Among the many outrages in this troubled world, cheating in sport may not be considered a matter of the greatest importance. During an international football match a week ago a Chilean player patted the backside of Uruguayan player Edson Calvani, and then stuck a finger up his bottom. Calvani responded with a flick of the back of his hand, and which point the Chilean fell on the floor, writhing in agony, and the referee then sent off, not the offending Chilean but the provoked Calvani. Since I know my readers to be earnest seekers after the truth, they will be horrified by this outrageous provocation, and by the gullibility of the arbiter. On the other hand, if by chance any passing readers are of more Machiavellian personality, and eschew rules in sports, then they will approve of the adroitness of the anal molestation and subsequent play acting by the perpetrator, which led to the diminished Uruguayan team losing 0-1.
What are the characteristics of cheaters in sport, that athletic activity in which fair play should be paramount? A description of psychopathic personality includes general
poverty of affect (emotion), defective insight, absence of nervousness, lack of
remorse or shame, superficial charm, pathological lying, egocentricity, inability to
love, failure to establish close or intimate relationships, irresponsibility, impulsive
antisocial acts, failure to learn from experience, reckless behaviour under the
influence of alcohol, and a lack of long term goals. Is any of this relevant to sports cheats?
Edward Dutton and Richard Lynn. Cheating in Sport and Racial Differences in Psychopathic Personality. Mankind Quarterly 2015 55:4 325-334.
The authors have looked at American Football (National Football League: NFL) players; American Basketball (National Basketball Association: NBA); and English Premier League Football (Soccer) players. They have studied two kinds of cheating, namely the use of performance enhancing drugs and breaking the rules of the game. In a black/white comparison they have looked at the proportions of each group in each sport, using a visual and biographical analysis of each of the sportsmen in the games to identify their race. They then calculated the percentages of blacks and whites identified as cheaters compared with their percentages among the players.
In the NFL black players in 2010 were over-represented in suspensions for drug use, for suspensions for more than 4 matches, for indefinite or entire season suspensions, and for being suspended more than once. A similar pattern was found for 2013.
In the NBA black players in 2013-2014 3 were somewhat more likely to be fined or suspended but the differences were not statistically significant.
In the English Premier League Football (Soccer) the authors studied the number of red cards handed out from 2006 to 2013. Interestingly, many players receive prior warning in the form of a a yellow card for a minor offence, and thus know that they must be on best behaviour.
However, these are not overwhelming differences. There is an over-representation of black players, but only in the 2006-7 season.
I will not pretend that I know anything about the first two sports, and have only a layman’s understanding of football, so I am absolutely open to correction on any of these matters. Nonetheless, I would not be persuaded by these findings that there is a significant effect overall. I turn to those who are more engaged in sports to
either point out other studies or to suggest other data sets which could be examined for patterns of cheating.
So there you have it. Now back to the important matter. One devious finger up an innocent bottom, and Uruguay is unfairly cast out of the Copa America. I hope you will join me in demanding a replay. I am aware that one notable Uruguayan player has bitten opponents (and been suspended for his crimes) but if one cannot kick a football about of a Wednesday afternoon without unwarranted fundamental intrusion, what is the world coming to?