Sport in dan­ger of los­ing trust

Lesotho Times - - Sport - Tom Fordyce

LON­DON — Per­haps the only real sur­prise in new Bond film Spectre is that the epony­mous im­moral or­gan­i­sa­tion has not branched into sports ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Sport mat­ters be­cause it has the po­ten­tial to do what very lit­tle else in the world can: unit­ing com­mu­ni­ties, stir­ring the soul, strength­en­ing the body, build­ing bonds be­tween dis­parate na­tions, of­fer­ing in­di­vid­u­als iden­tity and an es­cape. But sport is not get­ting the gov­er­nance it de­serves.

Gov­er­nance is a dull word. So is ad­min­is­tra­tion. It is crit­i­cal, and it is crit­i­cal that it is done right, be­cause oth­er­wise we are all be­ing cheated.

Sports­peo­ple are be­ing swin­dled of their ca­reers, of their rep­u­ta­tions, of their fu­ture. Us sports lovers are be­ing de­frauded of our trust, our emo­tional en­ergy and our fi­nan­cial largesse.

An­other day, an­other del­uge of dirty laun­dry. On Mon­day, an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion set up by the World Anti-dop­ing Agency (WADA) re­vealed a toxic epi­demic of dop­ing, cover-ups and ex­tor­tion run­ning across Rus­sian ath­let­ics and spread­ing into the sport’s in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ing body.

Dope cheats, pro­tected by the peo­ple paid to catch them. Ex­tor­tion to en­sure their com­plic­ity. The de­struc­tion of thou­sands of sam­ples, the in­volve­ment of se­cret po­lice. All this while those at the top of the sport face trial for cor­rup­tion and money laun­der­ing.

We should be sur­prised by the depth and reach of this lat­est scan­dal. But how can we be, when it stems from a pat­tern so fa­mil­iar across the sport­ing world?

There is gov­ern­ing body Fifa, in charge of the world’s sin­gle most pop­u­lar sport, with 14 of its cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials and as­so­ciates on FBI charges of “ram­pant, sys­temic, and deep-rooted” cor­rup­tion. Its longterm oli­garch Sepp Blat­ter is cur­rently sus­pended, along with Uefa pres­i­dent Michel Pla­tini, in the wake of a sep­a­rate Swiss crim­i­nal case.

There was the In­ter­na­tional Cy­cling Union un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Hein Verbruggen, found by a 227-page re­port re­leased last March to have col­luded with dis­graced cy­clist Lance Arm­strong to cover up his pos­i­tive dope test at the 1999 Tour de France.

There is the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC), run by Narayanaswami Srini­vasan who was banned from run­ning his own na­tional gov­ern­ing board by the Supreme Court of In­dia. His scan­dalous lack of ac­count­abil­ity was out­lined in de­tail by for­mer Lord Chief Jus­tice Lord Woolf and in hu­man terms by re­cent film Death of a Gen­tle­man.

There is F1 supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone, who had his bribery trial in a Ger­man court set­tled in ex­change for a £60m pay­ment, and he left court a free man with no stain on his char­ac­ter.

And there was the IOC be­fore the Win­ter Games at Salt Lake City, ex­pelling six of its mem­bers for tak­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from of­fi­cials be­hind the city’s bid in 2002.

There might be the temp­ta­tion to shrug with cyn­i­cism, to claim that ev­ery­one is at it, to sug­gest that where such power and money flows there will al­ways be temp­ta­tion and a fail­ure to re­sist it.

Do not. Ath­let­ics re­wards very few with great fi­nan­cial div­i­dends. It de­mands not just in­her­ited tal­ent but re­lent­less hard work, much of it phys­i­cally ex­haust­ing, lit­tle of it glam­orous.

When its gov­ern­ing body be­haves less like global sher­iff than bent cop, it ren­ders all that not mean­ing­less, but self-de­struc­tive. Who would put them­selves through so much pain for so long only to be de­nied on the big­gest stage by some­one who has been aided and abet­ted in tak­ing short­cuts? And who would want to be known for their sport when so many then as­sume all in­volved have been guilty of the same de­cep­tions?

It is the sort of dou­ble-cross and dou­ble blow that no clean ath­lete de­serves, tra­duced by the cheats, smeared by the ac­tions of those who have al­ready duped them once.

The ex­is­tence of wide­spread dop­ing in Rus­sian ath­let­ics has been talked about in the sport for years. It be­came a repet­i­tive joke: when did you ever see a Rus­sian run­ner look­ing tired in the fin­ish­ing straight?

The In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ath­let­ics Fed­er­a­tions (IAAF) should be fight­ing that plague and pro­tect­ing the rep­u­ta­tions of its true stars.

For those who watch from the out­side, who in­vest fi­nan­cially in tick­ets and tele­vi­sion sub­scrip­tions and emo­tion­ally in the big nights and great races, there is a be­trayal equally as sig­nif­i­cant.

Who to trust? When to throw your­self into the mo­ment? When to cel­e­brate some­thing you your­self could only dream of do­ing?

There were 17 track and field medals for Rus­sia at the Lon­don Olympics - eight golds, four sil­vers and five bronzes. Across the whole Games they won 81. That is a very large as­ter­isk to at­tach to the largest sport­ing event this coun­try will ever see.

With ev­ery scan­dal a lit­tle more faith leaches away. When you can’t trust what you are watch­ing, when you won­der where your money is go­ing and what price oth­ers are pay­ing for the events you love to watch, then the leak be­comes a flood.

What to do? Some say keep car­ing. Oth­ers, be an­gry. De­mand more.

Elite sport hap­pens be­cause you watch, lis­ten and read. Spon­sors come call­ing be­cause you come with it.

That money is there be­cause of you, so ex­ert the con­trol you have. Those who do not agree with the ICC cut­ting the num­ber of teams in its one-day World Cup from 14 to 10, fur­ther evis­cer­at­ing the smaller na­tions, can del­uge it with com­plaint.

If you watched Death of a Gen­tle­man and were dis­tressed to learn that In­dia, Aus­tralia and Eng­land carve up more than half of all Test rev­enues be­tween them, you could join the film’s Change Cricket cam­paign.

Don’t hear the word ad­min­is­tra­tion and look at the lat­est scores in­stead. If the vot­ing process that awarded Fifa’s World Cup to a small desert state with a ques­tion­able hu­man rights record dis­turbs you, cam­paign­ers would sug­gest you boy­cott the spon­sors who bankroll it.

Where is your money go­ing? Where is your af­fec­tion be­ing ex­ploited? There are those who turn off the Di­a­mond League when dope cheats are wel­comed back. Oth­ers stop buy­ing the train­ers of com­pa­nies who give those cheats shoe con­tracts. The fan is not an im­po­tent con­sumer.

The UCI has be­gun its re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion un­der Brian Cook­son. The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee changed for­ever af­ter Salt Lake. Ath­let­ics must do the same, even as foot­ball cur­rently seems un­able to free it­self from its own moral mi­ne­shaft.

A scan­dal this grave de­mands ac­tion on an un­prece­dented scale. Sus­pend coun­tries from events. Take events away from oth­ers. Think less of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s rep­u­ta­tion and more of the sport’s sur­vival.

When jour­nal­ists pub­lish al­le­ga­tions of dop­ing, do not call it a “dec­la­ra­tion of war on the sport” as new IAAF pres­i­dent Lord Coe did this sum­mer. If for­mer head of an­ti­dop­ing Gabriel Dolle is con­victed of bribery and cor­rup­tion, re-ex­am­ine the other cases un­der his ju­ris­dic­tion and retest frozen sam­ples.

Wada’s bud­get last year was £17.5m, less than some foot­ballers earn on their own. Match its fund­ing to the scale of the prob­lem.

Sport only sur­vives if we all keep com­ing back. We come back be­cause we be­lieve in it. If that trust goes, ev­ery­thing else falls with it. It is a bot­tom line that brooks no ar­gu­ment. — BBC SYD­NEY — Coach Dar­ren Lehmann (pic­tured) has promised no com­pla­cency af­ter Aus­tralia’s solid vic­tory over New Zealand in the first Test, say­ing his young team needed to do it all again in Perth. The se­cond Test at the WACA be­gins to­mor­row. Aus­tralia crushed New Zealand by 208 runs in the first Test at the Gabba on Mon­day and now head to the WACA ground one up in the three­match se­ries as the Ki­wis man­age sev­eral in­juries. Lehmann said the new-look Aus­tralian team, miss­ing veter­ans such as Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Shane Wat­son, played well in Bris­bane but there was room for im­prove­ment.

“For us now it’s about get­ting back to Perth... mak­ing sure we are back­ing that per­for­mance up. We’ve started well but we’ve got to back that up — that’s the chal­lenge for a young group, to back that up day in, day out,” he told re­porters in Bris­bane

Lehmann said the Aus­tralians needed to im­prove their field­ing which he said was “a lit­tle bit sloppy” as well as put more pres­sure on the New Zealand open­ers with the new ball. He said he was im­pressed with new skip­per Steve Smith and how he dealt with pace­man Mitchell Starc, who was fined half his match fee by the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil for throw­ing a ball dan­ger­ously at New Zealand bats­man Mark Craig.

“I was very happy with the cap­tain and the way he han­dled that,” Lehmann said.

“He’s had a chat to him and that’s done and dusted from where I sit.”

Aus­tralia had the match well in hand with the New Zealan­ders one wicket away from de­feat when Starc im­petu­ously hurled the ball in Craig’s di­rec­tion af­ter the Kiwi had smacked him for two suc­ces­sive fours.

— Reuters

Yuliya Zaripova wins the 3000m steeple­chase race on au­gust 6 2012. The Rus­sian has since been stripped of the ti­tle due to dop­ing.

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