THE BLOG
07/31/2013 11:41 am ET Updated Sep 30, 2013

Why Athletes Cheat: The Overlooked Answer

The perpetual scandal in Major League Baseball over performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) has many people shaking their heads and wondering why. Why would an athlete (or anyone for that matter) cheat? Is it because of greed, a faulty value system, ego, one's past, the pressure of the culture?

Interestingly enough, if you look closely, you'll notice that the players implicated in the PED scandal possess varying character profiles. Some are brash; some reticent. Some come from affluence; some poverty. Some are generous with their time and money; some not so much. Plus, the same baseball culture exists for all players. What is it, then, that leads some players away from cheating and what is it that leads some players toward it?

Here, to me, is the overlooked answer: Players who understand that their feelings come from their thinking, and not from their circumstances, will rarely cheat. These players make sound decisions because they recognize that there's no external reason why, from time to time, they might feel insecure, anxious, or egotistical. To them, there's nothing "out there" that ever needs to be coped with.

By contrast, players who don't understand where their feelings come from will often cheat. These players make the mistake of attributing their self-doubting feelings to their next contract, a batting title, fame, or a win or a loss, so it makes sense to them to do something about these circumstances in order to overcome these feelings. These players cheat, and often lie about it, because their feelings don't come from circumstances (they come from the up and down nature of their thinking), and the confusion created by this misunderstanding is what makes them incapable of making sound decisions.

This is also why some players go through periods when cheating seems illogical -- and why sometimes it seems like a reasonable thing to do. From a naturally clear head, honesty is easy for everyone. From a head filled with thought, people feel bound up -- and, again, those who attribute this bound-up feeling to their life situations (and not the variability of their thinking) will act deceitfully. Why, for example, do threats of suspensions seem to work for some players and not for others? Because threats do not cause players to abide by the rules. Players readily abide by the rules when their heads are clear; they struggle to do so when their heads are cluttered -- no matter how many games or how much money the league threatens to take away.

Keep in mind, those people who grasp that a wayward "gut" feeling is their intuitive sign that their thinking is not helpful in the moment--will hardly ever fall prey to their wayward, but always-harmless, thinking. They'll rarely cheat.

Our feelings come from inside of us, and nowhere else. Understand this and, when you struggle, it's easy to carry on and allow your insecurities to wither away on their own. Believing that your feelings come from the outside, at its core, is both perplexing and enticing -- it's a fraudulent entity that explains cheating in sports, as well as any type of fraudulent (and unproductive) behavior.