Those In Glass Houses Should Not Throw Stones
The international tumbleweed is rolling in to town from the wilderness again, notable this time by the destruction left in its wake.
On its jaunt into the unknown and back, English football was plunged into a crisis that went beyond even their own usual calamitous standards.
While the acrimonious departure of Big Sam has added a dollop of curiosity to this week’s mundane proceedings, the furore that enveloped the situation might have been the only thing more unbearable than international week itself.
I was struck by two things in the past week. One of them was the reaction to the press on the back of the investigative reporting by the Telegraph, the other the reaction to perceived corruption in football and indeed other sports and it’s stars.
2016 has been a year of sporting highs. Not necessarily in terms of athletes hitting heights of athletic endeavour, achievement and accomplishment, but in the sense that more often than not we came to learn that many of our esteemed icons were pumped to the gills with cortisone and other medically administered substances, legitimately done under the convenient cloak of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
The spate of high profile British athletes whose practices have come under scrutiny include 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who has come in for criticism over the lack of transparency around substances taken to cure ailments. The timing and dosage of these is the particularly sore point for some observers.
Revelations about some of Britain’s leading Olympic lights has come by way of a suspected Russian linked hacking of medical records, obtained in reaction to the banning of Russian athletes from the Olympics because of large scale state sponsored doping. The Russians feel victimised because they have been caught in the act. This is designed to cast doubts and question marks over other more prominent nations’ activities. And sure as hell it has worked. It seems the whole sporting world is riddled, as they say.
What is striking about this have been the subsequent reactions of the wider public to these revelations, alongside the reaction to the Allardyce sting. BT Sport and BBC presenter Jake Humphrey was chief in his leap to concluding that the “poisonous press” were just one part of a triumvirate that toppled the Big Emperor. The other two players in the Game of Thrones that took place in a Chinese restaurant complete with pints of wine were indeed Big Sam’s own greed and naivety.
It smacks of the double standards that we see so much of today.
Why is it that, in the light of the sting on Big Sam, or the reporting on questionable uses of TUE’s by British athlete’s does the tone change?
Why is it that if the press pack of poison pen pushers begin to question the structures and habits of sport in this country rather than abroad, the walls go up? Big Sam himself claimed “Entrapment won” while others called the sting a witch hunt, and rubbished its position as important in cleaning up the sport.
Why is it that when the British press are campaigning for FIFA and UEFA to be held to account, they are bastions of free speech and cleanliness in sport? Question why Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky have repeatedly lied about needle use and their own transparency, and they are begrudging do-no-gooders making stories out of nothing.
There’s a reluctance to admit accountability. So many are in denial about the dirt that flows through British sport, almost to the point of delusion, while old professionals line up to give cryptic support of the individuals caught up in it. Naivety again the word of the day.
We’ll see much bluster about inquiries and investigations to get to the root of it, but like any previous investigations into sport corruption they will soon drift to the middle pages and life will go back to normal.
Meanwhile Big Sam, having been crucified for his sins and, in his eyes, the sins of those closest to him, will rise again one day in a redemptive manner to bring salvation to some club rotting in the relegation zone with a few games to play. Intact, barring a particularly nasty tan line on his arms and legs and a notable bruise in his pocket.
Someone, somewhere, will write a whitepaper detailing a 10-step plan to clean up sport in 5 years. It will go largely unread and unnoticed, most likely because some other storm or incident will develop that will demand everyone’s attention. Football’s problems here will seem insignificant when a sh*tstorm on foreign shores will send the braying mob of journalists away.
Nothing will change. Nothing ever does. Sport will continue to hurtle down back alleys, garden sheds and shady oriental restaurants. And while there will be surprise when all is told, the reaction will depend entirely on the context. Much like we saw in part last week.
Hold your own to the standards you expect to be upheld by others. Be that FIFA, IOC, UCI or the athletes and figures you have myopic devotion too.