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If a character or a team ever cheats in any sort of contest, they will end up coming last. In most cases, their cheating ways will explode spectacularly, and their illegal tactics often end up causing ruin for the cheater.

Even if the cheaters don't fail by their own fault, the honest competitors will beat them anyway, though it may be a close call. The message here is that while the cheaters put all their energy into cheating, the honest players spent time getting good at the game in order to come out on top without having to resort to dirty tricks.

It is extremely rare for the cheaters to win, but be subsequently stripped of their medals after being found cheating. In almost all cases, they end up losing the race regardless, and the fact that they are then revealed as cheaters just adds insult to injury. Otherwise, where's the drama?

Compare Can't Get Away with Nuthin', Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat. When a video game enforces this trope on the player, it's No Fair Cheating.

Examples of Cheaters Never Prosper include:

Anime and Manga

  • Subverted in Tower of God, where the Hide And Seek test was actually about to teams competing in doing a task better than the other, without even coming in contact. Since the the test was only a point gathering test serving to qualify the best for the last test, people started going out of their way to beat their own teammates to the point of injuring them to incapacitate them. While Koon lead to his team to sure victory but in the end helped Quant to make them lose anyway, just to help his friends on the opposing team, Parakewl and Mauchi tried to make everybody sacrifice themselves for them and even took hostages, while Ho tried to eliminate Baam and Androssi gathered her fellow Fishermen in one point and attacked them. The end result was that Mauchi failed while Parakewl passed, Androssi was the best Fisherman but Hong Chunhwa also managed to pass, Ho died and Koon succeeded. Success was not determined by the degree of rule-abiding, but by skill of bending the rules, strength and sheer luck.
  • Jyonouchi in Yu-Gi-Oh! has a habit of dueling cheaters, such as Mai (perfume) and Bandit Keith (cards in his bracelets) in the Duelist Kingdom arc, and Espa (had his brothers spy on his opponents) and Weevil (sabotaged his deck) in Battle City. Predictably, they all lost to him.
  • Team Rocket in Pokémon. There is also a story where there is a Pokemon competition that both Jessie and James enter seperately. Jessie cheats while James is determined to play fair. As is typical of this trope, Jessie loses while James is actually the winner, which goes to show that even someone from Team Rocket can win if he doesn't act like a criminal.
    • Actually a pretty consistent theme in the show. Compare how well Team Rocket tends to do when they play by the rules rather than cheat.
    • They're often shown to actually be competent in battles and contests, and have just as close if not closer with their Pokemon as Ash and his friends. They're just not very evil.
  • Taken to a beautiful extreme by Ninin ga Shinobuden, which has Onsokumaru attempting to cheat at baseball by causing the ball to multiply itself. It backfires in a spectacular fashion when Miyabi summons a bunch of floating hands to catch every ball, getting Onsokumaru out 108 times, winning the next four games by default in the process.
  • Inverted by Naruto and the first portion of the Chuunin Exam. The first portion is a written test far too difficult for the level of the examinees, who are expelled with their teammates if caught cheating too many times. These details are clues to the true nature of the test: The examinees are supposed to cheat, but not actually get caught, as what's actually being tested is the ninjas' ability to gain information.
  • In Minami-ke, Kana challenges Fujioka to see who can get better grades. Despite repeatedly cheating and rewriting her scores, she still always falls behind by a few points.
  • Inverted in episodes 24 and 25 of Yumeiro Patissiere, when Miya Koshiro ("The Heiress")'s team defeats Team Ichigo in the Cake Grand Prix semi-finals by having one of its members spy on Ichigo in order to steal Team Ichigo's recipe. To add injury to insult, said spy went so far as to make the room hotter, thus ruining the chocolate Team Ichigo was making. To add further to the humiliation, Team Ichigo lost by only ONE point.
  • Averted in Monster, where Tenma and Gillen come in second and first in their class, respectively, after cheating on a major test.
  • Averted hard in Akagi. One of the marks of Akagi's brilliance is his ability to cheat really well.
  • In Future GPX Cyber Formula SAGA, the Aoi team got disqualified from the series for one year after they cheated in the Japan Grand Prix by doping, kidnapping the lead character the night before the race and trying to kill said character in the race.
  • Risho and his manager of Yu Yu Hakusho trapped two of the five protagonist team members before their match in the Dark Tournament. Kuwabara was already nearly dead, so Yusuke and Kurama were left to split five consecutive matches between the two of them. Before Yusuke begins the last fight against Risho himself, the manager bribes the judges to get Yusuke off on a technicality. Both of them get whats coming to them when Kuwabara gets in the ring despite his injuries and defeats Risho, while up in the booth Toguro easily murders the manager, because he felt the man was disgusting.

Comic Books

  • Generally played with in the Asterix comics. The Roman team (which includes Asterix) at the Games is humiliated by the various Greek cities, and because they're so useless the Greeks come up with a special Roman-only event. The Roman competitors take this extremely seriously, so Asterix induces them all to take a dose of the magic potion, which constitutes a drug offence. In the race the next day, Asterix, the only competitor not to cheat, comes a distant last, but the Romans are exposed and Asterix is declared the winner. He then gives away the laurel wreath to one of the Roman competitors, who gets all the credit back in Rome and is promoted as a result.


  • In The Blind Side, a defensive lineman on the Opposing Sports Team deliberately kicks Michael when he's down and after the play has already ended, and the referee not only ignores the kick, but penalizes the Wingate Crusaders when Coach Cotton complains. This triggers Coach Cotton's Papa Wolf moment, which motivates Michael to lead the Miracle Rally.
  • At least one of the opposing teams in Remember the Titans gets a big leg up from blatantly racist referees. The Titans, of course, go undefeated. Of course, in this case it's justified because one of the Titans' coaches threatened to expose the refs' rigging of the game to the press if they didn't start calling the game fairly, so the refs backed down.
  • There was a movie in the 1980s (whose title escapes me) involving a bicycle race where the bad guy and his conspirators went to Egregious lengths to impede the hero (barricading the road with trash bags, switching road signs). In an interesting variation, the bad guy did come in first with the hero in second, but the crowd cheers the hero as the winner, due to the rival's blatant cheating.
    • Breaking Away. I know this because I live in the area where the race takes place.
    • Actually, no, the "good guys" win the big race at the end of Breaking Away. The Italians cheat during an earlier race, knocking the hero off his bike, but the unnamed '80s movie is something different.
    • There was a "Mcgee and me" where that happened.
  • Goal 2 both subverts this trope and plays it straight. In the first minute of the Champions League Final, a (fictional) Arsenal player dives to win a penalty, the subversion being that he scores the one he dived to win, but then, with his team 2 goals ahead with less than five minutes left, his team mate wins a penalty fairly and he misses. Cue Miracle Rally from Real Madrid.
  • Spelled out word-for-word in the final shot of the So Cool Its Awesome Speed Racer.


  • In Unseen Academicals, the titular Academicals play a game of football against Ankh-Morpork United, which is composed mostly of Andy Shank and his thuggish friends. Said thugs proceed to cripple the Academicals' best player, while a supporter poisons the Librarian, who is playing goalkeeper. This backfires spectacularly on them when the replacement players ( Mr. Nutt and Trev Likely) manage to win by playing by the rules (in a manner of speaking).
  • Icarus, a chariot driver in Detectives in Togas. He manages to push his opponent Ben Gor from his chariot - but the horses keep running well without their driver, and without his weight, they're much faster.
  • Waver Velvet is the only Master in Fate/Zero who doesn't cheat at some point through the Fourth Holy Grail War. He doesn't win, but he makes it through the war alive, and is the only one of the surviving Masters who is better off at the end of the war than he was at the start.

Live Action TV

  • Subverted by Married... with Children when Al Bundy uses a mistakenly issued senior citizens discount card to get in, and eventually win, the senior olympics, beating out an honest competitor who had refused to do the very thing Al was in the process. Lampshaded at episode's end with the narration "I bet you thought Al was going to let the old guy win. Well then you haven't been paying attention these past years."
  • The Brady Bunch: The fifth-season episode "Quarterback Sneak" deals with the ethics of cheating and thwarting cheaters. Here, Greg, quarterback of the Westdale High football team, suspects that Marcia's new boyfriend, Jerry Rogers (the quarterback from rival Fairview High), is out to steal his team's playbook as his team is struggling to find a way to beat Westdale at the latter's homecoming. After a failed attempt to swipe the playbook during his first visit to the Bradys, Jerry invites himself over again and succeeds in the theft. Greg—instead of reporting to his coach the first theft attempt (especially since Bobby had seen Jerry try to steal the playbook, and thus would have been a reliable witness) — had prepared by creating a phony playbook. The boys laugh about how they've "put one over Jerry," but Mike overhears the boys' revelry and brings them down to earth by saying what he's done was just as dishonest and was unfair to the Fairview players and coaches who were playing by the rules. Eventually, the Fairview High coach finds out about Jerry's theft and kicks him off the team; it is not known what, if anything, happens to Greg ... although he is able to lead Westdale to a 20-7 victory.
  • Game shows have had more than their share, but one lesser known example comes from the 1980-1981 NBC game show Las Vegas Gambit, a Q&A-type game married to blackjack hosted by Wink Martindale. In an episode that pitted male-female teams of people previously strangers to each other, Martindale asks the question, "From what direction does the east wind blow — east to west or west to east?" The team answers, "West to east," which Martindale momentarily doesn't hear, and asks the team to repeat their answer. Perhaps realizing they gave a wrong answer, they try to change it to "east to west," but the off-stage judge—having heard the original response—signals to Martindale, who immediately snaps at them to repeat their first answer ... which they sheepishly do. To date, it is one of the only times Martindale has been upset (albeit briefly), and even that incident was quickly forgotten. The episode in question, by the way, originally aired in the summer of 1981, and was rerun on November 27 of that year ... the show's last broadcast day. (Incidentally, that airing is far better known for Martindale appearing—during the show's final act—in a box, announcing that the show had been canceled and that The Regis Philbin Show would take over the following Monday.)

Professional Wrestling

  • 50% of the time, if a Heel attempts a cheating tactic, they will immediately lose.
    • Rush at John Cena with a steel chair or similar object, and he will duck under you and hit you with the Attitude Adjustment anyway.
    • One time, Road Warrior Animal slapped on brass knuckles and tried to punch Chris Benoit, but Chris caught his punch and locked him in the Crippler Crossface for victory.

Real Life

  • How 'bout them Patriots?
  • While we're talking football, how about The Denver Broncos, the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers cap avoidance?
    • Don't forget the SEC in College Football. There's a reason why they're known as the "Surely Everyone's Cheating" conference, aka SEC. Every single program in the SEC has been on NCAA probation for cheating, and yet have won the last 3 1A FBS National Championships. Hell, you can include the other BCS conferences in this category.
      • Don't forget U$C.
      • And this is not new either - during the early '80s, the old Southwest Conference had rampant recruiting violations by every member ("if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying"), and Southern Methodist University got smacked with the "death penalty" - sanctions so harsh the program has never recovered from them. Most of the old members are part of the Big 12 today.
  • The Seven Ballsiest Sports Cheats Ever.
    • Subverted in this list's number one loophole-abuser. Apparently there's a fine line between "cheating" and "innovation".
  • Averted with Tony Stewart in the final race of the 2011 NASCAR season, who basically paid off other drivers through so-called "favors" to let him pass them and win the title from Carl Edwards, who was leading the season going in.

Video Games

  • Multiplayer online games in general will always have some kind of anti-cheat protocols as part in their terms and conditions for players. For instance, Call of Duty Mobile has their own anti-cheating software that detects anyone using game mods that give players unfair advantage, resulting them getting banned from the game. This also prevents players from using mouse and keyboard to play the game.
  • Shadi Smith in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. He tries to cheat Phoenix in a game of Poker, but it doesn't work and ends up losing, he then hits the dealer that helped him cheat but screwed up and is then killed while Phoenix is calling the police.
  • Averted in Assassin's Creed II: Ezio (and the player) win the Carnivale games fair and square, even with the minions of his latest target cheating. However, at the awards ceremony, the prize is given to another minion, to the obvious displeasure of the spectators, and making it necessary to steal the prize away from the cheater (if it makes you feel better, he gets his in the next memory segment).

Web Original

  • Dr.Hax makes sure that Chuckle's cheating is rewarded with a CRT moniter to the head.
  • Appears to be subverted with Jaune Arc of RWBY, who used falsified transcripts to get into the very selective Beacon Academy because he felt so strongly the need to live up to his family's heroic history. Despite this and his self-doubts, he does appear to be Beacon material, if somewhat undertrained by their standards.

Western Animation

  • Every single episode of Wacky Races. Dick Dastardly has the best car in the show, and if he'd just race honestly, he'd win every time. (Granted, almost everybody in that show cheats to some extent, but it's mostly just to make their own journeys easier. Dastardly is the only character that tries to deliberately impede the others).
    • Not quite: there was one occasion when the Ant Hill Mob, disguised as the Seven Dwarves (don't ask), gave Dastardly fake directions which caused him to be trapped in a mud pit for the rest of the episode. However, they did give Penelope Pitstop correct directions earlier...
      • Not exactly. Clyde made up the directions randomly in the hope that she'd end up far away from the finish line. Still more dignified than what happened to Dastardly though.
      • Ironically the one time he did win a race through straight out racing (despite trying to cheat earlier), he was disqualified because he stretched out the the cone of his race car to reach the finish line. Despite you know every other racer having similar devices on their cars. Apparently its alright to use them during the race except the last leg of it. That or they're just really biased against Dastardly.
      • Considering they allowed Peter Perfect to get away with winning a race by pulling off the exact same cheat, it's likely just the latter.
      • Even more ironically, Dick Dastardly almost won a race through legitimate means but stopped short of the finish line just to pose for the photo finish.
  • Also every episode of Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics. The Rottens cheated in absolutely every event, and almost always came in last. However, this is one of the few shows in which while the results were subsequently discounted due to the team's cheating, several of their tricks during were accepted as not actually being against the rules, and indeed were able to come in first place at the end of the episode, albeit very rarely.
    • There's one 'pity win' episode were the Rottens get away with every single trick they pull.
    • Other characters occasionally get called on doing questionable things, but they tend to be less outright cheating and more trying to bend the rules and failing.
  • Spike the bulldog in several Droopy Dog cartoons. Whenever the two are on a competition, he tries to sabotage Droopy, but as Droopy is Born Lucky, they end up backfiring on Spike, or even actually helping Droopy win. One cartoon has Spike tricking Droop into signing a document stating that he cheated, thus disqualifying him and making Spike the winner. But Spike got his in the end: the prize was a kiss from the Queen of Sports - who was hideously ugly.

  Spike: Tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim!-*Tree or wooden pole falls on him rather than Droopy*-ber.

  • Used as the moral in a "Sonic Sez" segment.
  • The Fairly Odd Parents used this trope twice: in "Hex Games" (Vicky cheats at skateboarding) and "Fairly Oddlympics" (the Anti-Fairies and the Pixies cheat at everything). "The Big Bash" is an aversion: Remy cheats, but ties with Timmy.
    • The chapter book Scout's Honor provides another contest between Timmy and Remy, with the latter cheating using his money. It's thanks to Cosmo and Wanda exposing Remy's cheating that Timmy wins the bet.
  • The bullies at the end of Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown use some really nasty tricks (even life-threatening to the Peanuts gang), but at the end can't reach the finish line due to their raft sinking.
  • Mertle from Lilo and Stitch: The Series does this constantly through every contest she and Lilo are in and actually manages to get away with it in some cases. In a dog show contest, she sabotaged Stitch's water by placing caffeine in it (if you saw the movie you know what it does to Stitch) and ended up winning the contest. But conceded the trophy because the duo helped rescue her dog (actually an experiment) from Gantu. Another case was that she used an experiment against Lilo (not that Lilo didn't use it first) and once again won, but she overbinged on the prize (a supply of sno cones) making it a case of Not Worth It. The trope is play straight during a quiz contest between their two families, Mertle uses one of her friend to feed her the answers through a earpiece. Lilo finds out halfway though the contest and uses the a experiment at the time to incapacitate Mertle's helper. Come next round Mertle's on her own and promptly loses.
  • In an episode of South Park, Cartman pretends to be mentally handicapped in order to enter the Special Olympics. Unfortunately for him, he's not actually athletic and comes in dead last.
    • In the same episode, Jimmy uses steroids to win, and then because of what Cartman does he gives up his medal (given to him by a group of steroid-abusing athletes). He then gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about why people who use steroids are terrible people, while Barry Bonds grins in the background.
  • In the Tom Slick short in George of the Jungle, every of Tom's lead opponent (mostly Baron Otto Matic) cheat in every way to win the race and always fail.
  • Subverted in Avatar: The Last Airbender where Toph, Sokka and Katara spend an episode cheating fire-nation folk out of their money with such varied methods as cheating a cheater in three card monty to a full on flopsy scheme. They end up in trouble, but only because they indirectly become famous. They never give back any of the ill gotten goods either.
    • Though played straight because earlier in the episode there's a man playing the "three cups with something in one of them" game, and he picks Toph because she's blind. It's revealed that the reason no one's been able to win is because he flips the object under the cup into his sleeve and sticks another in a different cup than what they'd be watching. Since Toph is able to sense vibrations, she picks right every time and bankrupts the guy.
    • It's his fault for not doing his own trick correctly. A more competent con artist would neglect to put a ball back under the cups until after the mark made their choice.
    • In the The Legend of Korra "And the Winner Is...", Tahno and the Wolf-bats resort to cheating to beat the protagonists in a pro-bending tournament. Thanks to the fact that he bribed the referee, they're declared the winners. The stadium is promptly attacked by the local Well-Intentioned Extremist, who permanently removes their powers and takes the time to call them out for cheating during his radio broadcast.
  • In the "Fall Weather Friends" episode of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Applejack and Rainbow Dash get so competitive with each other, they attempt to cheat one another during a race. In the end, they both come in last. However, in this case, it's justified as they were cheating each other so much they didn't notice everyone else had gotten ahead of them.
  • The "Monster Mashionals part 2" season 2 finale of "Monster High" has Nefara De Nile break out the De Nile family idols to cheat against younger sister Cleo and her Fear Squad. This has her OWN team turn against Nefara, and to add insult to injury, video of Nefara cheating is shown on a jumbo-tron. In a final Laser-Guided Karma action, Nefara's stripped of her past awards as well.