ICC must follow suit

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Updated: Oct 28 2012, 06:58am hrs
The UCI has set an example for other sports bodies by cancelling Lance Armstrongs records and titles. Cricket will indeed be better off taking a cue from UCIs decision

Maybe Pat McQuaid and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) still have some tough questions to answer. The president of the world cyclings governing body just put a seal on the United States Anti Doping Agencys (USADA) incendiary report on Lance Armstrong and made every effort to sweep his faults under the carpet.

The UCI has done very little to nail the drug cheats. Till date it hasnt probed the hush money incident that Armstrong allegedly used to cover up a suspicious finding for his EPO. Armstrong reportedly donated $100,000 to the governing body to fight doping, but controlling authorities are not allowed to accept donations from current players and questions were raised and explanations asked for. The powers-that-be in world cycling, however, decided to deal with the issue with comfortable inaction.

Little wonder that three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has called for McQuaids resignation. He didnt spare McQuaids predecessor Hein Verbruggen either, accusing both of foul play. Under pressure McQuaids position looks vulnerable in the International Cycling Union as the organisation aims overhaul.

The UCI did very little to support the American authorities in their investigation against Armstrong but after the big stars spectacular fall from grace it has decided to throw him into the dustbin. His achievements will be obliterated.

Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, McQuaid said, while stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles. Yes, he reacted late, very late and lots still need to be done to convince people that he and his organisation really want to uproot corruption. But at least McQuaid has given an impression that he wants to learn from his mistakes.

By cancelling Armstrongs records and titles he also has set an example for other sports bodies to follow. Cricket specially will indeed be better off taking a cue from the UCIs decision.

So far the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been lenient on match fixing. In most cases their bans were tepid and provisions were made for the offenders to return to the game after serving the punishment. The ICC has failed to exert authority when it mattered and proved to be a toothless tiger.

The Cronje-gate was the defining moment the controversy had laid bare the tattered fabric of the entire system. Some token actions were taken. Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) was formed and a post called the Anti-Corruption Officer was created. But the ICC failed to go to the root of the problem and when the culprits were identified they decided not to give them exemplary punishments.

The match fixing scandal at the turn of the century changed the context of the game and even after a decade the issue continues to hurt cricket. This is because nothing significant has been done to eradicate the menace. Alarming incidents continue to occur. Bob Woolmer died in his hotel room during the 2007 World Cup. ICC never opened an inquiry to go deep into the matter. In their defence the world body said that they could do what the law allowed them to do and nothing more. It also said that millions have been spent to make the ACSU operatives working all over the world. Unfortunately changes are not showing up.

Shane Watson is known to have reported suspicious activities to the ICC in the past but he was disappointed by the way things have been dealt with. The ACSU is not really working, he was quoted as saying.

The spot-fixing scandal, involving Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir had put the games integrity at stake. Again the ICC acted cautiously and decided against life bans or tougher sanctions. They should have purged the tainted trio and make a statement loud and clear that cheats dont have any place in the game of cricket. They showed clemency instead.

Butt was banned for 10 years, of which five were suspended. Asif got seven years, of which two were suspended and Amir, the youngest of the three, was banned for five years.

Theoretically all of them have a chance to make a comeback and play for their country again.

It is unlikely to happen but time is a great healer and who knows what will be in store five years down the line. Butt made his debut as TV pundit during the World T20. It was crickets moment of shame.

Cheats deserve to be forgotten and cricket will be better served if the ICC decides to expunge their records. Such an action will create a fear factor. Players will think twice before committing the crime.

Like the UCI, the ICC, too, must say that those who link up with the malevolent forces have no place in cricket. Provocations are high for young cricketers in this era of high octane T20 cricket. The game has become a million dollar business and the bookies are always active. Now they are going to the grassroots and even fringe players and second grade umpires are getting offers. Honey trap is being used. It has become a very difficult world, especially for the newcomers.

The ICC has a duty to the game and it is more than just preparing the international calendar and hosting the annual awards ceremony. Its high time the ICC lays down a marker that would act as a real deterrent.