Welcome to tonight’s episode of Sports Interrogation.
Our topic – Cheating in table tennis. Let’s join the conversation in progress: You are hiding the ball when you serve – I
can’t see you make contact. That’s cheating. If the umpire doesn’t call it, it’s not a
fault. It is up to the umpire to enforce the rules, not me. How can I be cheating if the
umpire doesn’t call a fault? OK, let me ask you some questions.
Are athletes who fail drug tests because they accidentally took a banned substance cheaters?
No. Should they still be disqualified for that
event? Yes, since they had an unfair advantage.
What about athletes who intentionally take banned performance enhancing drugs? Are they
cheating? Yes, they are cheats. They got an unfair advantage
on purpose. What if the drug testing agencies can’t detect
the banned drugs? Are the athletes still cheats? Yes. They still got an unfair advantage on
purpose. What if an athlete took some performance enhancing
drugs, and because he used masking drugs the testing agency couldn’t be 100 percent sure
that he broke the rules, so the athlete was not disqualified. Is he still a cheat?
Yes. He still got an unfair advantage on purpose. So would you agree that with banned drugs,
being a cheat is a matter of intent? The difference is whether you are intentionally breaking
the rules versus accidentally breaking the rules? Not whether you got caught?
Sounds fair. OK, let’s get back to table tennis. So when
you do that hidden serve are you deliberately or accidentally hiding the ball from me?
Well, I’m deliberately hiding the ball, I guess.
And you try to make your serve as borderline as possible, so it is difficult for the umpire
to call? Sure. If I made it too obvious that I was
hiding the ball, he’d call a fault. So how are you different from an athlete who
takes banned drugs and uses masking drugs to make it difficult for the testing agencies
to catch them? Hey! Is that Lance Armstrong over there? Gotta
go! Wait a second, the ITTF rules state that the
umpire can call a fault if he is not sure whether the ball is hidden. So if he is unsure
about my serve he should just warn me, then call a fault after that.
Yes, that sounds fair. But tell me, when you get an umpire who actually does that, do you
accept his call without complaining, or do you bitch to him that he is the only umpire
that has ever faulted your serve? Well. Ummmmm. Maybe.
So basically you are trying to intimidate the umpire so that you can get away with deliberately
breaking the rules? Isn’t that cheating? I decline to answer, on the grounds that it
may incriminate me. Wait another second, the ITTF rules are written
for two umpires, one on each side of the table. Why is it my fault if my match has only one
umpire and he can’t see my serve properly from certain sides of the table?
Good point. So if you had an umpire on both sides you would serve legally?
Yes, because one or the other would fault me if I hid the ball when serving.
So basically you are saying that you will only follow the rules if there is an umpire
there to force you? Hey! Is that Par Gerrell over there? Gotta
go! The debate about cheating in table tennis
has been around for many years, with no end in sight. I think it is fair to say that table
tennis players have a wide spectrum of attitudes to cheating. At one end of the spectrum, there
are those players who believe the rules are final and absolute. I try to follow all the rules voluntarily.
For example, I don’t hide my serves because it is against the rules. I don’t boost my
rubbers because it is against the rules. While on the other end of the spectrum, there
are those players who think the rules are more negotiable. I only follow the rules if I am forced to. If I can hide my serves and not get faulted,
I will. If I can boost my rubbers and not get caught, I will. And then there are many table tennis players who are somewhere in between these two extremes. I only follow the rules that I think are sensible.I don’t hide my serves because I think that this is a good rule, but I boost my rubbers because I think that this is a stupid rule
that was introduced by the ITTF to screw extra money out of players.
I only follow the rules that I think are important. I hide some of my serves accidentally, but
I think it is OK because my serves aren’t good enough to affect my opponent. If he is
having trouble with my serves being hidden he should say so, and I would stop doing it.
I only boost because everyone else is boosting, and I want to be on a level playing field.
If my opponent’s didn’t boost, neither would I. So here is the big question. Would you consider yourself a cheat? No way, I follow all the rules!
Nope, I haven’t been caught doing anything wrong. No. We should all ignore stupid rules until we can get them changed.
No. I don’t break any rules that put my opponent at a disadvantage. So there you have it, there are no cheaters
in table tennis. Here’s a final thought to ponder – there is
a quote by Heywood Broun that goes, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” What
is your table tennis revealing about you? Until next time, that’s all from Sports Interrogation!