Faster, Higher, Stronger…Cheater?

All over the world this morning, young athletes are shaking themselves awake and taking to the track, the pool and the gym to complete yet another round of the punishing training regime that may make them faster, higher, stronger, and take them to Tokyo in 2020

Many of them will not make it there. Whether they fall short of qualifying standards, are cut down by injury or simply grow disillusioned with their pursuit of the near-impossible, fewer and fewer of them will continue to make their daily sacrifice in the lead-up to these next Olympics. But that doesn’t deter them for now. This morning, they continue to be inspired by the modern movement with ancient roots that invites athletes everywhere to work tirelessly to be faster, higher and stronger, so that one day they may go to the track, the pool or the gym in Tokyo, and become Olympians.

On Your Marks

They are inspired too by the notion that all are equal at the starting line, that they are each promised a fair shot at the glory of the Olympic podium.

A level playing field is all that most of these athletes ask of the movement that inspires them.

A fair shot at glory. Is that too much to ask? And yet so many reports from this latest Olympics have highlighted unfairness at almost every level of the Games. Whilst there has been the usual inspiring athletic displays, both by those who made the medal positions, and those who did so much more than simply make up the numbers, the actions that seemed to speak the loudest were the unfair ones, the actions of the small number of cheaters who chose foul means rather than fair to justify their ends.

First Or Last Amongst Equals

Tomorrow morning, perhaps there will be fewer athletes shaking themselves awake as alarm bells ring to suggest that not all are equal at the starting line. If the competition is unfair, then why compete at all? It’s not unreasonable to suggest that the reports of cheating coming from these latest Games, whether by athletes, by referees, by administrators, will leave many of those working towards Tokyo disillusioned, and many less inclined to the fair pursuit of their Olympic ideals.

And yet, despite these alarm bells ringing at the reports of doping, rigging and touting, the International Olympic Committee, and many of the national organisations charged with governance, seem to have no regard for fair competition and transparency. Instead they insist that those cheated of a fair chance are poor losers and bad sports. They forget that their loyalty needs to be to the honest athlete, the one who uses fair means only in pursuit of faster, higher and stronger.

It seems, those charged with ensuring a level playing field have taken these ideals as an exhortation to pursue their own ends, to becoming faster, higher and stronger in attracting commercial and other vested interests to the Games. They forget that the Olympics is for the athletes first, and for the rest of us only afterwards. Based on what we have seen and heard throughout these latest Games, they can no longer be trusted to put the athlete first.

A Final Lap Of Honour

If they are to restore faith in the Olympics, the IOC must establish an entirely independent governing body, that places the individual athlete, rather than the countries those athletes represent or the commercial and political bodies that fund the Games, back at the heart of what they do, and commit to providing a fair competition that inspires athletes from across the world to sportsmanship in the fairest sense of the word.

Now that would be a Games and a movement worth setting the alarm for every morning between now and Tokyo 2020