Cheating in sports is nothing new. From the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal to today's allegations of steroids use in baseball, bike racing and the Olympics, some athletes will do anything for a competitive edge or an even bigger payday.

Usually, the commissioners of the particular sports league in question will confront the issues. But lately the ability, and willingness, of the leagues to adequately police themselves has come into question.

Major League Baseball's slow and tepid response to its steroids scandal is just one example. Recent controversies have also cropped up in professional basketball, football and tennis that make sports fans wonder about the ability of the leagues to correct themselves.

Consider the case of disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy. The Havertown native pleaded guilty last August to two felony charges stemming from a gambling scheme that included bets on games he officiated.

Initially, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern said Donaghy's case was an isolated incident. But he may have been just expressing a hope.

Last week, Donaghy's attorney alleged in a court filing that a more extensive web of players, coaches and referees had influenced the outcome of NBA games. Donaghy alleged that other refs gambled, and that on at least one instance confidential information was passed by a referee to a coach, according to the documents filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

The court filing also alleged that the NBA might have pressured federal prosecutors to shut down further investigation for fear that other revealed information might damage the league's credibility. The NBA denied that accusation, calling it an attempt by Donaghy to get a reduced sentence.

Perhaps. But the new allegations deserve an independent investigation by someone not connected to the league.

The same goes for the National Football League's handling of the so-called "Spygate" controversy, in which the New England Patriots are accused of illegally videotaping opposing coaches' signals.

Initially, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stripped the Patriots of a first-round draft pick and fined its coach $500,000 and the team $250,000. But Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) criticized the NFL for prematurely shutting down the investigation and destroying any related evidence.

The senator's involvement initially prompted this Editorial Board to conclude that he should be spending his time and taxpayers' money on weightier issues. But, in retrospect, Specter may be on to something.

Given the inherent conflict that the NFL has with its teams - after all, it prospers when they prosper - an independent investigation seems warranted.

That's the route the governing bodies of professional tennis took after allegations surfaced regarding match fixing.

An independent review recommended that 45 pro tennis matches played in the last five years be investigated. The review found betting patterns in those matches that showed large wagers had been placed on underdogs, an indication that bettors might have had inside information. The inquiry continues.

Meanwhile, what's most disturbing about the betting and taping scandals in the NBA and NFL is how both of those leagues' commissioners seem more eager to move beyond the controversies than to get to the truth. Independent, thorough investigations are needed to ensure fans of the integrity of the games.