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The integrity of SportAccord

There have been talks about setting up a match-fixing’s counterpart to WADA. Can SportAccord be a key player is this with the UCI top in its council, Andreas Selliaas asks in this comment piece, arguing that there might be a credibility issue due to the revelations and allegations following the Armstrong case.
13 November 2012

 

Comment: During the last couple of years I have held many lectures and often uttered my opinions about match-fixing. When I get questions about what to do to get rid of the problem, I often refer to the guidelines and advices that SportAccord has designed. They are straightforward and feasible. SportAccord is the association for most international sports organisations - both Olympic and non-Olympic.

There is just one catch to referring to SportAccord’s policy against match-fixing (and doping) - Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid both sit on the board - one is former president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the other is the current president - and both currently have a bad reputation in international sports. Is it proper that these two head an organisation, which is to help secure the ethics in sport?

WAMFA
A match-fixing’s counterpart to WADA (the international anti-doping agency) is demanded internationally. WADA has both state and non-state members and the agency is used as a good example of how to organise the anti-match-fixing work. After Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini and Jacques Rogge have all pointed to match-fixing as a more serious problem to sport than doping, I do not think it will take long before we have a World Anti-Match Fixing Agency (WAMFA). That gives us three challenges.

Two thoughts simultaneously
Firstly there is a danger of placing two problems in sport against each other. Increased focus on match-fixing may mean a lower priority to the fight against doping. Both problems need a long-time attention for us to get control of it. But old men often have trouble holding two thoughts simultaneously.

Lack of resources
The second challenge - in extension of the previous one – is that the increased focus on match-fixing requires resources - both from sport and from national authorities. There is a danger that money from the anti-doping work will be allocated to fighting match-fixing. When sports ministers met at a conference in the Council of Europe in March this year, the argument against establishing a new convention against match-fixing was the lack of resources. With such an attitude, funds would have to be moved from eg. anti-doping if one should direct a greater focus on match fixing. Doing this will entail a risk of the doping problem getting bigger.

Loss of credibility
Thirdly, it is natural to think that SportAccord (along with the IOC and FIFA/UEFA) will be an important contributor and active part in the creation of a new body for anti-match-fixing. The problem then is that those sitting at the top of this organisation currently have a disputed credibility due to the doping scandals unraveling these days. Not only are they under suspicion of withholding important information in the anti-doping work, but they are also accused of corruption. This leaves both the UCI and SportAccord with reduced legitimacy in the fight for better sports ethics, at least while the Armstrong investigations are on-going.

Serious accusations
Allegations against Verbruggen and McQuaid are numerous and extensive. Verbruggen has been accused of obstructing the investigation of doping cases, withholding information about doping and for accepting bribes from Lance Armstrong during his time as UCI president. McQuaid has been accused of not taking the doping problem seriously, of being wise after the event and for having put himself in the role of the victim during the Lance Armstrong case. A good illustration of the two gentlemen having a bad case is that the two in January jointly accused anti-doping journalist Paul Kimmage for libel. Kimmage had accused the two of deliberately embezzling doping evidence in international cycling. In November, the journalist filed a legal suit against the UCI top.

Some are more equal than others
During the last year, Norwegians have discussed what it means for leaders to take responsibility when something goes wrong. Now, we must be careful when comparing the political crisis in Norway last year to the crisis in sport. But one of the conclusions we can draw from the Norwegian debate is that a leader who has done something wrong can continue in his position if he does everything possible to rectify the situation - that is, turning every stone and taking the consequences of the findings being made. The bosses from cycling and SportAccord cannot really be said to have done this. 

On the contrary, they have attempted to trivialize what has happened and have become increasingly indignant with each new scandal uncovered. It is mildly ironic when representatives as IOC member Gerhard Heiberg and others in his group defend the work of Verbruggen and McQuaid, while banning Olympic athletes for stretching game rules. These are double standards and do not serve the fight against match-fixing and doping.

Recommendation
I will continue to recommend SportAccord’s guidelines in the fight against match-fixing (and doping). But it would be easier if the people who manage these guidelines showed that they understood their own rules.


This article first appeared on Andreas Selliaas' blog 'Sportens Uutholdelige Letthet' on 9 November 2012. Follow Andreas' blog (in Norwegian) on sportensuutholdeligeletthet.blogspot.com 

 
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