Saturday, September 19, 2009


Cheating in sports has become big news lately, especially the issue of steroid use. As fans hear story after story about major league baseball players, cyclists, Olympic hopefuls and college players caught using illegal 'performance enhancing drugs' (odd that no one has started calling them 'peds' - 'roids' is a popular way to shorten the word steroids....but I digress) the public discourse often follows one of two patterns:
  • 1. Everybody does it, everybody's crooked. It's not really newsworthy, and it doesn't really matter.
  • 2. Sports used to be more honorable, and today's athletes are irresponsible criminals who are setting a terrible example for our kids.
So what's the truth? Is it steroid use any worse than using high-tech swimsuits or sleeping in hyperbaric chambers? Has the integrity of the sports world taken a sharp nosedive in recent years? Fran Zimniuch looks at these questions in his new book Crooked: a history of cheating in sports. From the 1905 Olympic marathon runner who used strychnine to overcome the heat to the BALCO scandal still causing shockwaves today (say it ain't so, Big Papi), Zimniuch looks at just how far people are willing to go to win. Biased referees, gambling fans, ambitious coaches and unscrupulous recruiters get their fair share of blame along with the athletes themselves. This is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys watching - or participating in - sports.

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