Chris Hewett: Badminton smells fishy but cheating in pursuit of glory is as old as sport

The critic without a ticket: Someone will surely pull a similar stunt at these Olympics, but nowhere near as arrogantly

A small matter of 104 years ago, a Boer War veteran by the name of Lieutenant Wyndham Halswelle won the gold medal in the 440-yard sprint at the first London Games. He had started as a fairly warm favourite: not because he was the Michael Johnson of the era, but because there was nobody else in the race. The American contender John Carpenter had been disqualified for deliberately impeding Halswelle in the first running of the contest, a furiously disputed decision that persuaded the two remaining finalists, also from the land of the free, to take up their running spikes and push off home without running another inch.

So it was that the idea of Olympic cheating first lodged itself in the wider sporting consciousness. Of course, there must have been plenty of dodgy dealing in the Games of Ancient Greece – who can say that Pythagoras himself, said to have been a team doctor for competitors from the city of Kroton, was not the Victor Conte of his age? – but any chicanery attached to naked javelin throwing or the four-horse chariot race is a subject for the historian in his rooms on the front quad, not for the present-day sports nut staring at his telly in the front room.

As far as we are concerned, it was the Carpenter Affair that started something. Something that continues to this day and will not end as long as the sporting and, more specifically, the unsporting, congregate in pursuit of glittering prizes.

"Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo." So said H G Wells, who, for all his brains, was surely spectacularly wrong. Were those honest athletes adversely affected by the chemical shenanigans surrounding the 100m sprint final in Seoul – a race defined in all its darkness by Ben Johnson and his stanozolol intake but further distorted by many of his fellow finalists – really jealous? Or were they bloody angry? As angry as all the other competitors who have had their moments stolen from them by rivals on the fiddle.

The annals tell us that some Olympic disciplines – athletics and weightlifting, primarily – are infinitely more doped-up than others, but there have been very funny goings-on elsewhere down the years. In 1968, the Swedes were thrown out of the modern pentathlon because Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall tested positive for… alcohol. It seems he had sunk a couple of beers during the event, for the not terribly reassuring reason that it steadied his nerves before the shooting section.

And if Liljenwall thought he was hard done by, how about the Mongolian judoka Bakhaavaa Buidaa, ejected from the Munich Games in 1972 for having too much caffeine in his blood? That, truth to tell, would rule most of us out of medal contention.

Do we imagine that the equestrian events are always clean? Imagine again. The Americans were disqualified from the team dressage in Beijing four years ago because one of their horses was carrying an illegal anti-inflammatory – in its blood, not in its saddle pocket – and there was a really smelly incident involving the Irish show jumper Cian O'Connor in 2004, which started with a positive test for a banned sedative in the urine of the horse Waterford Crystal and continued to unfold in all sorts of weird and wonderful directions, culminating in the theft of a crucial "B" sample.

Which leads us neatly to events on the badminton court involving players from three Asian nations with a serious tradition in the sport: South Korea, China and Indonesia. Cheating? In badminton? The sport of Middle England – of back gardens, church halls, halves of bitter shandy and voluminous knickers?

It takes some believing, but the sight of eight high-calibre female practitioners performing uncannily accurate impersonations of Hilda and Doris Bonkers down the local sports centre indicated that all was not well in the world of the shuttlecock.

Initial reactions were far more interesting than those that emerged after news of the mass disqualification was confirmed. The paying public knew they were being fleeced at the time: overcome by the stench of rotting fish, they quickly registered that the culprits were doing their damnedest to improve their chances of winning the tournament by losing their respective group matches and responded, entirely appropriately, with a cacophony of boos, hisses and slow handclaps.

Gail Emms, a mixed doubles silver medallist in Athens eight years ago, also knew what was going on and why. Her reaction, communicated via Twitter? "I don't blame them." The players, that is, not the crowd. No, really. What is it about this particular form of social media that drives adherents to take its first syllable quite so seriously?

Emms slipped into reverse gear so quickly, she could have made a double Olympian of herself by winning the single sculls. "Truly disgraceful," she said, wearing her BBC reporter's hat. "So embarrassing. I think my two-and- a-half-year-old could have won one of those matches." Her two-and-a-half-year-old might also have thought twice before suggesting that the behaviour of eight brilliant players from the Far East was remotely justified.

What happened at Wembley Arena on Tuesday was pretty much as bad as it gets, but the guardians of sport cannot test for effort and honesty in the way they test for stanozolol, or booze, or excess levels of coffee. Someone, somewhere will pull a similar stunt at these Olympics, but nowhere near as arrogantly. And that someone will escape undetected. Depressing.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players