Cheating. It's become away of life.

Sad, but it has infected much of our sports.

It's a boil that's come to a head. It's a dance in the shadows.

You have to look no further than headlines of the day in sports to see people cutting corners, pushing the envelope, simply cheating.

And the disease doesn't have to be drastic to hurt.

You have your steroid issue, a bane that might bring asterisks to baseball records.

You have your human growth hormone-enhancements allegedly linked to the likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and Bill Romanowski.

You have your Chris Webber shenanigans that stretch back to his days at Michigan and beyond — to his high school career.

You have your honor code breakers, people giving their word, then placing themselves and their teammates in jeopardy with bad decisions.

You don't play your tee shot as it lies in the fairway, giving it a little bump. You move a golf ball out of a hazard with a kick. You push the spirit of open enrollment rules to play on a better high school team. You get the idea.

Cutting corners is getting to be a habit. Even kids playing video games are buying or downloading cheat moves to get a button up on the computer program. Little league players are lying about their age on tournament registration forms. Steroid use is part of competition among high school players.

Go out and get the edge, but give up something else.

A recent correspondence with a former coach highlighted the issue succinctly.

Kari Gibb works at a private school while dabbling in the mortgage business in Boise. He used to work for weekly newspapers in Utah, Idaho and Minnesota. But he also coached at Lone Peak High School.

"As a coach, I can promise you this," Gibb says, "an athlete cannot achieve true and full success unless they are true to themselves and on a subconscious level feel they have earned the right to be great. "

The last time Gibb coached was at a private boarding school with an emotional growth component. "In other words, I coached kids who got a fair share of therapy to go with their math, English and my strength and conditioning class.

"I learned in two years there that whether you want to admit it or not, if you lie, cheat, steal or do fraud on your own word, you ultimately fail."

Gibb found this true in the weight room and tried to apply this principle.

"Small variations or cheating on your technique showed up later in the power clean. If you didn't do it right every time, you body would not do it right at a higher level of competition and weight. You do what you practice."

Gibb is right.

Training bad, or fibbing or trying to get an edge outside of the rules ultimately costs somebody something.

Take the case of Webber, who is accused of taking illegal inducements as far back as high school. Officials are now debating whether to scrape his school's state championship titles off the record books.

Kobe Bryant may not have done what his accuser in Colorado claims, but at the least he cheated on his wedding vows, and he is paying the price at the moment and could end up in prison.

I'm not harping from some ivory tower. In my life, I've done more than used the old foot wedge a few times during a round. But I can say the mistakes cost me something down the line. They subtracted from my score as a man.

Folks, we've got a cheating crisis of sorts creeping into our games. From Canadian sprinters so juiced up their eyes turn yellow to the East German bloc of funny blood, cheating is a weed in our garden, a plant in full bloom.

What can we do? Well, all we can. But it starts with the simple things — not taking a mulligan, playing it as it lies and generally respecting the rules.

If we don't take a stab at this now in simple stuff, pretty soon all the records, standings and scores will need footnotes explaining either a urine or blood test.

Just imagine: Scores where lab coats come into play.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com