How justice loses its way in moral maze

The Jockey Club cannot enforce the law directly... their position is roughly equivalent to that of a teetotal eunuch at a backstage party for Judas Priest

The thought would probably strike you, when you heard that disabled Olympic athletes gathering in Australia had been busted for drug abuse, that modern sport had reached the furthest margins of policing. Here is a ruthless moral code being enforced by the highest of technologies, giving irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing, with the process being rounded off by instant exclusion and a fixed-term ban. Not since the Witchfinder Generals plied their trade has such summary justice been enacted on those who found themselves accused of a contemporary version of devious sorcery.

The thought would probably strike you, when you heard that disabled Olympic athletes gathering in Australia had been busted for drug abuse, that modern sport had reached the furthest margins of policing. Here is a ruthless moral code being enforced by the highest of technologies, giving irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing, with the process being rounded off by instant exclusion and a fixed-term ban. Not since the Witchfinder Generals plied their trade has such summary justice been enacted on those who found themselves accused of a contemporary version of devious sorcery.

So what was your reaction? That these offenders deserved to be caught and punished, despite their disability? Or that the authorities had gone completely over the top?

Personally, I couldn't resolve my reactions to the news. I felt a shiver of revulsion at the thought that the same instinct to cheat which so dogs the professional arena could also be at work at this supposedly selfless and noble level of sport. There was a certain sense of moral outrage - how could they do it, these of all athletes? And then the sympathy kicked in, and a sense of what desperate depths must have been plumbed by people who had already been dealt the wrong cards in life.

But then it has been quite a week for moral confusion over the process of justice in sport. In horse racing, the biggest doping and betting-fraud trial for ages was suddenly terminated by the judge at Southwark Crown Court. After hearing the prosecution's case - that five men had conspired to dope two horses and then benefit from these acts in the betting ring - Judge Christopher Elwen intervened before the defence could start and announced that the defendants had "no case to answer".

The five accused - all regular racegoers and punters - were officially declared "not guilty" and freed to go about their normal business. Except for the fact that, at the time of writing, they remain "banned persons" as far as the Jockey Club are concerned, and therefore cannot enter any of the country's 59 licensed racecourses.

The Jockey Club, racing's governing body for most of the sport's history, relinquished many of their administrative duties to the British Horseracing Board in the early 1990s, but they insisted on retaining responsibility for discipline and security under the umbrella concept of "racing's integrity". It was deemed that their experience in these matters, and inside knowledge of the day-to-day politics and shenanigans of the sport, would be superior to any newly-created authority that would have to "hire" staff. In any case, the Jockey Club was a League of Gentlemen, who knew where to find the right types to keep an eye on racing, principally in the form of former Army intelligence officer Roger Buffham, who was made head of security.

Buffham had some good ideas, but the knives are out for him now that the case has collapsed. Buffham's detractors cite the fact that he had largely driven the investigation of this case, advising the police on evidence and names, which resulted in no fewer than 16 people being arrested during the process. Experienced jockeys such as Jamie Osborne, Dean Gallagher and Graham Bradley became brusquely acquainted with that well-known female police officer Dawn Raid, who also swept Old Etonian trainer Charlie Brooks into her arms at one stage.

Eventually, all the racing personnel arrested and interviewed by the police were released without charge, the logical assumption being that whatever evidence had initially aroused suspicion could be discounted. The case was left with just the five punters to face the music. But neither the Jockey Club, nor the police, nor the Crown Prosecution Service, could orchestrate enough noise to produce a conviction, despite the proven fact that the two horses, Avanti Express and Lively Knight, had been doped.

Of course, it didn't help that the act of doping a horse is, as yet, not an illegal act. Nor was it much assistance that the policemen fronting the case had only a rudimentary knowledge of racing and betting. Behind these failures lay the structural fault of the Jockey Club's position, roughly equivalent to that of a teetotal eunuch at a backstage party for Judas Priest. Unable to enforce the law directly, the Club could only fall back on the sort of Victorian legal processes that depended on coves looking shifty or disreputable enough for the jury to convict on sight. The only sanction available to them was the banning, or "warning off", of the men in the fashion of the traditional racecard warning that "the management reserves the right to search individuals, refuse admission and remove any person from the racecourse, without assigning a reason for so doing".

Well, I'm no legal expert, but I wouldn't give long odds on a sanction such as this surviving the scrutiny of the new Human Rights Act. This leaves racing, as a major, multi-million-pound sport, dangerously exposed to further abuse unless the correct package of due diligence, enforceable laws and effective policing is achieved. But can the Jockey Club still deliver these?

It has to be said that the element of skulduggery in racing is greatly exaggerated, not just in reality, but also in the popular imagination. Crime novels by ex-jockeys do well in the book charts, convincing the public that every time a favourite is beaten there must be a villain involved. But this comfort should not encourage complac-ency. An old lag of my acquaintance described the inherent paradox of racing's appeal: "While not everybody who goes racing is a criminal, all criminals go racing."

It seems, then, that it is up to Parliament to enact new legislation to protect racing from criminal infiltration, and to set up a supervising authority with the same sort of clout that the Gaming Board enjoy over casinos. An extension of the use of surveillance cameras at racecourse stables must also be enacted, and with the proficiency of modern equine medicine, there is no excuse for long delays in any confirmation that dopers have been at work. There must at least be the possibility of a mobile testing unit being available to racecourse vets.

There could even be a confidential hotline set up along police lines, allowing individuals in the know - trainers, jockeys, bookies or stable staff - to alert this authority to any suspicious moves. "Horsestoppers" springs to mind as a name.

However, there is probably less likelihood of the International Cricket Council's latest idea to combat corruption being taken up by the racing authorities. This involves the completion of a five-question declaration by players, umpires and officials. Framed in the sort of terms once used by the House Un-American Activities Committee during their 1950s witch-hunt against communism, this appears to be a startlingly naïve document for dealing with the intrusions of illegal bookmakers and assorted weather- "swamis".

Players are asked whether or not they have ever "met or come to any arrangement with anyone in the game of cricket that might involve corruption in any form". Clearly this belongs in the same area of cloud-cuckoo-land as the Jockey Club's "warning off" procedure. Cricket has already been "Warne'd" of sinister collusion between bookies and players looking for a bit of bunce, and it will need substantially harder policing than wishful thinking to stop it.

Most sports are vulnerable to malpractice now that betting and doping have become such global elements. But the appearance of disabled athletes in the dock reminds us that the authorities must have the power, and the will, to catch the mackerel as well as the sprats.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain