Fair Play Suffers Setbacks

Updated: 2013-07-28 08:28

(The New York Times)

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Fair Play Suffers Setbacks

Another Tour de France has come and gone, but another ritual of summer sport rolls on: speculating on whether the winner was doping or riding clean.

But there is already competition for the attention of those whose interest in athletic scandal does not peak in the Pyrenees. A day after Chris Froome won the Tour, leaving observers to wonder whether his achievement was natural, doping news was diverted to the other side of the Atlantic, where Major League Baseball announced that it was suspending Ryan Braun, one of its best players, for the rest of the season. Mr. Braun, like Lance Armstrong and other athletes tangled in the web of performance-enhancing drugs, had long declared his innocence until conceding, "I realize now that I have made some mistakes."

And in another arena, three top sprinters acknowledged earlier in June that they had failed drug tests, continuing a litany of doping violations in track and field. They included the American Tyson Gay, a former world champion, and Asafa Powell of Jamaica, who held the world record at 100 meters until Usain Bolt passed him by.

Mr. Froome and his team have been struggling to convince skeptics that he has not been taking the shortcuts that have become an epidemic in sports. The suspicions, accusations, denials, punishments and eventual confessions roll endlessly. But the doping dramas are only the most visible demonstration of a whatever-it-takes-to-win ethos that, while perhaps no worse these days, has been demonstrated across a wide range recently. Consider:

Allegations of a more old-fashioned kind of cheating have emerged in rhythmic gymnastics - not by athletes, but by judges trying to qualify for the Olympics and other high-level competitions, The Times reported. Dozens of people are suspected of copying one another's answers, and other misbehavior, during tests across Europe, and some exam proctors have been implicated too. The International Gymnastics Federation has disciplined several Olympic officials, including banning the lead official from the 2012 Olympics. This comes as no big shock to some inside the sport. "Judging issues in rhythmic gymnastics are almost as prolific as doping issues in cycling," Janine Murray of Australia, who competed in last year's Olympics, told The Times.

At the World University Games in Moscow, the host Russians drew criticism, even in their own country, for the team they brought, The Times reported. The games are a biennial good-will gathering of student athletes, but the Russian team, which included 18 Olympic gold-medal winners, won 155 gold medals; the Chinese were second with 26.

Even cricket, which puts a premium on sportsmanship, had an ethical lapse. In a recent match against Australia, an English batter created a stir when he did not call himself out after an umpire missed the call. Turning yourself in may be unthinkable in cycling, baseball and even rhythmic gymnastics, but in cricket, it is what many expect. "Why can't we have it played straight, where cricketers act like gentlemen and do what we know is right?" the British radio host Peter Allen asked.

You won't find that attitude on a handball court in New York, at least not when Joe Durso is on it. Mr. Durso has been playing the game in Coney Island for 40 years and has won many national titles. He is also a champion trash-talker. He trash-talks opponents. He trash-talks spectators. He walks off the court if he doesn't like a call.

"Sports is not about being nice - it's about trying to dominate the other person," he told The Times. "Where is it written that you have to give the other guy compliments? Is it in the Bible?"


(China Daily 07/28/2013 page9)