Corruption in sport is nothing new. Boxing has often been fixed since the early days, giving us the familiar expression ‘taking a dive’. Horses and dogs were doped to slow them down, or to make them go faster. Team members and individuals took bribes to lose games or matches, and bookmakers could win or lose fortunes on the outcome of a race. Money was always involved, but never on the huge scale it represents today. Winning is all, whatever the cost. It doesn’t matter if it is an amateur contest, or the prestige of playing for a national team, fame, success, medals, or money seem to be all that matter.
Recent high-profile cases have included swimmers who took performance enhancing drugs, cyclists who did the same, as well as runners and athletes tied up in doping scandals. Now we have cricketers who have admitted to match-fixing, tampering with balls on the pitch, or deliberately playing badly for payment to do so. Football (soccer) stars who have feigned injury in the hope that their team will lose, and they will make money from payoffs or gambling, and Formula One cars with unauthorised modifications that have helped them win races.
Even in the world of Tennis, unfair play in the form of ‘gamesmanship’ has become the norm, with delayed serves, arguing with the officials’ decisions, and anything else possible to unsettle an opponent.
Second best is no longer good enough, unless it comes with a substantial paycheck to compensate for it. And what about behaviour? Cricket and rugby stars in this country attacking people in the street, or assaulting a police officer whilst drunk. Should they be trying to set a better example? I think so. Should they be banned from their sport because of that behaviour? I think they should
The spirit of sport is withering on the vine as we watch, and the corruption that began in the bad old days of Soviet-bloc hormone treatments has been exceeded by such widespread abuses, we can no longer be sure of the validity of any sport we might watch, or follow.