There's been a ton of speculation about "cheating" in sports recently, from performance enhancing drugs to manipulation of results in games by referees. In some cases, the media have blown things out of proportion, but by and large there are question marks about any number of records and titles. In some cases - Marion Jones for one - results of long ago events have been changed.
Now the whole idea of the Olympics was originally to see who was the better athlete. The ideal was to see amateur athletes compete in what was as a pure a competition as possible. Things started to go wrong in 1936 when Jesse Owens was not recognized by Adolf Hitler as he was an "Untermensch" - meaning he didn't meet Htler's criteria for a human being (as in fact, many of us don't). From then, to the Cold War, the Olympics became another battle of Communism versus Capitalism. There were so many allegations of drug use (so many later proved true) that the idea of the better athlete winning became almost laughable.
Fast forward to 1980 and the Miracle on Ice. A huge event because a bunch of unpaid athletes, playing for the love of the game, beat a team that had been put together for the sole purpose of winning gold. I must admit, as a Brit, the game didn't mean a thing to me at the time, and I didn't know until this year, that the game didn't decide the gold medal. That doesn't matter. In the same way Rocky beat Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, it was a triumph of heart over technical skills, of desire over dollars (or rubles but that doesn't roll off the tongue as well).
Now today, you see Roger Federer beaten by a rank outsider, Michael Phelps amazing performance, and for us Brits, the cyclists winning gold and even better, doing it by beating the French. But all this almost pales into nothing when compared to the other stories floating around - no freedom of press, the death by stabbing of a family member of the Volleyball team and the blatant cheating by the Chinese gymnastics team.
I don't think anyone doubts the gymnasts are underage, but the IOC refuses to do anything about this. When Samaranch's reign came to an end, the Olympics was left under a cloud:
and that cloud, of corruption, cheating and a blatant disregard for the ideals of the Olympics has continued under the current watch.
How do you explain to people that talent really doesn't matter. It's more important to win at all costs, and if you have to cheat do it, that's acceptable. When we look back and bemoan how screwed up the world is, take a moment and think about the lessons we are picking up from sports.
As for the Olympics, I just don't care to know how far people will go outside the rules to win. It's a pity that those who are winning fairly get the same medals as those that cheat. And as for those that got silver instead of gold because they didn't cheat as well as the next guy, gving them the gold 4 years later can never replace the feeling of standing on that podium, watching your country's flag, and hearing your country's national anthem play as you now you were the best in the world.