The world of sport not exactly level

Our Prime Minister appears to have had a field day on Independence Day 2010 here in St Vincent and the Grenadines especially when it came to the area of sports – a field where he is decidedly lacking in competence comparable only to his incompetence in economic matters.
Vincentian sportspeople have long since found reason enough for them to ignore any pronouncements of the Prime Minister and his several Ministers of Sport over the years of their leadership – or lack thereof, in matters pertaining to the development of sport. Nothing said should surprise us and we can be certain that there is no genuine interest in sport on the part of the current ruling regime.
The nation remains sadly lacking in any sense of direction relative to sport. No one in the current administration seems to possess even the slightest clue of what is required. It is all ‘hit or miss’.
The promises that came with this year’s Independence day speech from the Prime Minister is in essence much of the ‘same old, same old’ of his 2000/1 political campaign and we can expect the same results.
One wonders however about the way in which the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) is now fast becoming the political plaything of the ruling regime as the gap to elections closes ever so rapidly.
From the looks of things a new government may find that the state of the National Lotteries Authority is not too dissimilar from the National Commercial Bank.
Global Sport
It is often said that ‘talk is cheap’ and that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. When we apply the foregoing to the so-called ‘wide and wonderful world of sport’ we witness immense problems.
The more one learns of the internal dynamics of sport at the global level the more one is tempted to run as far from it as possible.
The recent expose in respect of betting in sport, increased use of drugs in sport, outright corruption in sport and the questionable democracy that characterises many of the international sports organisations, all tell an ominous tale about an area of life that we have long sought to convince ourselves is critical to development of people everywhere.
Unfortunately, there seems no agency as yet established that seems capable of monitoring and evaluating the performance of sporting organisations with a view to facilitating adherence to the noble ideals of sport.
Professionalism and drugs
There is little doubt that as we seek to raise the bar in terms of what is offered to sportspeople around the world that the tendency towards using performance-enhancing drugs will increase. The evidence is everywhere and in every sport.
The thirst for professionalism meant that athletes could readily access a future for themselves in a sport career. But there is competition to make teams in order to gain greater access to the economic pie. This is where it’s at, as it were.
In 1991, at the Congress of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) – at the time called the International Amateur Athletics Federation – St Vincent and the Grenadines called for a change of name to what we now have. Two representatives – Alberto Juantorena of Cuba and the man who now heads the IAAF, Lamine Diack of Senegal, vehemently rejected it.
In the case of Cuba the claim was made that it has a ‘no tolerance’ policy regarding those who tested positive. In the case of Diack, the argument was that while a ‘few’ had become professionals the vast majority were still amateurs.
St Vincent and the Grenadines countered that an ever-increasing number of athletes were being paid ‘under the table’ and we were deluding ourselves into believing anything different.
The Cubans were not really speaking the truth. At best they were speaking ‘tongue in cheek’. This was later exposed as Discus Thrower, Luis Delis, tested positive and was handed a two-year ban by the IAAF. Later, double world record-holder, Javier Sotomayor, fell afoul when he tested positive for, of all things, cocaine. To date the Cubans have made no apologies to St Vincent and the Grenadines for the stance they adopted in 1991.
Perhaps it was merely a case that some of the larger developing nations continue to hold the view that small nations like ours are incapable of understanding, appreciating and contributing to the global discourse on the development of Athletics. However, a quick perusal of the global reality would bring them all to an understanding of what Lloyd Best always proclaimed, the Caribbean has provided the civil service for the international community’.
In the international community Athletics and Cycling have featured more than any other sport. Only now we have seen the US professional Leagues beginning to take the matter of drugs in sport seriously. They are very, very late. The horse has long since bolted.
In the recent past there has been suspicion expressed in respect of the use of marijuana in sports like Archery and Shooting given the importance of steady nerves to the performance of the athletes involved. Today, no sport seems exempt from the ravages of accessing drugs to improve performance.
Several years ago it was suggested by one critic that we should hold two Olympics every four years – one for the performance enhanced users and the others for the clean athletes. The critic insisted that he was certain that the former Olympics would feature athletes from the developed and rapidly developing countries while the latter edition would highlight the athletes from the poor countries who could not afford to have their athletes train abroad.
Gambling in sport
There are those who would suggest that gambling or betting has always been part of sport. While in some sports gambling has been an acceptable component, it is not the case in others.
In the recent past Cricket has suddenly awakened to the reality of Match-fixing and gambling in the sport. Pundits of the sport have ling since suggested this to be the case but the authorities seemed unwilling to listen. Today the International Cricket Council (ICC) behaves as though it has suddenly been made aware of the critical nature of the situation.
The international governing body for Football, FIFA, has also come forward claiming that it is only now addressing the matter of match-fixing in the sport. This is most embarrassing to those who have been closely following the sport for the past several decades.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has also suddenly received a ‘wake up’ call in respect of the gambling and match-fixing in the sport.
In the US, professional sport made much about the case of Pete Rose, a Baseball Hall of Famer, when admissions of gambling on games came to the fore. It never seemed to occur to the authorities that this mat well have been an age-old practice and that they just managed to catch on to Rose.
From inception there were some sports analysts who felt certain that the monies thrown into the Indian Premier league 20/20 competition left the door open, not just ajar, for massive twists and turns. Now we have a situation where many questions are being asked and the answers are significantly few.
It is said that ‘money runs things’. This is so true in international sport today. One wonders why it has taken the international sporting community so long to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.
We are accustomed to hearing about corruption in government and the private sector, especially in recent times. However we have not been accustomed to corruption in sport. Unfortunately, this too seems to have been with us throughout the history of international sport. Unfortunately too it appears that we would have this with us for many decades to come.
The problem is that once sport has money we can expect corruption. It is the same as we have come to find with national politics here.
FIFA is today in the throes of a major scandal. But the International Olympic Committee has been there before and one wonders whether the establishment of an Ethics Commission has done anything to stem what appears to have been a tide of corruption in the organisation.
Questionable democracy
In the world of sport things are really not all wonderful. This is particularly true where democracy is concerned.
In May of this year at the General Assembly of the Pan American Sports Organisation St Vincent and the Grenadines challenged the authorities on a piece of legislation which it considered blatantly contrary to the fundamental principles associated with genuine democracy. At the time St Vincent and the Grenadine stood alone with Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago and watched in horror as the IOC member for St Lucia, Richard Peterkin, attempted to convince the rest of us that the bulk of the decisions would be made by all on the basis of a one NOC one vote principle. It was only a few instances that were being changed – the vote for the host city for the Pan American Games and the vote for the election of officers. These were minor matters to Peterkin. Clearly the IOC posting may well have impacted his understanding of what constitutes democracy.
At a recent meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) 9n Acapulco, Mexico, there were some who eagerly called on the Assembly to pass a resolution that the president of ANOC be allowed to serve his full four-year term on the Executive of the IOC. The intention may not hav ebeen immediately clear to the uninitiated. Thefact is that the President of ANOC turns 80 in 2012 and according to IOC rules must step down. The intention of the resolution therefore was to attempt to find a neat but seemingly illegal way of having the ANOC President bypass the IOC regulations.
Of course there were several who did not support the resolution but in the way things are done in Latin America those who stood up were counted as a majority.
Perhaps it is because Latin America does not have a tradition of democracy. That thistradition so often seems to permeate the world of sport is not in any way surprising. It does however leave much that is objectionable and reprehensible.
We have been encourage dinto believing that sport carries with it many lofty, positive values to which we should attract our children.
Increasingly however our children are coming to the realisation that much like national politics national, regional and international sport is riddled with all the negatives one can possibly consider.
It is therefore important that we confront these inconsistencies and redress them. Failure to do wo would result in the last stage being significantly worse than the first, as the old people always advise us.