The fall of the sportsman.

Remember how it all began
the apple and the fall of man
The price we pay
so the people say
Down the path of shame it led us
dare to bite the hand that fed us
Fairy tale the moral end,
wheel of fortune never turns again
Never turns again

Above lyrics have been my phones ringtone for quite sometime. I know them by heart. They’re from a song by Natalie Merchant. ‘Thick as thieves’ is the title. It’s a mysteriously complex song with lyrics of biblical proportions. She sings about the fall of men and of how a king abandones his people and in the end falls from grace. Like mankind has fallen from grace.

Like the sportsman that fell from grace. Like Lance Armstrong.

I use that ringtone as a constant reminder to me about the nature of mankind and the consequences of that. To warn me against deceit and to let me understand that superiority and status have no meaning but are nothing more than the outcome of fortune. In most cases. Of course, for the real great women and men in history this is different. They have gained status and were in many cases superior. But not without mistakes. Gandhi was a strange guy doing very strange things to young girls. Mandela was involved in agression and Rabin was a freedom fighter with blood on his hands. But all of them were great in their own right because they’ve changed themselves over time and have become examples of man’s greatness to the world.

So how about Lance Armstrong? The fallen sportsman. And how about cycling as a sport or sport as a part of society? What is the relation with the songtext I wrote just above these lines?

Lance Armstrong was a cancer patient. And he survived. Not because of persistence although his fight must have been heroic. Not because of his abilities. No, he simply survived because he was fortunate. If not damned lucky. All the noise around him when he returned to cycling after having ‘conquered’ cancer, was crap. And we all knew that. But many wanted to believe. The man now seems to have been a spider in the largest doping & deceit web in cycling history. Maybe in the history of sports all together. And he has fallen. Deep.

But his sport, cycling, had long before fallen. Fallen in the hands of man’s greatest enemy: greed. Sponsors and all kinds of people and organizations, have bundled their forces many years ago. For their own good and for the money. Because cycling is business. Actually sports is business. And where there’s business, there’s greed and deceit. It really is not that complicated to comprehend. Which makes the sport’s crocodile tears the more unbelievable. But there is more.

Where in everyday’s society we have laws to guide us all, sports has its own mechanisms. No laws, but rules. Rules that are constantly broken. To understand the status of rules versus laws one only has to watch a soccer match. Hitting or spitting someone in the face will result in a red card, if its seen by the referee. Or nowadays by the camera. If one would do so in the real world, a night in a cell would be regarded as fairly normal and justified. And that’s just an example. The incidents in sports concerning discrimination of minorities, abuse, substance abuse, deceit, drugs trafficking and dealing, bribes, slander and violence, are countless. Only seldom does that, in normal society defined as anti social, behaviour come to public conviction. Sports have rules, no laws. And because of that sport is behaving lawless because bending and braking the rules is ‘all in the game’.

But is it? Is all of that really ‘all in the game’? Isn’t it logical to file suit against the likes of Armstrong, when proof or testimonies against him are there? Wouldn’t a court case be a normal thing for someone who has become a very rich person thanks to the sport that he used for his own purposes and richness? And wouldn’t it be logical for the police to arrest footbal hooligans who defame people with another skin colour or sexual prevelance? And get them on trial to be convicted. Because in fact, they do break the laws that are in place for the rest of the society.

Isn’t it in a larger perspective not high time that sports in general becomes subdued to law? Wouldn’t it be completely logical to have for instance the FIFA targeted as a criminal organization after proven fraud, threats and bribing of government officials and indeed complete governments? Why would sport continue to have a ‘status aparte’? Why is it that we allow the IOC, the FIFA, the UCI, to name but a few, have a status above the laws of society. Isn’t it completely crazy that we allow these organizations to demand amnesty upfront for crimes by their staff, while negotiating the countries they hold their major sports events? Sport in the twentyfirst century has become almost, if not completely, the most openly corrupted business globally. And it certainly makes victims. Just ask the people in South Africa living close to the soccer stadiums and the people in East London living in the parts of town who were promised improved housing and services but were only used for the greater good of capitalism.

Sports is no loger what it once was intended for and what it for most of the amateurs still is: a fair competition of people who are skilled in a certain area. With winners and losers. And with a participating society that simply loves the games and hates the cheaters. The major sports have become openly criminalized parts of society living in a seemingly lawless world.

Maybe, just maybe, the fall of the sportman Armstrong will lead to a cleaner sport. And maybe, just maybe, society will learn form the fall of who many thought was a great man but who seems to be nothing less than just a fraud.

But unfortunately, Lance Armstrong will probably never get a fair trial in a normal court of law and sports will stay what it is: an in its core dishounest practice which is appealing to be witnessed by the general public. Next year, no doubt, people wil hail the new victor of the Tour de France at the Champs Élysée in Paris. As if nothing has happened and as if the competition was fair.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

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