The Blog

Lance Armstrong, Cheating and Football Hypocrisy

Are football fans hypocritical to celebrate one drugs cheat and criticise another?

Unless you were on another planet in recent months, you will have heard about Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, sponsors deserting the drugs cheat and the American being publicly shamed worldwide with further revelations from his 'victims' and then THAT interview with Oprah Winfrey.

There is no denying that Armstrong is a drugs cheat, his career as a cycling legend is now tainted, but cycling has been rocked with doping scandals for decades with other greats falling foul of the authorities. Another cycling great German Jan Ulrich, was banned from the sport retrospectively from August 2011, by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after he was found guilty of a doping offence in February 2012.

Before the Armstrong doping scandal, the greatest sportsperson to fall foul of the authorities for dug taking was Argentinean football legend Diego Maradona. He was banned for 15 months in 1991 after failing a doping test for cocaine while playing for Italian side Napoli. He saw out his ban and was selected for the Argentina squad for the 1994 World Cup, where he tested positive once again, this me for ephedrine and was sent home in disgrace.

Just like Armstrong, there is no denying that Maradona was a drugs cheat - whether he used it to enhance his performance or simply for pleasure. But Maradona is still regarded by many as one of the greatest, if not the greatest footballer of all time. He almost single handedly won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 - and his two goals against England in the quarter finals including the infamous 'Hand of God' moment are celebrated by many Scots worldwide as it enraged our auld enemy England and their fans.

Are football fans hypocritical to celebrate one drugs cheat and criticise another?

There are cheats in football to this day, away from doping and drug taking, you will be hard pushed to find one game where cheating does not go on. Harsh I hear you say? True but any form of cheating no matter how small is still cheating after all.


The definition of cheating is to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.

My coverage as a football blogger has mainly been on Scottish football, and the Scottish game has had its fair share of cheating - whether in favour of Scottish teams or against Scottish teams:

1. JOE JORDAN HANDBALL AGAINST WALES 1977. Asa Hartford lobbed a throw in into the Welsh box where Jordan rose to challenge David Jones. Jordan handled the ball, sending it goalwards. French referee Robert Wurtz, awarded Scotland a penalty rather than a free kick against. Don Masson fired home the resulting penalty before Kenny Dalglish sealed the victory two minutes from time.

Jordan's goal, while not the decisive goal, played a part in Wales not reaching the World Cup in Argentina 1978. To this day Jordan is adamant the French referee made the right decision.

2. KYLE LAFFERTY HEADBUTT FAKE. Labelled dive of the season back in 2009, Rangers forward Kyle Lafferty went in late on Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew in a game at Ibrox. Mulgrew jumped up to confront Lafferty, as they went nose to nose, the Northern Irishman fell theatrically to the ground clutching his face as if he had been headbutted. Referee Stuart Dougal sent off Mulgrew. Lafferty let out a wee wink and Rangers won the match 2-1.

Lafferty was subsequentlybanned him for three games, while Mulgrew's red card was rescinded. Rangers went on to win the league by four points.

3. ARSENAL'S EDUARDO DIVE IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE. Celtic faced Arsenal in the Champions League. They were well and truly beaten over the two legs, but the tie was overshadowed by Arsenal striker's Eduardo antics. The Croatian went down in the box and a penalty was given. The referee adjudged Celtic keeper Artur Boruc had brought Eduardo down in the box, with replays showing no contact was made and that the striker had dived.

UEFA banned Eduardo for two Champions League games, but they overturned the decision after Arsenal appealed the decision. UEFA's decision to overturn the decision, was as much of a crime against football as the Eduardo dive was.

4. SAULIUS MIKOLIUNAS DIVE AGAINST SCOTLAND. Scotland defeated Lithuania 3-1 at Hampden, but the game was overshadowed by the diving antics of Hearts & Lithuanian midfielder Mikoliunas. He dived to win a penalty when the score was 1-0 to Scotland. With the spot kick converted, it brought the Baltic state back into the game, before ending the game with a defeat and rightly so. However Mikoliunas has been vilified ever since and wherever he went in the Scottish game he was booed and jeered by fans of every club bar his home fans - Hearts. He was banned by UEFA for two games thereafter.

5. THE BIGGEST SCANDAL OF SCOTTISH FOOTBALL HISTORY. Rangers financial crisis, EBTs, loans that don't need to be paid back, failing to pay tax and racking up huge levels of debt to buy titles. A First Tier Tribunal may have went in favour of Rangers over their tax liability to HMRC, but the use of EBTs and dual contracts are being investigated by the Scottish Premier League. If found guilty the club could go the way of Lance Armstrong and be stripped of titles, a punishment which Rangers and their fans are venomously opposed too.

Clubs across the world run up huge debts in a bid to secure honours, just look at the level of debt that Real Madrid and Barcelona have as well as the EPL clubs. But the way that Rangers racked up their debt, failed to pay the tax which was due to be paid for PAYE and National Insurance, went into administration and then liquidation. Then to came out with statements like 'the club is debt free' is spitting in the face of creditors who lost money.

Their statements are venomous, reactionary and filled with anger - from claiming clubs were bigoted for blocking Rangers entry into the SPL, to a conspiracy against Rangers from within the corridors of Hampden to the terracing - it all proves that they are not sorry for what they have done.

Rangers are actually revelling in the impact that their actions have had on Scottish football, it could be argued by some that what Rangers have done and continue to do is worse than what Armstrong did.

At least Lance Armstrong came out - eventually - stated he cheated. Of those listed above only Kyle Lafferty came out and apologised for his actions.

The football authorities are trying to clamp down on cheating, whether it is implementing a financial fair play law, bookings for players diving or retrospective punishment. But we still have pundits, footballers, coaches and managers trying to make excuses for such behaviour and say it is part and parcel of the game.

Cheating is part and parcel of many games, more sports do more to tackling cheating than football does, they certainly don't make excuses.

Before anyone in football, whether fans, players, coaches or pundits try and criticise Lance Armstrong or take the moral high ground , maybe they should get their own house in order first.

Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone.

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