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Why We Should Be Talking About Ethics In Sports At This Point In India

Ruchira Roy
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
498   //    03 Jul 2018, 13:40 IST

ATHLETICS-KEN-TRIAL-DOPING
ATHLETICS-KEN-TRIAL-DOPING

India has had its own share of sporting scandals from senior international players being tested positive for use of performance enhancement drugs to match-fixing and spot-fixing scandals. But overall, Indian contingent has fared better at international sporting events, take the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for example, than in the past decade. As millions of people pin their hopes on Olympic probables in 2020, with an ever-growing viewing audience, there is no better time than now to get the house in order in terms of implementing sports ethics to reinforce a culture of integrity and fair play.

In April this year, a World Anti-Doping Agency report placed India 6th in the list of sporting nations with most number of doping violations, thankfully down from a shameful third position last year. Based on the report, India had 69 Anti-Doping Rule Violations, from samples collected in 2016, the same as Russia, a country that is far from having recovered from its sullied past of allegations that it ran a state-sponsored doping program for all Olympic sports for four long years, while dictating its anti-doping agency to toe its line of corruption.

But now we do see some political will across the globe from associations and sports governing bodies to act in the direction of fighting corruption and unethical practices, and have fair play policies favoring clean athletes and sportsmen, because of the disastrous repercussions a series of scandals have had on the economy of viewership along with the obvious disappointment caused to millions of sports lovers. But is it just enough to have pro-ethics policies in place?

Research showed the global sports industry was worth $1.3 trillion in 2017 with dollars being spent on sponsorships, talents, merchandise and digital engagement. But on and off, doping scandals and frauds have rocked the global sporting community as much as in India.

The cost is larger than the risk

While for Russia, it could not officially participate in Winter Olympics 2018 due to the International Olympic Committee’s ban on official Russian participation, because of the ‘systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules’, for Indian wrestlers, opportunities have thinned as the International Wrestling Federation has decided to restrict the participation quota for countries with higher number of ADRVs.  

The new resolution suggests that countries with 10-19 cases of positive tested athletes will get 4 spots in 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and those with more positive cases will get just 2. This cannot bode well for the Indian wrestling team that had a crackling show at the Commonwealth Games this year.

A global problem of ethics?

The problem of ethics continues to be worryingly widespread. For example, a WADA report lists 1595 doping rule violations globally in 112 sports in 2016. Though the numbers are down from 1,929 in 2015, the reduction hardly offers solace, especially because most cases were reported in sports like bodybuilding, cycling, weightlifting, and football, some of the most watched sports.  

Bringing in ethics and ethical practices in sports are not just about cutting out performance-enhancement drugs. It is about making all efforts to create a level playing field for sportsmanship to flourish, to the extent of making policies that favor fair play and clean athletes or players.

Along with zero tolerance for unethical and fraudulent practices, it will be important to create an atmosphere where players are educated about rules of ethics in terms of fairness, integrity, responsibility and respect. These measures may show results only in the long-term, but they should be necessarily taken right now to clean up an image of being a doping riddled unethical sporting fraternity. If this is not given the kind of priority it deserves, then necessarily, it will affect the sanctity and trust accorded to sports by millions of fans in a sporting crazy world.

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Solutions

Various sports bodies in India and globally are looking to fight back the pressure from the burgeoning parallel industry of sports enhancement drugs and its beneficiaries. While anti-doping agencies are tightening the screws on athletes by increasing the number of tests done for dope detections before, during and after competing, they have also additionally started to lay emphasis on using investigative approach to catch dope cheats, according to WADA.

In India, anti-doping bodies have started running awareness and educational programs at school and college levels, where most sporting talents are picked up, and then nurtured to play at competitive levels. They are being made significantly aware of the consequences such activities can have on their careers. In 2016, National Sports Ethics Commission Bill was tabled in the Indian Parliament, to introduce specific legislation that curbs the menace of corruption and other unethical practices like doping, match-fixing, age fraud and sexual harassment of women players.

On a global level, fair play agencies are also making a noise for creating corporate governance framework that includes sufficient protection to be provided to whistle-blowers. Ideas to set up regulatory bodies to specifically look into ethics and fair play and establishing standards in favor of clean athletes have also been mooted. 

Forums and advocacy groups like World Forum For Ethics in Business started by Indian spiritual and humanitarian leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar are providing a platform for stakeholders, from players to franchisees to anti-doping agencies, global sports associations and management bodies to come together to introspect/brainstorm on ways and practices that can bring in the key element of behavioral modification along with policy action to create a more ethical and level playing field for sportspersons.

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Ruchira Roy
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