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Corruption in Sports

One of the issues that have been prevalent in the sports industry for many years is corruption. The first recorded case of corruption was in 388 B.C during the first Olympic Games when an athlete named Eupolos from Thessalia successfully bribed his major competitors to allow him to win (Maennig, 2005). It is crucial that sports uphold integrity if various participants and spectators are to enjoy it. It is worth noting that this is a global activity that attracts thousands, millions, and even billions of international audience that passionately watch it. This paper presents findings from a research done to determine ways in which corruption has evolved over the years to become a global issue.

According to Baker (2013), the past century has witnessed several trends that have tremendously affected sports. They included commercialization that has turned sports into a business whose annual worth exceeds US$140 billion, medicalization, and politicization. The author notes that each of these developments has contributed to corruption in the sector. Unfortunately, most of the research that has been done by scholars on the issue of corruption in sports have not been inclusive. Instead of investigating the whole range, they tend to analyze one aspect in detail and leave out the rest. For instance, Paoli and Donati (2014) have written a seminal work that presents the findings after investigating sports doping market for several years. However, it should be noted that doping is just one aspect or type of dishonesty in the sport. Another common type of corruption is match-fixing. In the past few years, there has been close cooperation between various sports governing bodies such as FIFA and Interpol with the aim of addressing the problem of match-fixing and improving the integrity of sport (Masters, 2015). The author notes that the partnership between the two bodies has resulted in new academic literature, part of which will be used in this paper.Corruption in Sports

Over the years, corruption had proved problematic to define given that its definition varies from one person to the other, particularly influenced by the limitation of definer’s perspective. This, in turn, has made it difficult to define this vice when it occurs in sports. The World Bank view corruption from an economist perspective defining it as misuse of authority for private gain. It follows that this definition is not inclusive of a situation where entrusted power is abused for public gain rather than a personal one. As Baker (2013) pointed out, the sports industry has undergone major transformations over the past one century. At the global level, it now involves both political and economic aspects especially in the bidding process where different nations seek to host significant events such as the FIFA World Cup or Olympics. Recent bid processes have rendered earlier definitions of corruption unsatisfactory. Public officials have corrupted private actors for public gain as opposed to private one. There is, therefore, a need to develop a working definition that will explain what corruption in sports entails.Corruption in Sports

Gorse and Chadwick (2011) have carried out research on corruption prevalence in sport and proposed that corruption could be defined as a deliberate distortion of any sports activity through immoral or illegal means. The main shortcoming of this view is that it leaves out unethical practices by sports governing bodies. More importantly, it is vital to clearly state what ethics and morals are used as the index to identify what should or should not be regarded as corrupt in international competitions. It follows that corruption in sports could simply be defined as deviating from what is publicly expected by failing to administer or play sports in an honest manner. This wide definition factors in preparations by athletes as well as their actual participation in a given competition. The “failure to administer”, on the other hand, includes all levels of administration ranging from individual athletes to national associations and international organizations. It also involves the application of by-laws and other rules governing sports, in addition to referring or adjudication. Honesty in sports requires that any information that pertains to a team or an athlete be discretely handling without taking advantage of it. Finally, the term public relates to both supporters and non-supporters of a given team or sports competition.

Despite the efforts put in place by various stakeholders, the sports sector has continued to be susceptible to traditional forms of corruption. Bribery claims have become very strife in the sporting world. According to a report published by FIFA, government officials have used money drawn from the public purse to pay individuals running private organizations with the intention of influencing the selection of hosts of the prestigious football competition. The 2002 Winter Olympics that were hosted by Salt Lake City also involved corruption allegations (Jennings, 2011).  In the past, bribery in the sport took the form of players being influenced to underperform. In the past decade, however, it has emerged that host bribery is also prevalent in many international competitions where senior administrators expect to receive certain favors or gifts. This was the case in 2014 when the FIFA executive committee that consists of officials from different countries accepted expensive gifts amounting to over $ 1 million from one of the sponsors of the event.Corruption in Sports

The sports sector has developed its own language to describe specific acts of corruption have continued to rock the industry over the years. These terms include match-fixing and doping. Moreover, nobbling and ring-ins are unethical practices that go beyond the classic corruption forms. Lamberti (2014) defines a fixed match as a game that pre-determined results, either completely or partially and thereby violating the law and rules pertaining to it. It includes point-shaving that aim to keep the score within a predetermined range and spot-fixing.

According to Kihl, Skinner, and Engelberg (2017), wide and indebt research has been conducted in Europe with specific emphasis on football to investigate the issue of match-fixing. One such study was undertaken by Nowy and Breuer (2017) to determine the degree and causes of match-fixing in the continent. The researchers selected five countries from which they sampled several teams. The findings indicated that match-fixing posed a serious problem to different teams at the grassroots level. It was also established that the number of incidences reported bore a direct correlation to the extent of general corruption in each country. From the findings, it was established that several organizational capacity factors were the cause of match-fixing. They included larger sized clubs, few formalized staff, and poor revenue diversification. The authors conclude that managers can play a leading role in minimizing incidences of match-fixing. To do this, they should investigate their organizational capacities and enhance strategic capacity by providing educational programs with the aim of raising awareness about ethical conduct and expected accountability practices.

The other common form of corruption in sports is doping. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, doping is said to have occurred if one or more rules established to ensure anti-doping is violated. The history of doping tests dates back to 1960 when a Danish athlete named Knud Enemark suffered a stroke that led to his death during the Olympics. The autopsy that was conducted indicated that amphetamines could have caused his death. This prompted the International Olympic Committee to introduce drug testing and to ban several performance-enhancing substances. Over the years, this has helped to both protect athletes from harmful substances and to raise the integrity of various international competitions. Initially, the committee’s approach was unsystematic due to ineffective methodology and poor technology. As the accuracy and reliability of testing increased, the gap that was initially present began to close. Today, samples are taken from athletes during each international competition and analyzed to determine if they contain any prohibited substances.Corruption in Sports

Despite these developments, there is still widespread use of prohibited substances in international sports. According to statistics provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency, 1.72% of samples that were analyzed in 2004 tested positive for various prohibited substances. The figure was higher in 2005 at 2.13% and slightly lower in 2005 at 1.96%. In 2009, 2.02% of samples were found to contain illegal substances. Several researchers including Erickson, Backhouse, and Carless (2012) have developed an interest in investigating doping. The authors identify that athletes live in an environment characterized by complex relationships yet no research had been conducted to establish is their behavior and attitudes were in any way influenced by their surroundings. Although it is understood that parents and coaches have an immense influence on young and adolescent athletes, their influence in the context of doping had not been established. Consequently, Erickson, Backhouse, and Carless set out to investigate what draws many young adult athletes to doping using a qualitative methodology. These researchers sampled and interviewed 14 student-athletes from Britain. Afterward, they applied thematic analysis to study the findings and established that the relationship between an athlete and his or her parents has an influence on their lives that goes beyond sport. Erickson et al. (2012) found that the personal morals of sportspersons are influenced by their parents, who establish their first perception regarding what should be considered wrong or right. This influence appears to have an impact on the behavior of athletes even long after they have left their family home. Moreover, the author found that parents influence the trajectory that athletic careers take. It followed that successful athletes have a close relationship with their parents. Additionally, the authors found that the relationship between athletes and parents can be instrumental in deterring these sportspersons from doping. Consequently, the researchers concluded that to effectively counter doping, parents should be given anti-doping education. This approach will provide an effective way to shape the behavior and attitude of athletes toward doping.

It is also worth noting that not all accusations about corruption in sport are sincere. It is usually the case that athletes like to blame everyone else apart from themselves every time they lose. In the past, the winning individuals have been falsely accused of doping or using dishonest means to clinch the victory. Incidences, where fans accused opponent teams of rigging, are not new.Corruption in Sports

For instance, Lodewijkx and Brouwer (2011) note that many people regard the period between 1990 and 2010 in professional cycling characterized by any cases of doping.  The use of these substances, however, has not been found to have any effect on performance enhancement among endurance athletes. This prompted a research to be conducted to determine whether the performance of cyclists during this period was influenced by doping. The results obtained after examining several international competitions including the Tour de France an assessing the time taken by winners indicated normally distributed performance. The researchers concluded that the claims about widespread doping during this period could have been false. It is therefore important that corruption allegations are taken seriously after thorough investigations have been conducted.

Nobbling is a form of doping in which the ability of a competitor is interfered with, making it difficult for them to compete to their best ability. Usually, the victims are not aware that their abilities have been diminished. According to Master (2017), nobbling is common in animal sport given that it is difficult for animals to realize and articulate any changes occurring in them. Ring-ins, on the other hand, involves the substitution of an animal or athlete during a competition for the one that has a better ability. Master (2017), reports that one of the most disturbing ring-in cases involved the whole of Spanish basketball team during the 2000 Paralympic competition. All the officials and athletes from the team were implicated in this case and resulted in the team losing the gold medal that they had just clinched. Following the incidence, intellectually competitors were barred from participating in Paralympics.

Over the years, various sporting organizations have pushed for more public input in order to successfully fight corruption in sport. These bodies together with various gambling investors understand that for the sector to continue being appealing to sponsors, fans, as well as investors, it must have a strong aspect of unpredictability. From the research conducted, it is evident that match-fixing is now a big threat to the element of unpredictability. This became evident in Taiwan when just a few people attended the Taiwan Baseball League in 1997 following the revelation of a gambling scandal that had a negative impact on the legitimacy of the competition. Several international non-governmental organizations have also pushed for governments to take up a more active role in safeguarding sport from any form of corruption. For corruption in sports to be effectively tamed, every stakeholder should play their part. When every person upholds integrity in this sector, the sport will continue to be an activity that is enjoyed by both participants and spectators.Corruption in Sports

 

References

Erickson, K., Backhouse, S. H., & Carless, D. (2017). Doping in sport: Do parents matter?. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 6(2), 115.

Gorse, S., & Chadwick, S. (2011). The prevalence of corruption in international sport: A statistical analysis. Coventry: Centre for the International Business of Sport.

Jennings, A. (2011). Investigating corruption in corporate sport: The IOC and FIFA. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 46(4), 387-398.

Kihl, L. A., Skinner, J., & Engelberg, T. (2017). Corruption in sport: Understanding the complexity of corruption. European Sport Management Quarterly, 17(1), 1-5.

Lamberti, A. (2014). When the beautiful game turns ugly: A study of fan experiences of perceived match fixing in soccer.

Lodewijkx, H. F., & Brouwer, B. (2011). Some empirical notes on the epo epidemic in professional cycling. Research quarterly for exercise and sport, 82(4), 740-754.

Maennig, W. (2005). Corruption in international sports and sport management: Forms, tendencies, extent and countermeasures. European Sport Management Quartely, 5(2), 187-225.

Masters, A. (2015). Corruption in sport: From the playing field to the field of policy. Policy and Society, 34(2), 111-123.

Nowy, T., & Breuer, C. (2017). Match-fixing in European grassroots football. European Sport Management Quarterly, 17(1), 24-44.

Paoli, L., & Donati, A. (2014). The sports doping market. Understanding Supply and Demand, and the Challenges of Their Control. NY, 160.