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Sport

Is Sport No Longer Sporting?

With yet another scandal to add to the list, is there no more sportsmanship in the competitive world of sport?

It’s been over two months since the Australian cricket ball tampering scandal came to light during their Test series against South Africa in March. The cricket world still seems to be reeling over the revelation of Cameron Bancroft using sandpaper to damage the ball during the third test match against South Africa. Speculation has gathered, and opinions have been formed regarding this new misconduct in the sporting world. Pundits, ex-players, and fans alike all have something to say about this wrongdoing.

Some believe that the bans on Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft are fair, with Smith and Warner holding one-year bans while Bancroft was handed a nine-month suspension. Others disagree with the punishments, and according to BBC Sport, even the Australian Cricketers’ Association has asked Cricket Australia for a reconsideration on the bans given. There was also the suggestion as to whether the entire Australian cricket team knew about the plans to damage the match ball in use. On BBC Radio 5 Live, ex-Ashes player and ex-England captain Andrew Flintoff deemed it “absolute nonsense” that only three players were aware of the scheme to tamper the ball.

This is not the first sporting scandal to come into light. The last cricket scandal was in 2010 with the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing, where three Pakistan players allegedly accepted money to influence events in a match. There was also the Russian state-doping scandal that resulted in many of the Russian athletes being banned from competition at the Olympics and Winter Olympics, and those who could compete were unable to compete under their nation’s flag. The infamous 1986 World Cup quarter-final goal by Diego Maradona, who ‘punched’ the ball in for Argentina’s first goal in a win against England. And of course, we cannot forget Lance Armstrong’s confession of using performance enhancing drugs during his domination of the Tour de France, which caused him to be
stripped of all his titles and awards.

These are all big scandals throughout the course of sporting history. We can’t forget the smaller acts of misconduct performed by players, either. The ‘simulated diving’ in football, feigning injuries and other forms of time-wasting to ruin the momentum of a game are, unfortunately, all types of ‘smaller’ acts of misconduct within the sporting game. However, when are we going to call these ‘scandals’ and ‘misconducts’ what they truly are? These are not wrongdoings, or outrageous acts of misbehaviour. This is cheating.

When has anyone ever been proud of cheating? It seems like the offending players do not feel a shred of guilt when they successfully win a penalty for a simulated dive and see their opposing player being booked or even sent off. And it looks as if teams do not feel a hint of remorse for running down the clock to minimise the chances of conceding. Are the rewards of winning games too distracting for teams and their playing members? Surely it can be said that even fans are influenced by these acts of deceit by their teams, cringing at the slow-motion replays shown during the games or on highlight reels of the players during the post match analysis.

Of course, that is not the case for some teams and their members, as we saw tears being shed by Warner and Smith after the Australian ball tampering scandal and coach Darren Lehmann resigning from his position despite being cleared of all involvement. Those accused of ball-tampering also did not fight their bans, choosing not to appeal against them, which some critics believe may have won them some respect from the cricket world.

There are plenty of rules in place in each sporting body that are doing their best to keep cheating out of the world of sport. But it can be difficult to judge a simulated dive without a form of referral. Even the smaller acts that we can call ‘professional fouls’ are forms of misconduct that team players are known to do. Taking a card for your team to slow down a form of attack by the opposition. Umpires and referees alike can give out as many cards as they can in each of the games they officiate, but that will not necessarily deter forms of cheating.
Sports enhancing drugs, simulated diving, time-wasting, ball-tampering or other forms of misconduct are too well known throughout the world. And there seems to be at least one scandal a year now for the sporting world to contend with.

What has become of the world of sport? Are athletes that overcome by the pressure to be the best for their nations that they feel like they must resort to cheating so they can represent in their sport? Of course, it can be considered that there is a selfish element to the misconducts performed by athletes. However, there is a massive weight on the shoulders of those who represent their countries at any major competition. Winning a medal or a trophy could guarantee better funding for their sport the following season, or it could end up breaking a record for that country. Athletes are, potentially, forced to consider all avenues necessary to hold their place in whatever team or competition they are in.

However, cheating in sport at the highest level is no way to influence and inspire the next generation
of gold medallists or Champions’ Leaguewinners or Masters’ Cup champions. Why would we wish to portray to them that, tocompete at the highest level possible, they would have to resort to some form of cheat tactic?

While it is acknowledged that it will be impossible to rule out all forms of cheating misconduct in the competitive world, something must be done to begin cutting it down slowly but surely. It must be considered what avenues can be ventured into to discourage misconduct, such as a Video Referral as seen in field hockey and rugby and cricket, or fines that are slowly being implemented into football for simulated diving and a certain number of cards gathered through a season. Not just for the sake of sportsmanship and fairness, but also for the sake of those aspiring to be our next generation of footballers, cricketers, hockey and rugby players, and so on.

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