by Mike Byrnes

With these words, our Founding Fathers, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Monroe among many others, signed the Declaration of Independence, the most sacred document in our history. Please note, I emphasized the word 'honor.' At one time, this word meant more to most people than any other. To seal a deal all that was needed was a handshake. My Mother taught me to believe 'Your word is your bond,' once you gave someone your word, you never even thought about reneging.

I went to "THE UNIVERSITY " (to anyone in the old South that referred only to the University of Virginia) where its most distinguished feature was 'THE HONOR CODE." On every paper written and every test taken you wrote and signed, "I have neither given nor taken help on this exam." By signing thusly your honor was upheld. The word meant something.

Today the word 'honor' means little…or nothing. To you, a young athlete, it should mean as much as it did to Washington and the others mentioned above. Why? Because it defines the type person you are. Can you be trusted? Can you look in the mirror at night and be proud of the person looking back? Can you win with 'honor'? Will you lose knowing that if you'd cheated you could have won? Can you lose with 'honor'?

A young man in Plano, Texas wrote to Ann Landers asking if he should report that other students, vying for the honor of being named "valedictorian" were cheating in order to obtain the GPA necessary to earn that title? What would YOU do? Could you, knowing there was absolutely no chance of your being caught, resist the temptation to cheat in order to win? Don't answer too quickly. Look at some of the athletes who could not. The greatest athlete I've ever seen, and one whom I admired and respected, Marion Jones, is currently serving six months in prison for sacrificing her honor in order to win. Her name will forever be linked to being a cheat, someone more likely to be despised rather than honored. And, unfortunately, she is just one of many. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, icons within the game of baseball, may lose their places in the Hall of Fame because they allegedly cheated by using drugs.

What's all this got to do with you? EVERY ONE of you reading this, regardless of age, sex, your sport or your ability, will be given a chance to cheat. Maybe on a test, maybe during a competition, maybe while tending the cash register in a neighborhood store, perhaps lying to your parents as to where you were last night. The 'opportunities' to cheat are endless. And YOU will be faced with making a choice…to be honest and uphold your honor or to lie and 'get away' with it.

For many of you, the choice will involve drugs, sometimes with the approval or encouragement from your parents and/or a coach. Doubt that? A recent article in Sports Illustrated told of a parent currently serving time in a state prison for providing and administering drugs to his twelve-year old son. His excuse, "All I wanted to do was help him win." The judge didn't buy it and sentenced him to a lengthy term.

How many coaches have explained to a young man, or woman, they could get a Div I scholarship, get to the NBA or NFL if they just got a little help from the wonders of chemistry? How did the aforementioned Jones decide to use performance enhancing drugs that lead to her disgrace? Allegedly from a coach.

And how could every person tainted or disgraced by drug usage have turned down the temptation and stayed 'straight'? By falling back on their HONOR. An honorable person would never have even considered doing such a thing.

YOU can, and should, be an honorable person. Making such a decision now will save you many hours wondering if you did the right thing. So please, do as the Founding Fathers did, pledge your life, your fortune and your sacred honor to always doing the right thing.

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