Controversy, hypocrisy or justice?
UEFA, FIFA, FIBA, and other global sporting federations have imposed very strict rules prohibiting any reference to political issues in sporting events. Teams and individual players have been punished in the past through the implementation of such regulations. However, recent events have shown beyond any doubt that the claim is way too far from the truth. The upset to how all the top betting houses do things is literally the least of the issues to consider. The discussion touches on the essence of the sporting world itself.
In the case of Novak Djokovic, we had a clear intervention of politics that forbade the participation of an athlete in a sporting event. While it would make sense that no one should break the laws of any sovereign country, the bigger question is whether there is a violation of the human right of self-determination. The general consensus says that in medical emergencies, self-determination should not take priority when the lives of others are threatened by one’s own choices. The debate could go on with valid arguments from both sides. However, the fact is that political decisions had a pivotal effect on sports.
After the declaration of war from Russia to Ukraine, we saw the same federations that strictly prohibited the mix-up of politics with sports, and take decisions to ban Russian athletes and teams from participating in sporting events. Is it just a matter of controversy? The objective observer would definitely answer yes. But is it just that? Again, objectively, the answer should be no.
So what is it?
Probably, the major issue to consider here is the gravity of the event that became the underlying circumstance of the restrictions imposed. We are not talking about some piece of legislation that tried to control athletic behavior and eventuality. This is a war with global effects. It does not matter which side is right and which side is not. For the sporting world, what should matter is that it is a situation that directly contradicts the very ideal of sportsmanship. The brotherhood of man.
So is it hypocritical? That is a question that can probably be answered by the historians of the future. At the time when it is still going on, one side will say that there should be no restriction imposed as there should be no interaction between politics and sports, while the other side would argue that it would be pure immorality to allow the perpetrators of a global implications’ crime, to get away with it at any level. Including sports.
But is it justice?
The “punish them” side would not only say yes. For them, Russian athletes should not only be banned. The consequences should be even more dire than what they are. On the other hand, the basic, and very valid, argument would be that the whole thing is not their fault and they should not be punished for a decision that they were not consulted about, nor had any involvement in taking it. An even further mitigating argument could also be that they are under threat of support or face dire penalties.
Would it also be fair to speak about a well-known legal precedent that clearly stated that any person that does not actively oppose a state-sanctioned crime, in essence, supports it and therefore is an accomplice during and after the fact, to said crime, and must be punished according to the level of the participation? (Judge Francis Biddle –The Nuremberg Trials). Those who support the recent events could argue that it is not a crime but an action taken in justice.
As is the usual practice in such issues, it is a matter of each one’s perspective and each one’s moral fiber. Regardless of the personal views on the discussion, or what the final outcome will be, there’s also another fact. Sporting events still go on with the participation of Russian athletes under certain conditions, and punters can still enjoy the thrills of betting after having registered for an original betting account. No matter what, life still goes on. And it is vital to maintain some semblance of normality during difficult times.