Integrity in Sport To Dope, Fix or Tank?
WHAT IS IT? Akin to a fad, the term “integrity in sport” is currently en vogue, with recent high profile events contributing to a discussion spike on the subject. Unlike a fad however, the often contested but ever-present economic, competitive and moral imperatives will ensure that issues around integrity in sport will long outlive both Atkins and Crocs.
What is integrity in sport? Ironically, it’s actually about a lack of that very quality. The Australian Sports Commission notes that a sporting code displaying integrity can be seen as being “honest, safe and genuine”– all attributes embodied within the accepted realm of good sportsmanship. Issues around integrity in sport are diverse, ranging from the creation of an unfair advantage to anti-social behaviours. It is the former that I touch on here.
DOPING - The best known method for the artificial creation of an advantage in sport is doping. Whilst acknowledged as a problem since the 1960s, it may actually be that doping occurred as early as the ancient Olympics, where Spartan athletes ingested a mushroom and herb concoction for competitive advantage.
With several types of contemporary performance-enhancing drugs including anabolic steroids, stimulants, human growth hormone and supplements, it’s no surprise that the Doping Roll of Dishonor includes integrity luminaries Ben Johnson (sprinting), Lance Armstrong (cycling) and Nadzeya Ostapchuk
FIXING - Fixing occurs when: specific parts of a game are predetermined (spot fixing – eg, the deliberate bowling of no balls); results are predetermined in their entirety (match fixing); or teams/individuals deliberately underperform (tanking). Whilst there have been numerous examples of fixing across many sporting codes, international cricket has suffered heavily in this regard, particularly with the advent of the T20 variation.
It has recently emerged that New Zealand’s Lou Vincent was investigated for spot and match fixing in India, Bangladesh and England. Vincent admitted many of the offences (implicating another of our well known cricketers, Chris Cairns) and in July 2014, was banned for life from playing in any sanctioned form of cricket.
LEGAL CHALLENGE - From a legal perspective, the imposition of sanctions against transgressors is clearly necessary. Unfortunately however, with parties across the legal divide being driven by the economics of risk and reward, the adage that “there is more money to be made from avoiding detection, than there is in ensuring it” is likely to keep lawyers in gainful work at least until Crocs enters the headwear market.