Hypocritical, Much? Swimmer Admits To Breaking The Rules But Gets To Keep His Gold Medal (Yes, We’re Still Angry About Badminton)

In an article published Saturday in the Sydney Morning Herald, South African Cameron van der Burgh admitted to cheating in his world-record-setting swim in the 100-meter breaststroke. Swimmers are only allowed one dolphin kick after entering the water and one kick after the turn, but van der Burgh copped to taking multiple — because “every swimmer does that,” he said.

“I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance and four years of hard work for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it,” he noted.

Whether you agree or not, knowing our culture of hand-wringing and insistence on moral and ethical conduct, this should have been a big deal, right? Everyone should have been talking about it? Instead, there has been radio silence across many major news outlets — not a peep from BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Daily Mail. People who were falling over themselves to condemn the badminton players who purposely tried to lose — which isn’t cheating, by the way — have decided van der Burgh’s actions weren’t a big deal. Because…? Do you want me to say it, or are we on the same page?

Only yesterday did NBC bring itself to report this matter, and wouldn’t you believe it? It references the Badminton World Federation’s decision to disqualify eight players ex post facto. Quoting:

Although there’s no way for FINA to review the race at this point and make adjustments to the finishing order, there is some precedent from the IOC to do so. Eight badminton players were kicked out of the Olympics last week after they were accused of deliberately not trying during matches to give themselves a lower seed in the later rounds – effectively securing an easier trip to the finals.

Just like the badminton case, the van der Burgh incident is a fair play issue. Since the race happened over a week ago, however, it’s looking less and less likely that the IOC will take any action.

Slate wrote about this incident on Tuesday, and noted, “It’s hard to blame the swimmers for dolphin-kicking up a storm. As with any other performance enhancer, the idea that the guy in the next lane is cheating exerts pressure to do it yourself, lest you drop out of medal contention.” Oh, so then it’s okay to cheat when other people cheat? So when Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli looked across the floor before their final, meaningless group play game and saw that their South Korean opponent wasn’t even warming up, and decided they would throw the game because their opponent had every intention of doing the same… that’s okay too, right?

Oh, it’s not? Hmm?

I don’t want to belabor my point. I’ve made it again and again, and you’re sick of hearing it. But I do want to hear from all you sticklers for the rules who made yourselves known around these parts recently. Van der Burgh broke the rule. What of it, should he be stripped of his gold medal?

My feeling is no — but then again, I thought the four badminton teams never should have been disqualified. It’s just that once you start ruling with an iron hand, it becomes increasingly difficult to relax your grip. Once you do, the questions arise, as do the accusations of hypocrisy, and racism, and thus begins the unraveling of your authority.

Now someone go tell the World Badminton Federation: bwf@bwfbadminton.org.

(H/T Alicia)

9 Responses to “Hypocritical, Much? Swimmer Admits To Breaking The Rules But Gets To Keep His Gold Medal (Yes, We’re Still Angry About Badminton)”

  1. Meyakanor

    I think van der Burgh’s medal should stand, and I am sure that he’s not the only swimmers to do it anyway, just the only one courageous enough to admit to have done it. But then again, I’m also of the opinion that the eight badminton players should not have been disqualified, so it could be just me…

    Reply
  2. Sue

    I think it was not just the fact that they tried to lose but the manner in which they did it… Not only should they have been booted out, they should have been asked to repay all the costs of the ticket holders.

    Imagine that you had paid several hundred pounds for a plane ticket, how ever much the hotel and tickets cost and then you saw that embarrassment of a game. Disgusting lack of respect for the supporters.

    I’m also glad at least one of them had the good grace to retire form the sport at the end.

    There is a huge difference between taking an extra kick doing your uttermost to win a race and looking like you frankly just couldn’t be bothered being there.

    Reply
    • Jozzer

      Yes. The incidents are completely different. Mangling the rules in order to win is one thing but lamely throwing a match to ‘conserve energy’ is showing contempt to the spectators.

      If I’d paid money to see world class athletes performing I would be so angry to see them show arrogance. I dare say they have a justified complaint in that the set up of the rounds and tournament do not provide an incentive to win but respect for the sport and crowd should be enough motivation to perform.

      Maybe it’s correct to say he should be disqualified but it has nothing to do with the disqualification of the badminton players and not much to do with hypocrisy either.

      Reply
  3. A

    Cheating is cheating regardless of the manner of how you cheat. And as many people have commented from the badminton incident, cheating is unsportsmanlike.

    And just because someone else is cheating, does it justify cheating? Didn’t the South Korean teams use that excuse during the Badminton competition and they still got booted?

    Participation in the Olympics isn’t about what the fans / viewers want. People compete in sports because they want to win. Just because a fan paid X amount of money is not enough reason to ask competitors to not think / play strategically to enhance the chances of winning. I’m not sure we can call conserving energy in a game that means nothing to the players “cheating”.

    Reply
    • A

      By “I’m not sure we can call conserving energy in a game that means nothing to the players “cheating”” I really mean a game where winning or losing doesn’t affect the chances of the players moving on to the next round.

      Reply
      • Meyakanor

        If you call ‘throwing’ badminton matches is cheating, and then so is doing more dolphin kicks more than allowed. We’re talking about blatantly violating the rules to gain advantage here.

        I agree that what the audience feels or wants is irrelevant. Maybe all the athletes should be doping then to give the audience a better show? Would you then consider doping to be less of a ‘cheating’ than using dolphin kick as well, since arguably, it would make the performance more impressive and enjoyable to the viewers?

        Now, mind you, I do not in any way support doping, and I understand that using extra illegal kick at the beginning should not be viewed the same way as using performance enhancing drugs.

        But calling throwing badminton matches more of a cheat than what van der Burgh did just PURELY because what he did would be considered ‘doing your uttermost to win’ and providing entertainment to the audience would mean that you have to view using drugs in the same light as well.

        Reply
  4. JL

    I think no ones saying anything because they really do all do it. Like, disgustingly, peeing in the pool. Time to change the rules?

    Reply
  5. bert

    It just took time before we started thinking like Chinese. No solid foundation in ones life leads to no rules. How’s the song go? “Anything goes!”

    Reply

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