Gone with the wind is the lofty Olympic motto, “When the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name He writes not whether you won or lost but how you played the game”. This motto and motive carried sportsmen and women to legendary heights enabling them – as Mahatma Gandhi wished – not only to fly like birds or swim like fish but more importantly to walk like human beings. They not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk as men and women with great qualities and characteristics, upholding the highest values and virtues, precepts and principles. They learnt and taught the world how to live truly, speak truly and deal truly. They were magnanimous in the glory of gold medals or victory and courageous in defeat or calamity.
Gradually and tragically, the values and high standards began to degenerate. With the onslaught of the globalised capitalist market economic system and its hell hole of vices such as selfishness, self–centredness and greed, deception and hypocrisy, sports also took a battering. Scandals overflowed across scorebooks in recent decades.
The latest horror was the case of seven times world cycling champion Lance Armstrong. The United States Anti-Doping Agency, after years of investigations, released a thousand–page report giving substantial evidence that Mr. Armstrong and other cyclists, not only took banned energy enhancing drugs, but were also involved in one of the world’s biggest–ever doping rackets. The US agency gave evidence that the cyclist took the banned substances intravenously so that through this blood doping they could avoid detection in the normal urine tests.
Mr. Armstrong who suffers from cancer and heads a foundation to help sports personalities suffering from the same disease, initially denied the allegation. But his sponsors started withdrawing one by one and the International Cycling Federation last week stripped him of all seven gold medals he had won in the Tour de France and banned him for life.
What is happening in Sri Lanka? After we won the world cup in 1996, cricket became the pride and joy of millions of people. But this game of national glory has descended into big business where billionaires sponsor multimillionaires. Kerry Packer started the rot and the Indian Premier League turned it into a boom-boom business where mudalalis, instead of players are playing cricket with match-fixing and other frauds. So disgraceful is the crisis that the main opposition UNP last week placed in Parliament a question as to whether at least three world-cup finals in which Sri Lanka played and lost since 1996 were fixed by book–makers. If cricket is not rescued from racketeer book-makers and mudalalis, the cricketers themselves need to be warned that they are in danger of losing their fans and if that happens they will be run out.