2015: A year of sports scandals with a silver lining

first_imgPARIS (AP):For the past 12 months, scandals off the field of play eclipsed exploits on it. Beyond the usual cases of doping and cheating that are sadly common in modern sports, shocking corruption in football and athletics begged the question of whether the vast riches and accompanying greed generated by professional sports are rotting the entire multibillion-dollar industry to its core.On the upside, the stink got so bad that 2015 also saw the forces of law and order sit up and take action, opening criminal investigations, making high-profile arrests and recovering tens of millions of ill-gotten dollars. That legal pressure sped change, notably at football’s governing body FIFA, forcing administrators to abandon some of their old-school, shoddy, back room and amateur management practices, and enact reforms that should make them behave more professionally.”What we’re going through now, it’s like a tectonic shift,” says International Olympic Committee veteran Dick Pound. “Sports organisations are coming to realise – voluntarily or involuntarily – that they can no longer operate outside of the larger social and legal orders.””In the old days, sport was well outside of anything that governments had focused on,” Pound said in an Associated Press (AP) interview. “They were all private organisations and they were kind of run informally like clubs and so on, and have tried to pretend that they can do that even in 2015 – and they can’t.”Hope for brighter futureIn short, this was a year that left a sour taste for sports fans, but also offered some hope of a brighter future. It was bookended by “Deflategate,” which saw star NFL quarterback Tom Brady accused of throwing deliberately underinflated (and theoretically easier to grip) footballs in January’s AFC title game on his way to winning the Super Bowl, and by the disgrace of Sepp Blatter, kicked out of football in December forunethical conduct, ending his17 scandal-scarred years aspresident of FIFA.His heir-in-waiting, France’s former midfield star Michel Platini, also was banned for a dubious $2 million payment that Blatter approved for the FIFA vice-president in 2011. Their appeals of the eight-year bans that decapitated the leadership of the world’s most popular sport, as well as ongoing criminal probes in Switzerland and the United States of football bribery and corruption, promise to cloud FIFA’s ambitions for a fresh start with the election of a new president in February.In track and field, a cornerstone of the Olympic Games, a World Anti-Doping Agency-ordered investigation that Pound led concluded explosively in November that doping in Russia was not only widespread and deep-rooted, but also likely tacitly sanctioned by President Vladimir Putin’s government.A resulting blanket-ban from competition could see Russian track and field athletes miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics unless the sporting powerhouse can convince the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that it has made real changes. In March, the IAAF’s ethics commission also started investigating alleged doping cover-ups in distance-running power Kenya, which topped the world championships medal table in August.Those probes were just the beginning of a scandal that threatened to sink the IAAF in 2015, gravely undermining not only the federation, but trust in the entire sport it oversees. In November, three months after stepping down as IAAF chief, Lamine Diack was taken into police custody in France, suspected of pocketing more than US$1.1 million in an alleged scheme to blackmail athletes and hush up their doping cases.Diack, who presided at the IAAF for nearly 16 years, is under formal investigation for corruption and money laundering. If proven by France’s investigating magistrates, the allegations could be even graver than football’s massive scandal. The US Department of Justice’s sprawling football case alleges more than $200 million in bribes and kickbacks in the selling of media and marketing rights. Although grievous, the schemes seemingly didn’t affect the outcome of matches. The alleged wrongdoing at the IAAF, however, raised the possibility that on-track results were corrupted by off-track criminality, and that dopers may have robbed competitors of medals by paying the sport’s guardians to look the other way. Contacted repeatedly by the AP, Diack’s lawyer has refused to comment.Nike scandalTasked with cleaning up the mess is British former middle-distance running great Sebastian Coe, elected in August as Diack’s successor. But just months into his new job, the credibility of the chief organiser of the 2012 London Olympics suffered a blow when the BBC uncovered in November that Coe had spoken privately to an executive at Nike, his long-time personal sponsor, about hosting the 2021 world championships in Eugene. The Oregon city about 100 miles south of the sportswear giant’s headquarters outside Portland was subsequently and controversially awarded the competition without an open bidding process.Coe denied that working for both the IAAF and Nike represented a conflict of interest and severed his ambassadorial role with the company. But the affair left doubts about Coe’s judgement and, more broadly, fed into a dominant theme of 2015, which was that sports administrators often appeared chronically out of touch with a shift in the public mood against their clubby ways, and in worst cases, their criminal habits.”It simply won’t work in this day and age,” Pound said. “You have to be more transparent, which doesn’t mean that you run around buck naked, but people have got to understand how a decision was reached, and by whom, and for what reasons, and that sort of thing that never used to happen. There was a code of silence.””Sport has got to change …,” he added, “or it’s going to be changed.”last_img read more

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Tony Becca: Riddle me this, riddle me that

first_img The rules about such things like bowl, leg before wicket, catch, stump, run-out, and no-ball are clear. There is no area for interpretation, and in run-outs and no-balls, if any part, of the bat or the front-foot, however small, is not behind the line, the umpire is obliged to call him out. Nowhere, not yesterday and not today, has anyone ever warned a batsman before bowling him, getting him stumped, or before getting him leg before wicket before really doing it. On top of all that, the non-striker is a batsman, and he gets run-out just like any other batsman. If he breaks the rule, if he leaves the crease before it is time to do so, how does the fielding side dismiss him when he does leave the crease? Those who talk about the “spirit of the game”, must be speaking about those who appeal for a catch when they know that the ball has touched the ground, when they know that the ball has not touched the bat, and when, while appealing for leg before wicket they know that the batsman played the ball. Cricket has been used to this riddle as to when a batsman is out and when he is not out, and that is why the umpire asked the young West Indies captain if he really wanted to go through with the appeal. Would he have asked him such a question had the appeal been for leg before wicket or for bowl? Maybe had he not done so there would have been no controversy. New Zealand’s former captain, Stephen Fleming, came up with a reasonable response, sort of: “Right or wrong, it’s just a sad way to end a good game, especially one with so much on the line.” In 1987, in the World Cup in Pakistan, West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh warned non-striker Abdul Qadir of Pakistan for leaving his crease early. On that occasion, Walsh was the bowler, Saleem Jaffer of Pakistan, the last man, was the batsman, Qadir strayed way down the pitch, Walsh warned him instead of running him out, and Pakistan went on to win the match two, three deliveries later.. I was there, I criticised Walsh for warning Qadir, mainly because he was so far down the pitch, and because he had stopped Walsh in his run-up the previous delivery and had walked down the pitch to talk to Jaffer. It all seemed a deliberate action. On this occasion, however, Mgarava was inches out of his crease, Paul was not in his delivery stride, I am not sure if Mgarava was trying to steal a run or he just strayed as batsmen often do, and it was so close that the umpire had to seek the help of the third umpire. It did not matter whether the batsman strayed or not. The fact is that the batsman was out of his crease. To me, the rule is the rule, whether the batsman is run-out by a foot or an inch, whether he is leg before wicket when the ball pitches outside the leg stump or not, and whether he is bowled whenever the ball clips the stumps or not. It was tough luck for Zimbabwe, and good luck for the West Indies, even if it did not feel right for the West Indies to lose to England, to beat Fiji, and to beat Zimbabwe by the “Mankad” run-out to reach the quarter-finals. It was in the spirit of cricket. It is cricket, regardless of the custom. NO AREA FOR INTERPRETATION REASONABLE RESPONSE I have always believed that cricket is a unique and special game, and I believe that it is so especially because each side takes turn to perform, because it takes a long time to finish a game, because of the numbers and intricacies of the rules governing the game, and because the rules are often times open to interpretation. On top of all that also, sometimes a rule is not a rule, it is used only sometimes, only by some, and sometimes when it is used, its use is the topic of controversy. Last week, in the Under-19 World Cup, the West Indies narrowly defeated Zimbabwe by two runs to squeeze into the quarter-finals. Instead of showering praises on the young West Indians for being alert and aware of the situation and going on to win the match, all hell broke loose. Bowling the 50th over, Keemo Paul ran-out non-striker Richard Mgarava, and, suddenly, from all around the world, came cries of surprise and shouts of condemnation. From England’s one-day captain, Eoin Morgan, came, “Disgraceful behaviour. West Indies should be embarrassed”; from Josh Butler, an England player, came, Can’t believe what I have just seen”; from Darren Lehman, Australia’s coach, came, “Unbelievable. Not out”; and from England’s James Anderson, came, “Disgraceful.” What utter nonsense. According to the rules, the batsman was out. He was either out or not out. And for those who talk about fair play, there is nothing in the rules which talks about fair play.last_img read more

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Barrett Jr eyes pro career

first_imgBarrett Jr eyes pro careerBuoyed by his Under-20 shot put record at the recent CARIFTA Games, outgoing Calabar High standout Warren Barrett Jr, says he is now focused on going professional and making a number of Jamaican teams in the coming years.Barrett threw a personal best of 19.97m to emphatically claim gold on the final day of the regional championships at the Grenada National Stadium, last week and is now looking forward to improving to the 20m range.Sanjae Lawrence of Jamaica produced 18.89m for silver and Josh Hazzard of Grenada got bronze with a throw of 17.18m.”It’s kind of expected because I put in the work in shot put. I just did what I had to,” he said of his exploits. “I would really like to go pro because I really like the sport.”Barrett, who will continue his studies at the University of the West Indies added: “(I will) continue training with my coach (Julian Robinson) and, hopefully, I will make a couple national teams this year and the year after.”Barrett said this summer he wants to make the team to the NACAC Junior Championships, which will provide added competition and challenges for him with the presence of athletes from regional powers such as the United States.”They have a couple of 20m guys and I am yet to surpass 20m and that is the ultimate aim. With competition, I am sure I will surpass it though,” he reasoned.Despite finishing a disappointing third in the shot put event at the recent ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships, he said he was happy to turn the tables at the CARIFTA Games.”Mentally, I am very strong, so the disappointment at Champs it wasn’t really hindering me, I just had to forget that. Going into CARIFTA, I knew I was representing my country, so I had to lay it all down for my country,” he underlined.last_img read more

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