Sport is without doubt the most exasperating, mind-expanding, joyous, life-enhancing and wonderful pastime ever gifted to the human race.
One might venture to suggest that it makes the world go around.
However, as we reach the end of a year in which the extraordinary new US President seems determined to systematically wreck every positive notion ever thought of America, both at home and abroad; in which Britain appears to be committing slow motion hara-kiri via Brexit and turning upside-down all semblance of rational political engagement as Mrs May’s terminally-weak Tory Government lurches from crisis to crisis; and in which – as daily reports in the media seems to confirm – the whole world seems destined to go to self-inflicted hell in a hand-cart as a direct result of human consumption and ravaging of the landscape, there would seem to be no reason at all why the role of sport in this descent of Man should be underplayed.
Here are two current media stories doing the rounds:
RUSSIA BANNED FROM COMPLETING IN THE 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS
At last the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has apparently ‘grown a pair’ and banned Russian athletes from competing at next year’s Winter Olympics because of their state-sponsored doping campaign, although Russian athletes who can prove themselves to be ‘clean’ of drugs will be allowed to take part under the Olympic flag – albeit that if they win gold medals the Russian anthem will not be aired and the Russian flag will not be waved.
We even learn that President Putin has effectively publicly announced that this punishment seems fair enough (some had been fearing he would go mad and threaten his own sanctions back in some fashion).
One of the ironies, of course, is that Vitaly Mutko – the man alleged to have been previously in overall charge of the national Russian sports doping programme – is now heading the Russian team in charge of the 2018 football World Cup taking place in Russia.
(To be fair, you just couldn’t make this sort of thing up).
See here for more on this story, firstly, courtesy of a report by Lawrence Ostlere that appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT
And secondly, see here for an opinion piece by Simon Jenkins – not normally a gent I agree with or pay much attention to – that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN
CONFLICT OF INTEREST CHARGE LAID AT THE DOOR OF LADY TANNI GREY-THOMPSON
Even now her reputation as a role model and standard-bearer for the interests of British disabled athletes and disabled sport generally is unassailable. These days, from her vantage point in the House of Lords, she is wheeled out [my sincere apologies for the awfulness of that unintentional pun] on radio and television sports programmes, as a campaigner for disabled rights and as a general ‘force for good’ British national icon.
However, there are several serious issues currently afflicting disabled sport and the Paralympics – not least performance-enhancing drug-taking and claims of people playing ‘fast and loose’ with the disablement qualifications in order to get themselves into ‘better’ categories (by which I refer to categories in which they would be more likely to have elite sporting success).
Specifically, there have been allegations of British Paralympian authorities and coaches systematically ‘doctoring’ the evidence of disablement in talented disabled sportsmen and women in order to qualify them for categories to which they are not strictly entitled in the cause of either gaining additional or better governmental/British Sport funding and/or even perhaps improved chances of major event medals.
It is suggested that this has been done both historically and currently partly because of British Sport’s ‘tough’ principle that future funding of sports will depend upon medal table results.
Far worse, in my view, there have been allegations made in public by some British Paralympic athletes that other British Paralympic athletes have been unjustifiably placed in ‘easier’ categories (by ‘fudging’ medical examinations, or just claiming to be more disabled than they really are) and, in doing so, have effectively adversely affected the medal chances of fellow Brits who genuinely suffer the degree of disablement that the category concerned were designed for.
This is not a happy situation.
Further, it is rendered more serious by the over-inflated weighting given to issues of political correctness generally in the UK.
It is virtually impossible these days to pass comment upon, let alone criticise, any ‘minority’ grouping you could identify without being howled down by activists, politicians and the media – just ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond who today is being bombarded by flak from all sides simply because (rightly or wrongly) he happened to put some of Britain’s long-term awful business productivity record and scores down to the success of the Governments campaign to get more disabled people into work.
I should perhaps mention here that I have seen articles recently in which journalists have hailed the emergence and now discussion of these issues [and let’s not beat about the bush, in a word ‘cheating’ in one form or another] as a healthy sign that disabled and Paralympian sport has at last truly ‘arrived’, i.e. become generally accepted in the minds of the public as equal and on a level with ‘real’ (able-bodied) sport.
Lady Grey-Thompson may rank today as perhaps the most prominent representative of British disabled sport in all its forms – and she may be totally innocent for all I know of these charges, allegations and suspicions – but here is a link to a report by Diane Taylor on some criticism aimed at her by fellow disabled athletes as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN