The Lance Armstrong Defense?

Posted by Latif Thomas

This past weekend we had our major State Invitational. Only the top 24 relay teams in the state were accepted to compete.

The directions on the entry form, clearly stated in bold and underlined, were:

Do not enter athletes or relays that have not achieved the performance standards listed above.

Of the 24 teams accepted into the girls 4×200, eight schools entered fabricated times. And this isn’t about those particular schools/coaches. I just happened to look up that particular event. But, as a microcosm of the whole, one out of three coaches is a big fat liar – cheating.

In calling attention to this blurring of ethics, a coach told me that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. That it would all wash out in the end.

"It's not cheating if everyone else is doing it"

“It’s not cheating if everyone else is doing it”

I’m sorry, friends. But, the Lance Armstrong Defense (It’s not cheating because everyone else is doing it) is not an acceptable reason for inventing entry times to get your team into a meet.

Our sport is already considered bogus by the mainstream as it is. It doesn’t help when coaches justify lying.

Yes, you’re right. You didn’t inject steroids into your athletes’ asses. And you didn’t sneak a boy into the girls relay.

But, you told yourself it was OK to cheat because ‘everyone else’ was cheating.

As coaches, we regularly fancy ourselves role models and teachers of life lessons. Bastions of morality and righteousness in a world of voyeurism and ‘me first’ selfishness. Of ‘team first’ and ‘fair play’ above ‘individualism’ and ‘winning at all costs’.

And I’m sure it’s all true…

Except when we need to get our team in the seeded heat. Or make sure our team gets accepted into the meet.

Then those central tenets of our coaching philosophies get temporarily pushed aside because, well, everyone else is doing it.

When we only follow the rules when they’re convenient, we might as well not follow any of the rules.

We can’t expect ‘those other coaches’ to do better if we’re not willing to do better ourselves. Lying is lying.

Just because you pour syrup on shit, don’t make it pancakes.

Get it together track and field. You’re a dying sport.

Rant over.

-Latif Thomas

Follow me on Twitter: @latif_thomas

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Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

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