Once again the Olympics have been besieged by scandal . . . but for once it is not drugs or doping. Nope, the XXX Olympiad is being rocked by the scandal of “not trying”. First it popped its ugly head up in the badminton competition where eight ranked players were disqualified for tanking games in order to receive easier draws in later competition. Now it has shown its presence on the track where an Algerian middle-distance runner named Taoufik Makhloufi was kicked out of the Olympics for “not trying”.
The International Association of Athletics Federation’s rule on this states that if an athlete is found failing “to compete honestly with bona fide effort'', that he or she can “be excluded from participation in all further events in the competition.'' Makhloufi was accused of tanking in the qualifying race of the 800 meters when he stopped running during the first lap. Makhloufi had earlier qualified for the 1500 meter race in which he was one of the favorites to medal. He was the African champion in the 800. The accusation is that he was tanking the race in order to save energy for the 1500 the next day. With his disqualification he basically was thrown out of the Olympics and his actions cost him not one, but two races and chances of medaling. I guess that is the price one pays for wanting to win.
The XXX Olympiad seems intent on making sure that these competitions are at the level of the high standards and ideals upon which the Olympics are known throughout history; yet, at the same time, their enforcement seems a little hypocritical. There are all sorts of questionable activity within the Olympics that border on cheating of one sort or another. The big one for the past couple of decades has been the drugs and doping—hardly any arguments with that one. Now the one for “not trying”--there could be some arguments with that one. I think that those caught tanking in the badminton competition got what they deserved . . . Makhloufi, well, he didn’t do anything that has not been done for years and years in track competition. He tanked a race in order to do better in another race where his chances for medaling were better. Ask college, high school, or junior high school track coach and he or she will tell you that they have told their runners to tank a race to save their energy for another race. Or, they have run substitute runners to qualify and then change the team with faster runners in the finals. It is all done in the hopes of winning. Makhloufi’s sin? He didn’t hide the fact that he wasn’t trying—he just stopped. He should have at least jogged around the track at a snail’s pace and finished dead last.
The Olympics do not tolerate cheaters . . . so, what is this in the bike road racing where teams block and draft for their best racers? Seems like cheating to me. Or what about those swimmers who slow down at the end of their race once they know they have made it to the next round—is that 100 percent effort? As I stated above, the Olympics have high ideals and standards, but they seem a little hypocritical to me.
But this is not about the Olympics as much as it is about life. What would happen to any of us if this idea of “not trying” was enforced in our everyday lives? What if we were graded daily as to whether or not we were giving an honest bona fide effort in our living of life? How would we fare? Would we be disqualified? Think about it.
It is scary . . . scary to think what would happen to us if we were graded on our effort. I think I would be quickly disqualified. I think of my life and the effort I put throughout it. I did not give 100 percent when it came to my education . . . nope, there were years that I just cruised through with the minimal effort. Parenting . . . well, you know, sometimes you just get tired and need to lock yourself in a nice hiding place to escape the kids . . . a 100 percent effort? Work? We probably shouldn’t go there as my employers might be reading this, but I probably fail there too. Same with marriage . . . friendship . . . dieting . . . and even one’s faith. What would happen to any of us if our efforts were graded as to whether or not we were giving an honest attempt to do our best? I know I would have been banned from competing in life a long, long time ago . . . and, I think that most of us would.
Competition and life would be great if it was truly as black and white as the Olympic officials attempt to rule their competition. But it is not. There are a lot of shades of grey between that black and white. It is peculiar how we hold our heroes up to stringent black and white ideals, while we ourselves do not even come close to expecting the same thing from ourselves. Seems a little silly to rant and rave about a runner who dogs a race in order to do better in another race, while we are not giving 100 percent in the daily activities we do in our lives. The runner did what countless other runners before him have done--he shifted emphasis in order to do his best elsewhere. Is that cheating? According to the officials at the Olympics it was . . . for the rest of us, we will wonder.
Luckily there are no “life officials” who are out there grading our efforts on a daily basis. If there were we’d all be in trouble. Yet, at the same time I do know that I have been called to do the best that I can by one who is higher than any Olympic official—God. God desires for me to be the best that I can be in who God created me to be. In the end it is to God and myself that I must answer on whether or not I gave an honest effort.
Yes, the disqualification of Taoufik Makhloufi makes one contemplate . . . in the meantime maybe we all should just try to do the best that we can no matter what it is that we are doing. In it all let us give it our best effort!