How to Investigate Sports Corruption without upsetting the Senior Executives
Lets judge them using their own words.
Today, (October 7) the Qatari-sponsored International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS) prepares to officially launch another alphabet soup of an organisation – the Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) or possibly they will announce a shift in their own organization’s deck chairs while attempting to convince the sports world they should be taken seriously.
The next day, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will continue their long, slow murder of the World Anti-Doing Agency (WADA). They will, presumably, announce some plan that will help institutionally kill WADA, dumping its body into a new organizational change and then try to pass over the whole problem of state-sponsored doping in a plethora of bureaucratese.
Along with their announcements, the ICSS, the IOC and their communications people will attempt to convince the world that they should be trusted to safeguard the integrity of international sports.
So lets examine how these two deeply-controversial organizations would investigate sports corruption.
To do so, let us be completely fair.
Let us ignore the ICSS non-investigation of Mohammed bin Hammam. This is the Qatari-based sports executives who provide enough material for Sunday Times journalists to write a four-hundred page book outlining the bribes and shady deals that he, allegedly, used to help secure the World Cup rights.
Let us ignore the ICSS non-investigation of the human rights scandals of the labour contracts, that is, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, comparable to modern-day slavery.
Let us ignore the ICSS non-investigation of the Qatar FIFA executive currently suspended for purported ethical lapses.
Let us ignore all the allegations of general societal ill-treatment in Qatar. Let us ignore the cases of women being jailed for reporting being raped in that country.
Let us ignore the case of the footballer who was detained for almost two-years by Qatari sports officials.
Let us also ignore all the problems that the IOC suffered this year.
Let us ignore the fact that their top European official – Pat Hickey – is currently under house arrest in Rio de Janeiro for an alleged high-level ticket scalping scheme.
Let us ignore the fact that for the first time since 1984 a current President of the IOC – Thomas Bach – did not visit the opening ceremonies or, indeed, any part of the Paralympics in Brazil. One reason given for his absence was that he was afraid of being questioned by the Brazilian police about the ticket scalping scandal.
Let us ignore the charges levelled by other departments of the Brazilian police against the IOC television services for labour exploitation of their employees during the broadcasts of the games.
Let us ignore the controversies around boxing and wrestling at the Rio Olympics.
Let us ignore the entire Russian state-sponsored doping scandal.
Let us ignore the two independent reports produced by WADA that showed that the Russian government was involved with systematic doping of their athletes.
Let us ignore the fact that the IOC decided to effectively ignore these reports.
Let us ignore the fact that the Paralympics officials looked at the same evidence that the IOC did and decided to follow WADA’s advice and ban all of the Russian athletes.
This is a lot to ignore.
However, let us pretend that none of these credibility-damaging issues happened.
So let us only look at their own words to see how they would investigate potential sports corruption.
We actually have a very good way of doing this analysis. In August, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), whose work on match-fixing is sponsored by the Qatari-sponsored ICSS, issued a report entitled ‘Good Practices in the Investigation of Match-Fixing’.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the UNODC commissioned a group of ICSS people, an IOC integrity official and collection of the usual sports ethics conference groupies to write the report (To be completely fair, there were a couple of other – good – investigators included) and sign off on its contents.
So if we examine this report we can see how the ICSS and IOC imagine an investigation into sports corruption should be carried out.
Again to be very fair, parts of the report are good. For example, (page 44) about constructing a timeline (chronology) that can help drive the questions and analysis around an investigation. It is good, basic investigatory technique. The entire report is well-written in a clear, consistent style.
However, the real problem is that the UNODC report is drowning in bullshit. Let us examine three issues that shake the credibility in the report.
They never mention Qatar. The report is funded by the ICSS. The ICSS is funded by high-ranking Qataris. A fair-minded person might think it a little strange that a report dealing with sports integrity does not mention the country where the ICSS is located and who provides the majority of their funding.
The authors claim that there are very few successful match-fixing cases.
“As the number of successful prosecutions for match-fixing is still relatively low, it is important that lessons are learned from those previous prosecutions that have taken place, whether they have been successful or not.” (Page 57)
There have been successful police investigations and prosecutions for match-fixing in dozens of countries. Here is an incomplete list made in one minute (with no Googling) of jurisdictions with successful match-fixing convictions in the last five years – Germany, Finland, Italy, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, Malta, Belgium, Norway, Czech Republic, Brazil, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
I suspect there are at least two potential reasons for this malarkey. The first is that few of the listed authors of the reports are actually investigators. Most are the kind of person who rattles off the usual clichés at sports integrity conferences but is never around in the back-alley of a real investigation when things get tense.
Two, if sports officials can pretend that there have been few successful match-fixing convictions they may be able to ignore some of the embarrassing revelations of these court trials.
3. The real problem with the report is contained in the section when the authors deal with official complicity in sports corruption:
“This will put people in the sports organization who are responsible for the investigation in a very difficult situation. Suggested solutions are to involve more senior people within the sport in question (i.e. the regional or international federation) or to speak to a law enforcement agency. In extreme cases, depending on who and how many people may be involved, the Government could be approached.” Page 62.
Torpedo in the hull. Their ship is sunk.
You see, not a single one of the recent criminal investigations by law enforcement agencies that have shaken the sports world could have been carried out using their advice.
Imagine that in the midst of the investigation against Hickey and his alleged ticket scalping the Rio de Janeiro police force had gone and told Thomas Bach of the IOC, “We think that one of your senior associates is privately enriching himself. We will arrest him in the next couple of days at his hotel.”
Imagine in the midst of the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice investigation into corruption at FIFA, the detectives had gone to Sepp Blatter (now himself charged) and said, “High-level football executives are, in our opinion, conducting systematic fraud in almost every aspect of their business operations.”
Imagine if Richard Pound and his WADA investigators had to President Vladimir Putin while investigating doping in Russian sports.
The real story is that if sports corruption investigations are carried out in the fashion of that the UNODC/ICSS report advises, then the status quo at the top of sports will continue whatever new organizations are founded.
Here is a list of questions for journalists who may be at the press events:
List of Questions for the ICSS/SIGA People
1) Who is paying you?
2) No really, who is paying you?
3) Please stop beating around the bush and tell us who is funding your organizations? Please put a comprehensive financial structure on your website. This is the recommended practice for international sports institutions – will you do it?
4) You didn’t investigate Mohammed bin Hammam. If you didn’t investigate that case, what possible credibility do you have setting up yet another organisation to look into sports integrity?
5) You didn’t investigate the alleged labour trafficking of the World Cup infrastructure. If you didn’t investigate that case, what possible credibility do you have setting up yet another organisation to look into sports integrity?
6) Aren’t you just getting in the way of the people who are actually doing a good job of protecting sports integrity?
List of Questions for the International Olympic Committee
After the events of this summer, how can we take you seriously in matters of sports integrity?
Are you trying to kill WADA because it embarrassed the IOC with two independent reports on state-sponsored doping?