Cheating Will Never Make You a Winner

(AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

Some lessons we were taught growing up, the kinds of lessons that continue to serve us even after we grow to adulthood, probably seem like common sense. "Treat others as you'd wish to be treated." "Look both ways before crossing the street." Or this one, a watchword while taking tests during our school days: "Cheating is never worth it."

But we're finding more and more that in the modern world, people are being brought up with a misunderstanding or picking up the wrong lesson about the latter. And that points to confusion over what should be valuable and what should not.

The latest example I've seen of this happened at this year's Mexico City Marathon in August:

The organizers of the Mexico City Marathon said they were investigating runners of the race last month for “unsportsmanlike” attitudes, after reports of people cheating emerged online.

The Sports Institute of Mexico City, which organized the marathon, said in a statement last week that it would “proceed to identify those cases in which the participants” of the 40th Mexico City Marathon “would have demonstrated an unsportsmanlike attitude during the event and will invalidate their recorded times.”

The institute did not immediately respond to questions about how many people had been disqualified from the race or why they had been disqualified.

Although the organizers didn't say how many people were thought to have cheated and why, those details appeared in a Reuters piece sharing a newspaper's reporting:

Sept 6 (Reuters) - Approximately 11,000 runners in the Mexico City Marathon were disqualified for cheating, according to a report in Spanish newspaper Marca.

Organisers of the Aug. 27 race launched an investigation after receiving complaints that runners had used cars, bikes and public transportation to cut sections of the course, Marca reported. The 11,000 disqualified runners make up more than a third of the total 30,000 participants.[...]

Disqualifications are common at the annual race, with some 6,000 runners denied their finishers' medals amid accusations of cheating in 2017, and another 3,090 at the 2018 event.

Let's take a moment to consider a couple of those points -- not only were more than a third of the runners disqualified for cheating but it's been a "common" occurrence in recent years for thousands of people to try to cheat.

The New York Times hints at one reason people might use to justify their behavior. The Mexico City Marathon is considered a major race in the running world, so finishing there brings prestige to participants. (There's also a monetary prize):

The Mexico City Marathon is one of 38 races this year to have a World Athletics Gold Label, a classification that indicates it has met strict requirements of course design and race management. The winner of the marathon receives 550,000 pesos, or more than $31,000. 

Now, I'll probably get pushback on this from some people. And I get it. Who doesn't love winning? We all do. 

As a girl growing up, I couldn't help but be swept up in the excitement of watching the annual Miss America pageant on TV. Of course, one of the major parts of the contest's appeal was that the girl who wins it gets (at least as far as I can remember) a luxury car, along with a scholarship and prize money. But the broadcast hosts also talk about the hard work the contestants have put in to get where they are. They earned their spot among the finalists. 

When the girl hears her name announced as Miss America, you can see the strong emotions pour out of her. You have to think that no small part of that relief is that her years of work have finally paid off. And that was an important lesson to pick up from something that might otherwise seem to be a frivolous beauty contest. Maybe the disconnect on how people today view cheating is that other kids (and adults) watching the pageants only see them superficially and don't learn that lesson.

There's no getting around it: When you cheat, the only person who gets cheated is yourself.


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