THE WAY I SEE IT #9 : By Darren Murphy

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PEOPLE interest me, they really do. Not in a weird sadistic way, though, so don’t worry! No, what I find really intriguing about folk is how their minds work and how they make decisions. What drives people on and so on.

What I’m specifically interested in at the moment is competitiveness. The desire to win and the extreme lengths some people will go to to achieve their goals.

Some people can compete in an event and that’s enough for them. It’s the having fun and taking part that counts. However, others are fiercely competitive and although taking part might be all right to some, not for these guys. They are out to give their all and win. Unfortunately for this group of people there are times when they have to handle defeat, and most can do it gracefully. (I usually keep a brave face and then cry when no-one is looking!)

But seriously, there is one more category of competitiveness. Those who will do anything possible to enhance their chances of victory, and have no boundaries and no respect for legal barriers. They will stop at nothing to come out top, and will risk everything to make sure they succeed. And often they do succeed and go unnoticed for a short while. Eventually they always get found out, though, and there is a name for these specific people. They’re called CHEATS!

In terms of the Paralympics, you could be forgiven for thinking that this event will be entirely free of cheats. You could also be considered naïve, though, as I certainly was. The thing is in able-bodied sports we have kind of come to expect cheating over the years. Whether it be doping in athletics and cycling or match-fixing in football or tampering with the ball in cricket.

But I’d never given cheating at the Paralympics a thought. But like I said it was definitely naïve of me to think there wouldn’t be any competitors breaking the rules.

How far would you go to succeed?

Would you hide a few letters up your sleeve to win a Scrabble game? Maybe you would take a performance-enhancing drug to increase your chances of winning a big race? Or maybe, just maybe, you would break your big toe with a claw hammer or give your genitals an electric shock?

Now you are probably reading this and thinking, “This guy’s gone mad, no one would inflict an injury on themselves and how could that possibly help anyway?”

Firstly, I am mad! Secondly, this is exactly what some athletes might be doing at the Paralympics and it’s called boosting.

Apparently a problem among paraplegic athletes and although it was banned in 2004, boosting is still used by around a fifth of athletes with spinal injuries.

So how does it work? Put simply, athletes injure themselves in areas where they have no feeling to shock the body into reacting. It induces a condition called autonomic dysreflexia. It’s a way for an athlete with a spinal injury to boost their low blood pressure and therefore increase their performance.

I was intrigued by these people, and it just shows you the lengths some will go to to give themselves a better chance. What’s even more shocking is that any athlete boosting isn’t just increasing their chances of winning, they are also at significant risk of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Basically, the athletes who use this practice are so competitive they are willing to risk the possibility of death for an extra kick towards victory. “Who’s mad now?” I hear you asking yourself.

It’s such a shame but cheating is a pastime which has infiltrated every event known to man. Don’t get me wrong, I suspect most of us have done it at some point, however, when people are risking their wellbeing just to increase their chances of winning, it really is getting way out of hand.

Were you as shocked as me to learn about boosting? Let me know. Oh and if you ever happen to be my opponent in a Scrabble game, I’m no cheat I just know some pretty obscure words, such as recondite or esoteric.

Or I just googled both them and I do usually keep a few letters up my sleeve. I’ll let you decide what you think is true.

Until next time, but please no boosting folks!