Inside Lines: Seeing is believing? Not any more as sport takes a dive

 

Alan Hubbard
Sunday 17 February 2013 01:00
Comments

It transpires that European football has been riddled with match-fixing and that sport in Australia is as bent as a boomerang.

Is there a major sport left which hasn't been tainted by corruption, whether by betting, drugs, cheating, bribery or organised crime? With such massive monetary rewards for winning (or, in certain instances, deliberately losing) it can be no surprise that, from football to snooker, sport is subjected to just about every malpractice known to man. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency say they can no longer cope with the scale of cheating "that threatens the very fabric of sport".

Last summer we celebrated sport at its zenith. But do we seriously believe that those glorious Games really were as clean as a whistle? I think not.

Any GP will tell you how relatively simple it is to prevent the detection of certain substances, because masking agents are as ubiquitous these days as football agents. Sadly, the poachers remain a lap ahead of the gamekeepers. This is particularly evident Down Under, where the Australian Crime Commission say that drugs are in widespread use across a multitude of sports, aided and abetted by dodgy medics, coaches and support staff dealing with organised-crime networks.

The potentially alarming implications here of the Australian scandal for sport will be high on the agenda when the Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, flies to Canberra next month to meet his Aussie counterpart. Significantly, Robertson's portfolio also embraces the gambling industry and, leaving the drugs issue aside, betting is at the malevolent heart of most other areas of corruption.

Chris Eaton, a former head of security for Fifa, now the director of sport integrity for the Qatar-based International Centre for Sport Security, says: "Sport is now under unprecedented attack from criminals and opportunists who conspire to manipulate the results of competitions around the world to fraudulently win the hundreds of millions that is gambled on sport every day, with the vast majority of this money being invested into the black and grey betting markets of South-east Asia."

We even had an example of Olympic skulduggery when four Asian badminton doubles pairs were disqualified from the 2012 Games for deliberately throwing their matches. When a sport such as badminton is bogus, surely it can't be long before even beach volleyball becomes as much a charade as WWE. Want to bet?

Tanni in the lead

Sir Clive Woodward's decision to become a full-time media pundit leaves Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson the strong favourite to fill the chair soon to be vacated by fellow peer Sue Campbell at UK Sport. She seems the ideal candidate for either this or the similarly vacant role at Sport England, and will make a decision which to go for this week.

Radford's hit record

Almost half a century before a man named Usain came like a Bolt from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, a forerunner as the world's fastest man was Britain's Peter Radford. He smashed the world record for 220 yards in 20.5sec at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, on 28 May 1960. His time was also ratified as the world record for 200 metres.

Last week his feat was immortalised when a special mural, provided by long-time admirer John Margetts, was unveiled at what is now the Aldersley Leisure Village. Radford, then a trainee teacher and now a 73-year old professor of physiology, acknowledges that times have changed, quite literally (Bolt's current 200m record is 19.19sec), but muses: "You do wonder whether he would have done it on a cinder track, without warm-weather training and holding down a day job." Good question.

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

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