Lots of cheaters in sports

Integrity.

It’s a word and a character trait far too missing in today’s society.

Yet, it was in full supply last Monday.

That’s when members of the Major League Baseball Writers of America cast their votes to see who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

Among those eligible were Barry Bonds, baseball’s all-time home run king and the only seven-time Most Valuable Player; Roger Clemens, the only pitcher in history to win the Cy Young Award seven times; and popular sluggers Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs and Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals, who join Bonds at the top of the single-season home run list.

Under normal circumstances, all four would have made it on the first ballot. But the circumstances surrounding their careers weren’t normal. All were tainted with allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs.

When the voting was revealed, none of the above was selected for induction to Cooperstown. Not one of the quartet came close.

The voting baseball writers showed integrity. They did the right thing and did it for the right reason.

No one likes a cheater.

Yet, there is a culture of cheating surrounding today’s sports world.

Say you are an elite athlete who has the opportunity to make a great living with your God-given ability. But you find yourself falling behind all those who are skirting the rules to gain an advantage. You have two choices? Maintain your integrity and fall further behind or give in and join the ranks of those who are breaking the rules.

There used to be a saying that goes it is not whether you win or lose, but it is how you play the game.

Tell that to fans who are donating big bucks to support their favorite college program. The Just Win, Baby mentality has taken over.

Sports is supposed to be a pure form of competition. Yet, even on the world’s biggest stage, the Olympic Games, there are those who break the rules.

It happens at every level. High schools openly recruiting. Illegal payoffs and incentives in college sports. Rampant use of performance enhancing drugs.

It’s hard to believe in anyone these days. I know. I found out the hard way. There was no athlete I admired more than Lance Armstrong. His story was so inspirational. His accomplishments unprecedented. He was a source of national pride. Now, he has been exposed. He’s been stripped of his Tour de France titles. Supposedly, he is going on Oprah to do a mea culpa.

There’s no way any sports organization -from the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to the National Football League -can monitor every action by every individual. Athletes and coaches are supposed to police themselves. But the price of victory today often means sacrificing one’s principles and integrity to win that championship or get that contract.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com