World sport in a difficult place

World sport in a difficult place

It reads like the credits for a Hollywood blockbuster. Corruption, cover ups, drugs, hundreds of millions of dollars and the world’s most famous; it has all the ingredients for what’s needed for the movies. However it’s been the headlines that sport has created over the last ten years.

Athletics, soccer, cycling , tennis, the Olympic movement, Rugby - everyone is involved and if everything we read is remotely true then what can we expect from the next ten years?

FIFA are the world governing body of soccer. They control the destinations of World Cups; they control everything around soccer. They have huge mega bucks deals involving the biggest companies in the world and the amount of money they turn over in a year would run a small country. Hosting a World Cup in a country is huge to the country that gets it. It falls into the hands of a chosen few to decide.

In May 2015 the Department of Justice in the US indicted fourteen current and former FIFA officials and associates on charges of rampant, systemic and deep rooted corruption. Following another investigation by the FBI, 16 more officials were arrested after the evidence given by two former FIFA Vice-Presidents. The money involved was said to be over two hundred million dollars in bribes and kick-backs.

Both the President of FIFA Sepp Blatter and head of UEFA, Europe’s governing body Michel Platini, have being banned for eight years and suspended from duties for an alleged payment to Platini, authorised by Blatter.

With the likes of the FBI investigating it will be no surprise if more charges and arrests come in the future.

The world of athletics has always been under the spotlight but in August 2014 a German state broadcaster ARD aired a programme called “secret doping dossier,” how Russia produces it’s winners. The programme was described as a damning 60 minute documentary alleging systematic state sponsored doping in Russian athletics.

WADA, the world anti-doping agency, set up a three person independent commission to investigate the claims, but in August of 2015 the Sunday Times and the German broadcaster aired another programme featuring new accusations aimed at Russian and Kenyan athletes. They said they were leaked a database belonging to the athletics governing body detailing 12,000 blood tests carried out 5,000 competitors which revealed extraordinary levels of doping. The international association of athletics federation were accused of failing to follow up suspicious tests of hundreds of athletes including world champions and Olympic winners.

When the commission returned with their findings, they found imbedded corruption. They said that officials had no appetite to tackle the doping problem. They accused them of being in total denial of the widespread doping problem and were also critical of their constant denial of any cover up.

In order to get a perspective on all of this stuff I had to read a lot of articles, from both sides of the argument but there isn’t really any argument. It’s going on and has being going on for a long time now and because there is so much money and prestige involved the people at the top are constantly covering up and denying there is a problem. But how many athletes have died young? How many have died because they did not know enough about what they were taking and why where those people who supplied this garbage not pursued?

It gets no better last week. Maria Sharapova, a Grand Slam winner on the women’s tennis circuit, is banned for two years for taking Meldonium, a drug used to treat heart conditions such as angina. The drug itself is made in Latvia and for three decades was given to Soviet troops to help them at high altitude.

Now you would have to ask why if such an athlete had a heart problem that she would have been taking something that is now on the banned list? Yes, it only came on to the list in January but it would have been known for a long time before that and when you consider that it takes between four to six months for the drug to leave your system you would have to question what she and her advisors were thinking.

You would also have to question why she was allowed to set her own press conference? Very few others, if any, athletes are allowed such a stage. It wasn’t the reception that those caught doping usually get. Again it comes back to those protecting their own sport and the image it portrays. They’re protecting their sponsors and their interests but the question of right and wrong goes out the window.

When Paul Kimmage, the respected sports journalist, went after Lance Armstrong he was widely criticised. He was a cyclist on the tour and knew what was going on. He opened up the can of worms but for years he was lambasted, vilified and at times unwelcome to any of the stage meetings. Yet he had a passion for finding out the truth and exposing what was going on; he thought more of his sport.

When the world cycling body stripped Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France wins, did it vindicate Kimmage? I doubt it. He he did it for the sport and continues to investigate the doping and cover up culture that is present in all sports.

The list of sports who at present are under investigation or in the midst of a doping scandal is unreal. When you think sport was a way for people to socially interact and express themselves and now has developed into one of the biggest businesses in the world.

So what of the GAA? Have we a doping culture and if we had would we want to cover it up? Would we want to make sure that our image would not be tarnished in any way? Are we any different than anyone else?

Just a question?