James Lawton: Dishonour is no longer just a problem – it's a disease

Sport can surely never have known such momentum in the matter of organised deception

There is, we now have to assume, no limit on the power of sport to peddle corruption, to lie and deceive right up till the point where the dismal game is up. Sport, we liked to think until quite recently, was still about glory but it is official now: its greatest call is to vigilance.

How else can we react to the accumulating and terrible sense that nothing we see on a rugby field or a motor racing track or a football pitch is quite what is presented?

When Boris Onishchenko, a Soviet fencer, was exposed as a most calculating of cheats at the Montreal Olympics the feeling of shock was stunning. There had been much speculation about blood doping by runners at those Olympics, but Onishchenko's crime was so brazen and irrefutable, the basic technology of a wired epée so plain, the first horror and disbelief was quickly replaced by the conviction that surely such an outrage could never happen again.

The beast had shown its head and only negligence by the authorities would allow its reappearance.

When, 33 years on, Renault's team principal Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, Director of Engineering, walked away yesterday from their team and surely what they like to describe as their sport, you can only wince at the naivety of that first reaction to the worst and most shameless of cheating.

There has of course always been contamination on the edges of sport but never before have we seen the willingness of not just one desperate individual sportsman, but whole groups of them seeking to subvert the basis of the competition to which they were supposedly dedicated.

It is as though the age of anti-sport has arrived suddenly like the monster fruit of some malignant vine.

The Renault case is surely the worst, more wretched even than rugby's "Bloodgate" scandal, in that Harlequins, the guilty club, were ultimately engaged in self-harming, as opposed to the Renault conspiracy, now at least tacitly admitted by the resignation of Briatore and Symonds, where the lives of drivers, stewards and spectators were put at risk.

There is also another quite sickening dimension. It is that before Briatore decided not to challenge the accusations of Nelson Piquet and his father that the Renault team ordered a crash in a carefully choreographed and successful plan for Piquet Jnr's team-mate Fernando Alonso to win the Singapore Grand Prix last year, he made one last desperate throw.

He charged the Piquets' with blackmail. He darkened even the muddy pool which has been lapping around Formula One for some time now, and which indeed many have thought had reached a high water mark with massive industrial espionage and the admission of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton that he had lied under orders from McLaren team officials. It was, we learnt yesterday, still another brittle hope. Sport has never known, surely, such ferocious momentum in the matter of organised deception.

Where the individual sports most afflicted by the epidemic go now is no doubt surely a matter of hand-wringing and hope.

At the weekend Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder of Formula One, reacted sharply to suggestions that his sport had been somewhat passive in the face of the Piquet claims. He said that he accepted that the affair carried a huge threat to the credibility of Formula One and the matter would be pursued with great force and resolved as quickly as possible.

Yesterday that promise appeared to have been made good at high speed indeed.

However the implications run deeply into every corner of sport, just as they did a few days earlier when Dean Richards, the great rugby player at the heart of "Bloodgate", suggested that a three-year ban was disproportionate.

What sport is obliged to do, increasingly as a matter of survival rather than merely good practice, is to say that cheating is not a problem but a degenerative disease that has to be fought to the death. Otherwise, there will be an increasing temptation to pronounce the whole idea of it if not dead, certainly in an advanced state of decay.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
footballBut the Newcastle United midfielder's news has 'left his mistress furious'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style