With all of the buzz surrounding the 2014 CrossFit Open, last year’s competitive exercise “scandals,” and the additional measures put in place this year to mitigate the widespread panic of miscounted burpees, box jumps with questionable extension, and WODs that were or were not performed at Affiliates or on military bases, I wanted to address the subject of… shhhh… cheating.
We’ve all be there. Whether we know it or not, whether we say it out loud or keep it in. We’ve all miscounted reps or bullsh*tted a box jump or ten. If your chin has been close but not quite there, lemme get an “amen” (CrossFitters world-wide say “amen”). But shady reps and questionable depth, they come back to haunt you (and your reputation as an athlete).
Allow me to regale you with a little story about a little cheater:
I was “sick” on the Friday of the multiplication table test in Ms. Kahn’s 3rd grade class at Dicken Elementary. I recall holding the mercury thermometer up to my pink bedside lamp that morning, Ferris Bueller style, making sure it didn’t get too hot (my babysitter had told me that if you have a temperature of 104 or more it means your brain is cooking, so I was careful to make sure it didn’t rise past 102). My mother called the school, then her boss, as I snuggled up on the couch for a day filled with TV, ginger ale, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Pleased with my successful scheme and lost in the Flintstones and daytime reruns of The Cosby Show, I forgot entirely about what the following Monday would bring… The Make-up Test.
Still oblivious of my fate and high on my three-day weekend, I dressed for school on Monday morning, donning my favorite troll doll earrings. We were in the midst of a science unit on the solar system, space being my absolute favorite thing at the age of 8. Plus, Monday’s meant music class, for the double whammy of Monday awesomeness. As afternoon recess came to a close, I was looking forward to a little QT with Charlotte’s Web during reading time, but what was this? Ms. Kahn was coming towards me with a sheet of paper that looked strangely like a… test.
“Cassie, why don’t you grab your pencil and head to the library to take your make up test,” said Ms. Kahn.
Gulp. ”Ehhh, what make up test?” I responded, thinking fast. I was pretty good at crying on the spot, but that wouldn’t really help me out in this situation. I’d never tried fake fainting, and while I was (and still am) a pretty talented little actress, I wasn’t sure that this was really the time to try out an untested gimmick of such epic proportions.
“The multiplication table test from Friday,” she responded with way more enthusiasm than the circumstances dictated. I mumbled a “hold on” as I trudged towards my desk to find a pencil. I lifted the top of my desk, and as I opened my sparkly Trapperkeeper to pull a (matching sparkly) mechanical pencil from the (equally sparkly) plastic case, a half-sheet of paper fell out. As if falling from the (even sparklier) hands of God herself, floating on angel wings into my lap, was a multiplication table – with all of the answers filled in. A study guide from the previous week.
Math has never been my strength. Anyone who has seen me take 6 minutes to total the weight on a barbell knows this. I snuck a peek over at Ms. Kahn who was distracted by a kid in my class, notorious for eating his boogers (neither here nor there). I crumpled up the study guide and shoved it in the pocket of my jeans. Grabbing my pencil and the test from Ms. Kahn, I all but bounded down the hall towards the library, returning to class less than 5 minutes later with my completed test and a triumphant smile.
Ms. Kahn graded my test while I read a chapter in Charlotte’s Web. After reading time, Ms. Kahn announced that she had awards to give. This was not unusual, as she frequently gave students awards in recognition for being good little humans. Imagine my surprise when she asked me to come to the front of the room, stating that she had not one, but TWO awards to give me. On little pre-printed certificates, she had neatly printed my name in purple magic marker, and filled in “Highest Score on the Multiplication Table Test” on one certificate, and “Fastest Test-Taker in the History of Third Grade” on the other.
She smiled as she handed them to me. The class clapped. I put the certificates inside my desk and asked permission to use the bathroom. As I walked down the hall to the bathroom, I felt numb. I had done something awful. I had never cheated before. I stood inside the bathroom stall and pondered my best course of action. I could come clean, but then everyone would know I cheated. No one would think I was smart or trust my high test scores ever again. I was one of the smartest kids in class, I just wasn’t that good at math. As I tossed around my options, the feeling in my stomach got ickier and ickier. In the end, I decided I would keep my mouth shut, the justification being that if I had studied, I could have actually earned those awards without cheating because I was definitely smart enough.
At the end of the day, as Ms. Kahn congratulated me again on my “job well done,” I looked at her face and saw it. She knew I had cheated. At that moment, she was giving me an opportunity to come clean to her, but I did not take it. I thanked her and went to go catch my bus.
Twenty-three years later, I remember all of this in perfect detail. I have played these events over and over in my head. At critical times in my life, when I have been faced with decisions concerning honesty and judgment, I have played these scenes again and again. Like a rerun you’ve seen a million times, I know how it ends, and it’s a constant reminder that the cheat will eat at you.
Whatever name you want to call it – fudge, cheat, manipulate, scam, fake, short, deceive – it sticks with you. No matter how you try to justify it, dishonesty is, at the end of the day, dishonesty. It’ll follow you around no matter what you do. It’s up to you to either use it as a lesson, or let the cheat eat you up.
Not getting your chin over the bar is a choice. “Miscounting” reps is a choice. Integrity, virtuosity, and principle are also choices. Athletes of CF 215 you guys are amazing. Keep setting a high bar for competition, keep elevating your selves to be better, keep choosing wisely.
Cassie Haynes, J.D., M.P.H.
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