The battle for fair sport
One of the most popular and sought after praises in sports is the dictum: “Fair play.” In fact, many sports have a “Fair Play Award” where athletes are rewarded for just playing fair. But modern sport has evolved into an event that generates so much money that the idea of “fair play” not only applies to the players, but also to the umpires and referees, the administrators, the groundsmen and technical behind the scenes staff, the selectors of the players for the many competitions on offer, and the regulators, those who are tasked with ensuring that fair play remains an integral part of sport, whether internationally, locally or at school level!
The economics of sport now have made winning the only reason for playing! And this focus on winning has made fair play such a rarity that we now hear, quite frequently, investigations into the activity of the afore mentioned parties relevant to fair play.
Match fixing, the use of drugs in sport, the under reporting or no reporting of the use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes, the overlooking of the most qualified athletes to represent teams and nations, the preparation of playing surfaces to suit the home team, and the inexplicable bad calls by referees and umpires that seem to suit a particular player or team, have resulted in fans and supporters of sports now being faced with a dilemma: do I continue to watch/attend/support a particular game or sport, or do I do something else with my spare time and disposable income? The result of this fan/supporter/sponsor dilemma is that more and more sports are finding it very difficult to continue, as the economic support that is vital for its continuity is just not there.
Today, I want to look at the issue of the use of drugs in sport. The use of drugs that affect performance is banned by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) and there are sanctions associated with the use of these substances once it is detected in the body of an athlete. These substances are published every October by WADA giving everyone involved a heads-up in what is required for the following year. Athletes, coaches, trainers and administrators are required to make this list mandatory reading, and National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADO) worldwide are tasked with ensuring that their athletes are aware of the list and the consequences of illegal use. Unfortunately, the history of doping in sport has revealed that there are very few NADOs that have any appetite for reporting the use of illegal substances on star athletes who bring glory, prestige,and cash, to their country of origin. The much maligned and hated whistle blowers of world sport have exposed the shenanigans of individuals with power in NADOs who do not report or falsify the results of drug tests on athletes.
One may recall that after an illegal substance was discovered in the post-Olympic tests on samples form athletes who were reported as clean, the fight by athletes to get the authorities to agree to a rule change that would allow retesting of samples as more sophisticated detection methods were developed by Anti-Doping Labs. The heads of the IAAF and other administrative leaders who were a party to covering up illegality in their Organizations were summarily dismissed and the sporting world breathed a sigh of relief until the exposure of State sponsored doping of athletes from Russian came to light. The country was sanctioned and so were the athletes, until some of those in power realised that as more and more countries baulked at the expense of hosting World Competitions. Russia showed an inclination to continue hosting these competitions/games, and a way had to be found to keep this country in the loop. So now, the athletes themselves, and some countries such as USA and the United Kingdom, find themselves, once again in the battle for Fair Sport.
Where does Jamaica stand in this fight? Do we support United Kingdom Anti-Doping and United States Anti-Doping Agency? Or do we continue to keep under wraps the investigations into the findings of illegal substances found in our own athletes? Whose side is Jamaica on? Dare we ask?
How often do we hear the cry “government and sponsors are needed to ensure the continued success of the athlete or team?” What can be done to ensure the return of faith and trust in “fair play”?