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How can we precisely define cheating in sports? It does not appear sufficient to say that any instance of willful rule-breaking in sports counts as cheating. For instance, no one would say that one basketball player who fouls another is "cheating," even though there is an obvious sense in which that player is breaking the rules. The difficulty seems to consist in the fact that practically all sports infractions have corresponding penalties (such as opponent free throws) built into the rules of the game. It isn't obvious how we're to distinguish banal infractions, such as fouling a player in basketball, from obvious cases of cheating, such as blood doping in competitive cycling. If a cyclist has his title revoked after being caught doping (or if he is fined, or is banned from future races, or whatever), what would prevent us from saying that his infraction was accounted for by the rules of cycling in the same way as fouls are accounted for in basketball, and that it therefore did not constitute cheating?

A good question.Here are some very limited thoughts. I suggest that we distinguish between rules external to the gameor sport that set it up such that it can begin -- e.g. rules thatdefine the conditions under which participants take part -- and theinternal rules that define how the game is played, such as permitted'moves'. A violation of an external rule is not so much a violationof this or that particular rule, as an attempt to subvert the gameentirely. Not doping is an external rule, and likewise the rulesgoverning permitted equipment, the size and shape of the court/field/ route. Rules like travelling in basketball, or committing afoul, are internal rules. (It may be that this distinction cannot berigorously maintained, and that some rules appear to fall into bothcamps.) Nevertheless, we seem to be able to then say that mostinstances of things we call ' cheating' fall into the infraction ofan external rule. However, there are circumstances where the infraction of aninternal rule is...

My question deals with fair play and the relative value that we ascribe to victories in sports that are either earned through no apparent cheating or that are earned through a clear (though at the time undetected by officials) cheating (for example, the "hand of god" moment by the Argentine soccer player, Maradona). Have philosophers opined on this issue? As an aside, I note that it has been famously said by certain athletes in sports that "if you're not cheating, you're not trying." So perhaps there is a related though tangential question regarding the perceived amount of effort employed by players themselves in a sporting event -- that if you are not trying to bend the rules to some extent then you are not trying hard enough, and consequently you are not placing a sufficient amount of value on the purported end of the game or match, i.e., victory. I am not inclined to favor the "cheating is just really trying" angle, but it is offered as a frequent enough justification.

The issue, it seems to me, is that there are more than one set of criteria for what is a good game of football, or even what is fair. So, from the player, fan, coach and owner's point of view, whatever it takes to win might be considered both good and fair and 'part of the game' (thus the 'cheating is really trying' claim). The referee, on the other hand, is interested only that the game runs strictly according to the rules. The commentator or neutral fan is interested in the game as an exhibition of skill, dedication and drama, and blatant cheating (especially if the camera sees it but the referee does not) is likely to be seen as ruining the game. The broadcaster wants something that will raise viewing figures, and controversial or even violent acts might be just the ticket – everything of that type is 'fair' to them. One might be tempted to say that the referee's view is the most valid because it is the most regulated by the rules that define the game, and is free from extraneous factors such...

As far as I know, it's not illegal in football (soccer) to kick the ball really hard at someone's face if they are in the way of goal. Throwing dummies and gamesmanship are also treated as acceptable. So how exactly does agreeing on rules of a game remove normal moral constraints? I know people wouldn't be happy if I started blasting a football at their faces, but would it be morally ok?

Boxing is an even more obvious example of a rule-governed sport that involves what would otherwise be immoral actions. The answer usually given lies in the notion of consent. By agreeing to be a part of the game, one consents to be subjected to such actions; and, equally, is given the right to commit them. There are some actions in sport that are not part of the rules. Players have been subject to criminal prosecution for particularly violent tackles during a professional game. The notion of consent, however, is not universally accepted. For example, suppose it is the case that forms of violence in sport feeds a culture of the acceptance of violence outside the sport (among viewers or participants). This is a question for empirical sociology or psychology, but the implications of the answer are ethical. In that case, consent within the sport may mean that one is consenting to more than one has the right to consent to; one is consenting on another's behalf, or even that consent takes away...