods to cheat in sports?

They're teaching them three things. First, that it's okay to cheat. Second, why work hard to accomplish something when everyone is cheating. Third, a lack of self-esteem about one's skills as an athlete make you take drugs or cheat.

The athletes who take these drugs or use other methods to cheat can't have a very high opinion of themselves or their skills, otherwise, they wouldn't need to cheat.

I ran cross country in high school and rowed crew in college. I wasn't very good in either sport, but I did my best. I won my fair share of team medals. But I did it without cheating, and it took many hours of practice and training.

That's what sports is about - it's about hard work. It's about teaching kids that if you practice hard, play hard and play fair, you might not win, but you'll know that you did the best that you could ... and that's all that matters.