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 generally considered cheating. To me, the mostobvious example is diving in football/ soccer. Although it looks likea violation of an internal rule, diving is a deliberate attempt todeceive the referee, and thus to subvert the rules of the game. Forthat reason, I suggest it is analogous to an external ruleinfraction.

Not an entirely adequate answer, but it may be a start.

Read another response by Douglas Burnham
Read another response about Sport