Academic dishonesty in sports

For centuries, sports have been heavily induced by the prospects and potential benefits of cheating. Athletes in both Greek and modern worlds have exhibited fraudulent behavior as a means to get ahead in athletic competition as well as the activities leading up to the competition. This fraudulent behavior has many times been attributed to the intense pressure that these athletes face. Pressures such as providing for family, making fans proud, and creating a legacy all existed back in the ancient Greece and still play a huge role in athletics today. These pressures have sometimes lavished unrealistic expectations on these athletes, causing some to look at the future with an “end justifies the means” outlook. This outlook has spelled trouble over the course of centuries and still causes trouble today, as seen with the academic scandals at Florida State University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The constant pressure and expectations on these athletes to perform at a high level has produced instances of cheating over the span of athletic competition that have led to diminished legacies, scandals and the introduction of external authorities to regulate the activities of athletes that represent them.

Some of the earliest instances of cheating we have in Ancient Greece come from the words of Pausanias as he describes some of the Zanes of Olympia. Pausanias describes how the Eupolus of Thessaly bribed the boxers who entered the competition, Agenor the Arcadian and Prytanis of Cyzicus. This instance of bribery is the first evidence we have where an athlete violated the rules of the games (Potter, Lecture 6 Sept. 2017). Another instance of cheating in ancient greece occurred when Callippus of Athens, who had entered for the pentathlon, bought off his fellow-competitors using bribes (Potter, Lecture 6 Sept. 2017).

An example of cheating in modern times involving the activities leading up to the athletic events rather than the athletic activities themselves revolved around the Florida State football team. In the fall of 2013, the school investigated “allegations of academic favoritism involving a half-dozen of its leading players, including one who scored the winning touchdown in the championship game” (Mcintire 2017). The allegations stemmed from a complaint by a teaching assistant, doctoral student Christina Suggs, who said that she felt pressured to give special breaks to athletes in online courses on tea and coffee (Mcintire 2017). Some of the special breaks Ms. Suggs felt pressured to give revolved around the prospects of plagiarism. One instance in particular included Kelvin Benjamin, the player who caught the game winning pass in the 2013 national championship game. Benjamin directly lifted quotes from a source website describing the different environments of where coffee is grown without quotes or citations. Suggs provided emails and other evidence of this and many other instances to the Florida State inspector general (Mcintire 2017). Another example of academic dishonesty rooted in athletics occurred at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, where an academic-fraud scandal took root under departmental secretary Deborah Crowder (Stripling 2014). Ms. Crowder was pushed by athletics advisers to create “anomalous classes” that would assure ill-prepared and players who showed no motivation remained eligible (Stripling 2014). Because student athletes were disproportionately represented in the classes, accounting for almost half of the enrollments, while making up just an extremely small portion of the total undergraduate body, the academic infractions also had many possible athletic fallouts, including the ineligibility of many players, one being future NFL star Julius Peppers (Stripling 2014). These examples of academic honesty translate directly to the athletic sector because the boosted grades and anomalous courses affected NCAA eligibility. Both the cases at Florida State and North Carolina constitute cheating because an unfair advantage could have been gained by the changed grades, allowing players to bypass NCAA eligibility laws and participate in events that they should not have been academically eligible to partake in.

Violations in modern times are policed by many different groups and committees. In the lens of the two infractions involving Florida State and North Carolina, the violations were initially policed by the schools themselves. “Under intercollegiate rules, schools can investigate academic cases themselves and decide if they warrant a report to the NCAA” (Mcintire 2017). Gerald Gurney, a former senior associate athletic director for academics at the University of Oklahoma, said “the main criteria in deciding whether or not a violation occurred is determining if any misconduct resulted in an athlete being wrongly certified to play” (Mcintire 2017). This is an example of a limit on the regulation of athletics. Because the infraction occurred in the academic spector, the NCAA cannot investigate on the matter, leading to a limit of the regulation possibilities of the NCAA. At Florida State, the infraction was handled by the school, who hired an outside consult to investigate and no wrongdoing was found. At North Carolina, the NCAA did investigate on the potential infractions. However, as of August 2017, the academic infractions were still being investigated, six years after the initial problems came to light.

Another example of a violation in modern times was the corruption within FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. In the spring of 2015, key officials of FIFA were charged with corruption. These corruption charges were the result of an investigation by the FBI and swiss authorities regarding many infractions including the awarding of sites for major soccer competitions. The allegations of bribery were extremely detrimental to the sport of soccer, mainly because of the revenue and popularity the world cup brings. The world cup is one of the most lucrative sporting events in the world and these charges regarding the awarding of sites including the Qatari world cup in 2022 and some “ethically dubious transfers of funds” to FIFA officials really destroyed the reputation of many senior officials, especially president Sepp Blatter (Simon The ethics of sport 2016). In this case, the external authorities that regulated the activities of athletes turned out to be the FBI and the Swiss authorities, displaying just how many different types of groups and committees police athletic events and circumstances leading up to those events (Simon The ethics of sport 2016).

Violations in ancient greece were policed by the Eleans, the people of Elis, who hosted the Olympic games. The first people to be fined by the Eleans were Eupolus and those who had accepted bribes from him (Potter, Lecture 6 Sept. 2017).. Pausanias tell us this as he walks by the Zanes of Zeus and describes what inscriptions on the Zanes relate to Eupolus and his bribery. According to Pausanias, “the first of the inscriptions is intended to make plain that an Olympic victory is to be won, not by money, but by swiftness of foot and strength of body. The inscription on the second image declares that the image stands to the glory of the deity, in order to be a terror to law-breaking athletes” (Pausanias 5.21.4 in Miller, Arete, p. 103). In addition to this, after the fine had been imposed on Callippus and his antagonists involving the pentathlon, the Athenians “commissioned Hypereides to persuade the Eleans to remit them the fine. The Eleans refused this favor, and the Athenians were disdainful enough not to pay the money and to boycott the Olympic games, until finally the god at Delphi declared that he would deliver no oracle on any matter to the Athenians before they had paid the Eleans the fine” (Potter, Lecture 6 Sept. 2017). In both of these cases, the Olympic Games welcomed efforts of external authorities in the form of the Eleans to regulate the activities of athletes that represent them. One reason that the Eleans may have been the external authorities to the olympic games is that the Elis was an interurban sanctuary (Pedley, Sanctuaries and the Sacred, p. 40). This meant that Elis was located away from the more powerful poleis, and was therefore more likely to be politically neutral. This politically neutral nature would have allowed for them to make rulings on cheating and other problems devoid of political interference.

In conclusion, the introduction of external authorities to regulate the activities of athletes has helped to police instances of cheating over the span of athletic competition that stemmed from the constant pressure and expectations on these athletes to perform at a high level. While modern external authorities, including the FBI and NCAA, are different for almost every league, level, and jurisdiction, in ancient greece the Eleans were the external authorities who oversaw the Olympic games. The political neutrality the Eleans displayed helped them to govern the games and police violations how they saw fit without the interference of political city states. In the case of the NCAA, they police athletic violations within many colleges in the united states, but they cannot police purely academic violations unless the school feels that the infractions warrant a report to the NCAA, resulting in a limit on regulation. The events now swirling around the university of Louisville and other institutions provides an example of how the pressure to succeed drove athletes and coaches to cheat and invoke bribery in ancient greece still exist in athletics today.

This essay was donated by a student on 11.10.2017 in exchange for a free plagiarism scan.

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