So what's the beef? Turning a blind eye ingrained in our DNA


Tipping Point:As someone who for a short while eked out a meagre living by flipping burgers, let me tell you the question of whether or not you’re eating a Gowran Park also-ran shouldn’t be top of your gourmand concern-list. That’s all I’ll say, except for this tip: never, ever, and I mean, ever, pee-off the person preparing your heart-attack-in-a-bag. Things have been done to patties that no stewards’ inquiry could ever adjudicate on.

Still, there’s no doubt, once in a while, there’s nothing quite like getting your laughing gear around a slab of ethnically diverse off-cut. You don’t have to be baked either. You just want to feel that comforting cross-Border cholesterol heading for the heart.

Even us ex-burger jockeys who’ve been in the sweaty after-hours trenches, stoutly repelling pissed-up comedians with their Ustinovian epigrams – “bu’guh’ n’ chips ye c*** ye” – are tempted by such a snack and square it in our heads by the simple method of looking away.

It doesn’t matter where. Anyplace bar where greasy, resentful, under-paid fingers are mauling your meal.

You don’t have to be Brian Cox to twig where this is going, right?

Looking away is the justifiable method through which wars have been fought and famines ignored. As a species there are few things we do better than ignoring qualms in favour of maintaining our illusions. And since lots of us cherish sporting illusions, presumably we have chosen to ignore a lot over the years.

It’s getting harder though. Just in the last week there’s been Fuentes in Madrid, then the former president of Real Sociedad announcing the club bought its players illegal substances for years.

Depths of cheating

Then the Aussies come out and declare we’d be disgusted if we knew the depths of cheating going on in the land of the fair-go.

And if it hasn’t been doping, it’s been fixing; Europe’s Plod dramatically painting a picture of football as being bent as an ‘S’ hook, with fortunes made and lost gambling on the score, or the time of the first corner-kick or when Cristiano Ronaldo plucks the last of his chest-hairs before running out on to the pitch.

It’s a depressing litany. Even if for those of us even faintly acquainted with the day-to-day realities of betting, it’s hard to square the fanciful notion of millions being made in rigged football matches with the more mundane reality of the teller at your local bookies ringing head office to see if they can accept a bet that barely involves three-figures and doesn’t carry the profit-generating aroma of mug punter.

You see a bet only works if someone is prepared to lay it. And the idea of bookmaker chains that can digitally track even the tiniest trend not being picking up on a flood of activity on a 3-2 result in Slovenia is ridiculous. But it is all “Far-East stuff” we’re told, like oriental bookies aren’t glorified accountants in the manner of the rest of the world.

Anyway, all of it has contributed to a barrage of disillusionment raining in on some old sporting ideals, such as fair play winning out in the face of worldly vices.

Already there have been paeans to the past and how things have gone to hell, nostalgia coursing through punditry veins for when men were men, women were grateful and both competed for tuppence hae’penny a month on little more than boiled cabbage and fresh air. And it’s all complete garbage, of course.

There have always been those looking for an edge by cheating. From the White Sox to Sheffield Wednesday in the sixties, to boxers taking a dive, Tom Simpson keeling over in the Tour de France, the 1904 Olympic marathon winner ingesting strychnine to dull pain and German athletes ignoring the Nazis to fuel up on testosterone before the 1936 Olympics .

Failing dope tests

The substances and the payoff might be different now but the impulse remains the same.

And we know this, always have. In their water even cheerleaders who drone on about only the tiny minority failing dope tests and how only a tiny minority of doctors and scientists are prepared to keep cheats one step ahead of those same tests can’t truthfully persuade themselves that it was all so different in the past.

To do that requires believing the East Germans were legit, or the Finns were running fast on raw reindeer, or rugger types only bulked up on mother’s cooking, and golfers didn’t resort to beta-blockers to cure the shakes and footballers didn’t try a yard, and cyclists of yore weren’t as high as the Alps up which they rode.

Of course, not everyone did. But to suggest cheating is some kind of current phenomenon is to believe the scale of a problem is reflected in headline size.

As we have found out much more starkly, and on much more important issues in this country, just because something isn’t reported doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

All too often headlines might be shrill and depressing, but they are often a necessary first step to facing up to reality.

And the reality is that doping is demand driven: always is, always has been, always will be.

We know this and disapprove of it too.

However, do we disapprove of it enough to turn off the television? Or is it easier to look away and pretend.

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