Sport and integrity: not mutually exclusive! written by Hayley Wickenheiser

When you are a professional athlete and out in the public sphere, people think you are an expert in any area related to sport—from health, to nutrition and fitness, to even politics. Although I will never claim to be an expert in all of these areas, I won’t shy away from expressing my opinion!

One topic that surfaced quite a bit in the last year and that I get frequently asked about is my thoughts on doping and moreover, the importance of integrity in sport. People want to know what I think about it—is it really cheating, especially if other athletes are doing it?

Is it right? Absolutely not! Should it be accepted? No! But associations and agencies can only do so much to try and stop or manage it. Essentially, it comes down to each individual athlete; each athlete has his or her own personal decision to make.

No matter what kind of pressure the athlete feels, whether that pressure is from within (self-applied) or externally from coaches, peers, mentors, etc., each athlete has the pride and integrity within to make the decision to dope/cheat/cross the lines/etc. or not to. And if they choose to cross the lines like Lance Armstrong (amongst many others out there), they have to face the consequences—and those consequences are justified.

What is probably hard to understand for those outside of the world of professional sports is that pro-athletes can develop a “disease of me.” Our lives consume us—literally meaning we worry about everything about “me”:  what I eat, what I drink, how I feel, how I sleep, and how I train. We are so consumed that winning can become everything and if winning is absolutely everything, crossing that line becomes even easier to cross.

The difference between the athlete that chooses to cross that line and the one that doesn’t is integrity—winning doesn’t have to be everything. There are other things that matter, such as why we choose to pursue the game, the influence we have on other athletes, and the love and support of our families, friends, and coaches. Because the reality is, if winning is all that matters, what happens when you don’t win?

So don’t kid yourself that Armstrong is the only out there doing it, he is simply the best “doper” of the “dopers” in that sport. But you have the opportunity to uphold your own standards and make sure you or your children are in an environment where those types of decisions are not fostered or encouraged and those with integrity are!

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shanvan, almost 5 years

Interesting read, Hayley. Integrity is something we talk a lot about in our family. I think the "disease of me" illustration is really valuable.
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About this Expert

Four-time Olympic medalist, Hayley Wickenheiser is one of the best female hockey players in the world with an uncompromised determination and dedication to her sport.  Hayley leads by example: she's a  community leader, a mentor, a history-maker and an accomplished businesswoman.

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