Tip of the iceberg

Fake Sheikh

We’re going to need some more fake sheikhs

Professional sport is a ruthlessly competitive, win-at-all-costs endeavour. It’s also played by young people who have a relatively short window in which to extract as much financial security as they can for the rest of their lives. It’s these two undeniables that makes the recent ‘revelations’ of match-fixing and doping in football all the more disturbing.

To believe that cricket alone is subject to the pressures exerted by Asian gamblers in illegal betting markets is grossly naïve. To hope that doping practices are confined to endurance cycling is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Football, the biggest sport of all, has, for the most part, been able to brush off the murmurs around these twin sins for generations. We all laughed at the dodgy Italians for their misdemeanours exposed in Calciopoli (not related to betting practices, admittedly) and positive tests for nandrolone in the noughties. These were merely cases of blasé southern Europeans up to their old tricks.

Perhaps more accurately, these were examples of a culture used to corruption in public life weeding out (some of) the bad apples.

Athletics in the 1980s was hideously drug-fuelled. When these practices were exposed they led to damage to the sport from which it is arguably still recovering. New controls were put in place to catch the dopers; some got caught, some didn’t. The sport continues to be dogged by accusations and clouds hang over every podium place.

But why would these practices have been exclusive to athletics? And, after witnessing the damage wrought by such scandals, is it not inconceivable that other sports administrations would seek to avoid such controversy in their own backyards? (that elephant in the room is the International Cycling Union).

If even a niche sport like Australian Rules Football is now starting to grapple with the consistent practices of doping, then we can truly expect a cavalcade of sports to belatedly come clean as the media and public finally wake up to what’s been going on for so many years.

As for match-fixing (or even petty old spot-fixing), I can think of no urine test to discover the veracity or otherwise of sportsmen and women. If it were not for the News Of The World we wouldn’t have known about Pakistanis bowling no balls to order (one of whom had previously been banned for taking performance-enhancing drugs). The International Cricket Council launched investigations into other suspicious games featuring Pakistan, which were implausibly given the all-clear.

We can surmise that the authorities don’t want to know about the problems in their sports. I’m not sure I want to know either. Can we all please go back to a time when Lance Armstrong inspired a lot of people to cycle to the shops?

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4 thoughts on “Tip of the iceberg

  1. Risk vs Reward. The latter outweighs the former substantially. Afterall, Lance isn’t going to face criminal charges and one could argue that the foundations of his mansion and (former) Foundation as bathed in EPO and blood bags of enriched red blood cells.

    Some of the team sports must be harder to fix though as you only need one person to say no and the fix is harder. We did have it with the allegations against Brucie (Southampton legend) in the 90s and then never ‘stuck’, like all of those indicted in the ‘Steroid Era’ in Baseball which has decimated the record books and the East German dominance in Athletics which still leaves a stain in the form of World Records. In fact, 5 of the top 6 in the 1988 Seoul 100m final tested positive for drugs. Did they go to jail, no, they remained as wealthy or even wealthier than before.

    The sports which have defined ‘events’ like cricket and golf must be more at risk as they can be more easily fixed without anyone even noticing. Until the risk outweighs the reward (and even then), this sort of thing will ensure that there is some sort of turd in the punchbowl.

      • I can accept that these guys are probably great anyway and that cheating can help line their pockets a little more. For some reason I always feel sorry for the guy who didn’t do it. He may have not have made it to the top of his sporting profession, may not have enjoyed the lifestyle which fixing can provide and (even worse) may have had to leave the sport in the first place.

        PEDs and match fixing are different issues but they both amount to sporting fraud and I think that we should punish this criminally. I personally invest a lot of time, money and emotion into watching what I hope to be a fair sporting contest and if I find out that it wasn’t, I wouldn’t watch it (For a poor example, WWE / WWF never caught on in my mind because of this). It still irks me that Boxing has been ravaged by this type of fix over the years and records cannot be deemed representative of what has transpired.

        Great article and topic to focus on mate.

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