What is going on in sport today? We have had betting scandals in football and cricket, doping scandals in athletics, AFL, swimming and cycling to name just some of the sports. A week ago in Malaysia a doping scandal erupted in Wushu that led to the President of the Wushu Federation tendering his resignation.
The gold medallist at the Asian Games Tai Cheau Xuen was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive to a banned substance, she lost her appeal and has been suspended by the World Anti Doping Agency for two years(WADA). The question is, is this enough? It is clear that WADA and all of its satellite agencies are unable to keep up in terms of testing with the drug cheats, and those who are caught usually receive the mandatory two year ban.
The sad thing is the clean opponents they have beaten are robbed of their moment in the spotlight, standing on the dais receiving their deserved gold, silver or bronze medal, and seeing their country’s flag raised. A moment lost forever to whoever is retrospectively wins bronze. The fans and the paying public too are robbed of watching a genuine event and will remember what they witnessed for all of the wrong reasons.
There was recently controversy over American sprinter Justin Gatlin being in the original list of ten nominees for the IAAF World Athlete of the Year award. His nomination due because he was unbeaten in the 100m and 200m this season.
Gatlin served a four year ban after testing positive for testosterone in 2006. His nomination so angered German discus thrower Robert Harting that he withdrew from consideration for the award. Lord Coe also aired reservations that Gatlin should be part of the list to be selected for the major prize. Incidentally he did not make the final three who were Qatari high jumper Essa Barshim, Kenyan marathon World Record holder, Dennis Kipruto Kimetto and pole vault indoor world record holder Renaud Lavillienie who broke Sergei Bubka’s 21 year old record.
Gatlin responded by saying “I’m sad to say that a lot of people out there feel that, ‘once a doper, always a doper.’ But that makes no sense. That means you don’t believe your system is working.” I am sure many would agree with the last comment, they do not believe the system is working.
There are many who believe that Gatlin served the time and should therefore be given a clean slate and allowed to continue in his chosen field. Yet when it comes to sport, where emotions run hot, there are others who feel a drug cheat should be banned for life.
There is no doubt the ramifications of one athletes actions are far-reaching. The sport is disgraced as we have seen in cycling, and suddenly every impressive performance is sadly met with a raised quizzical eyebrow and that element of doubt creeps in as to whether it was a ‘genuine’ performance.
The same is true of betting in sport. In Singapore it is incredible to hear that the betting on football per weekend exceeds the money taken at the three Casinos.
For so long it was believed that cricket and football were the only two sports affected by betting and the fixing of matches. Yet just over a week ago it appeared that Badminton has now been rocked by revelations that two Danish shuttlers were involved in attempting to fix matches along with a Malaysian bookie.
These are indeed very sad days for sport in general and especially sports fans as no longer can one watch any sport without wondering if it has been fixed or if one competitor has an unfair and illegal advantage.
What is the answer? Lifetime bans for athletes caught taking illegal substances? Lifetime bans for athletes involved in betting already exist in many sports, as well as prison terms, yet it still does not seem to deter athletes. Should betting on sporting events be banned by governments? This is extremely unlikely as the taxes accrued by most governments from betting is phenomenal.
Betting and doping have become a massive issue in the sporting landscape and one cannot help feeling if they are not addressed with strong uniform actions globally, events will truly become “Unbelievable.”
World sport needs swift and strong action if it is to survive as it is. Of course once belief is suspended then people look for other entertainment, and that could leave many clubs and television stations in a precarious position if viewers and fans start to walk away. We are not at that stage yet but unless something is done soon it is not too far away, as more and more cases are coming to the fore.