On the hypocrisy of sport

This has been a busy week in the fight against corruption and cheating in sport. In South Africa Gulam Bodi was banned from cricket for 20 years (five of them suspended if he agrees to take part in anti-corruption education). Bodi who played three times for South Africa was famous for keeping Kevin Pietersen out of the KwaZulu-Natal team therefore (if the myth is to believed) causing the latter to emigrate to England in 2001. But now Bodi will be linked with corruption having admitted to “contriving or attempting” to fix matches in the 2015 Ram Slam, South Africa’s domestic 20 20 competition. His 20 year ban was his punishment.

Meanwhile in New Zealand a convicted cheat –  Mohammad Amir of Pakistan – has been making his international comeback after being given a five year ban for spot fixing in 2010. His comeback has not been universally welcomed. Plenty of people thought he should have been banned from cricket for life and some of the crowds in New Zealand have booed him. More seriously the stadium announcer at Westpac Park in Wellington Mark McLoed was reprimanded by New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for playing a cash register sound effect during one of Amir’s spells in the third 20 20 international. Amir can expect more of the same when Pakistan tour England in summer 2016 especially as England’s fans and press are more hostile to match fixers than their equivalents in other countries.

It is not just cricket though. This week UK Athletics are trying to ban first time drug cheats for life by making athletes waive their right to represent the UK if they are subsequently caught using performance- enhancing drugs. If they don’t they can’t represent the UK which is to my mind blackmail. Now the UK used to ban drug cheats from the Olympics for life but were forced to drop life bans when the courts ruled it illegal. Now showing breathtaking arrogance UK Athletics are using blackmail to bring life bans back. The Government should order the arrest of UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner and prosecute him for contempt of sport, hit UK Athletics with 83% tax and cut off funding. UK Athletics as like all sport shows total contempt for the law and should be forced to obey it by being hit in the pocket.

But not all sports bodies hand out draconian punishments. Also this week the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) took no action against Tyson Fury (see previous post “A Tale of Two Awards”) over his sexist and homophobic remarks – except to reprimand him. Yet if he had taken drugs or fixed a fight he would have been banned for years maybe for life.

Another example was convicted rapist Ched Evans who would have back in football after serving a two and a half year sentence but for public uproar. Yet the sentence Evans received was less than Amir and Bodi’s bans never mind the life ban UK Athletics wants. And if he had taken drugs or fixed a match the FA would have banned him for years maybe for life.

This is the hypocrisy of sport. What I would call crimes against sport (match fixing, drug taking) are taken seriously and produce long maybe even life bans while crimes against society (rape, sexism/homophobia, domestic violence) are treated as less serious. This reflects the dominance of old, white men in sport plus also the thought of sport that it is above the law and can do whatever it wants. Time for a change.

Despite what I wrote about UK Athletics I am in favour of drug cheats and match fixers being banned for life and the Government should change UK law if that is what it takes to make life bans legal. But in return sport should be forced to ban rapists, woman beaters and people who make sexist/racist/homophobic remarks for life as well. Most people who are not sport fans would regard rape and domestic violence as more serious as match fixing and drug taking. Sport should be forced to accept this. Until it agrees match fixers and drug cheats should not be banned for life if rapists and woman beaters are not.

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