Cheats in sport? Some people just want to pretend they don't exist 

It takes will to clean up a sport. The will to look in dark corners. More importantly, the will to not care what is found, to press ahead, no matter the consequences.

That will deserted Jamaican athletics last year; that will deserted British horse racing. They did care what was found; they did worry who was caught and at what cost. Their fear made them stop looking, stop testing, stop asking. And now they are paying the price in tainted credibility.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is to carry out an extraordinary audit of drug-testing in Jamaica amid six positive tests for its elite stars this year.

Running into trouble: Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell failed a drugs test last June

Running into trouble: Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell failed a drugs test last June

Meanwhile, the reputation of Sheik Mohammed, and with it British racing, is on the line against a backdrop of suspensions, positive tests and bizarre finds at the stables of the sport's biggest investor.

Jamaica did not test out of competition in the six months prior to the 2012 Olympic Games; the British Horseracing Authority did not push Sheik Mohammed harder for answers when it had the chance earlier this year. The integrity of both sports has been damaged as a consequence.

Steve Harman, the BHA chairman, still thinks the speed with which his organisation acted against Sheik Mohammed's trainer Mahmood al-Zarooni shows the sport in a good light. He cannot comprehend the scepticism around the BHA's conclusion that the Sheik was undermined by one rogue employee. The BHA was so happy with this deduction that it did not even summon Sheik Mohammed for a formal interview.

If anything, the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission is even more complacent. WADA's extraordinary visit to the island will likely begin at the start of 2014. A request to visit earlier was denied, despite recent positive tests.

Veronica Campbell-Brown
Sherone Simpson

Positive tests: Sprinters Veronica Campbell-Brown (left) and Sherone Simpson in action for Jamaica

The good name of a sport is easily surrendered. A recent poll conducted in the US discovered 78 per cent believed that horse racing was tainted by the widespread use of equine drugs. Harman knows that British horse racing attracts very little overseas investment, compared to other sports.

The faith in Jamaican sprinting is slowly being eroded, too. Usain Bolt, as the most recognisable athlete this century, is asked about doping regularly, and those questions will not go away as JADCO's reputation for thoroughness sinks ever lower.

It took an old-fashioned whistle-blower, JADCO's departing executive director Renee Anne Shirley, to expose this latest scandal.

In a letter to The Gleaner, she revealed that the out-of-competition testing programme had close to broken down between January and July 2012. In total, 10 tests were conducted in February, and one in April.

Major stars such as Bolt would still have been tested independently as part of the IAAF programme, but that is not the point. This latest revelation merely contributes to the suspicion that Jamaica's resurgence as a track and field superpower has coincided with some very lazy days at the offices of JADCO.

Positive tests for sprinters Veronica Campbell-Brown, Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, as well as field  athletes Allison Randall, Traves Smikle and Demar Robinson, will hardly allay fears.

So why did JADCO stop looking, and at such a crucial time?

The presumption will be that they lacked the will to make a find, so close to the Olympic Games. Powell was part of Jamaica's victorious 4x100 metres relay team at the 2008 Games in Beijing, and only injury prevented him from adding another gold medal in London; Simpson and Campbell-Brown won the 4x100m relay silver for Jamaica, Campbell-Brown won the individual 100m bronze.

Out of lane: Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles

Wrong lane: Shamed Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles


Sol Campbell

The hunt is now on for a black man to join Greg Dyke’s football commission. Jason Roberts has added his voice to that of Sol Campbell (right) in highlighting its lack of diversity, which will now be addressed, belatedly and in rather an insulting fashion.

Any black appointment now feels like tokenism and merely underlines  the gallery-pleasing scramble this mission has become.

Even now, there seems little appetite for remorse or punishment. Campbell-Brown was given a mere public reprimand for her doping violation. The IAAF is considering whether to appeal against such a lenient sentence.

The BHA, meanwhile, has spent recent weeks denying any connection between shipments of equine drugs found on Sheik Mohammed's premises and thoroughbred racing. They have their man, Al-Zarooni, and that is good enough.

It was a matter for Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), it was a matter for endurance racing, move along nothing to see here.

It would not take the greatest cynic, however, to surmise that what the BHA most fears is the Sheik tiring of interrogation, withdrawing his investment and the sport in this country falling into the sea.

'Worldwide reputation takes years to build and a day to destroy,' says Harman, seemingly unaware that every day that goes by without the BHA addressing His Highness directly sees faith in British horse racing crumble a little more.

For years, cycling lived in fear of taking on Lance Armstrong, but that is no way to run a sport. Where questions and tests are concerned, it cannot matter who gets quizzed, and certainly not who gets caught: but where there's no will, there's no way.

And while we're at it...

One newspaper was so anxious to get in on the controversy surrounding Jack Wilshere's views on nationality last week, that in its haste it spelt xenophobia with a 'z'.

It has long been a contention on these pages that those who bandy the word around most cheaply don't actually know what it means, let alone how to spell it, but never mind.

Wilshere, and others who see the worth of national sport being eroded by opportunism, received support from an unexpected quarter this week: Mo Farah.

Jack Wilshere
Mo Farah

Case for the defence: Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere received support from Mo Farah

'I grew up in Britain and have done everything here,' Farah said. 'There are people out there who switch nationality. There are Kenyan guys who switched to Qatar and Bahrain and other countries. Yes, I do have a problem with that.' So Farah gets it. He knows there is a difference between his case, arriving in Britain from Somalia at the age of eight, and the athletes who swap nationalities as adults, for professional or financial advancement.

He knows that had Wilshere been more practised in nuanced argument he would surely have excluded those welcomed to Britain for humanitarian reasons in youth from his 'England for the English' address. Farah clearly accepts that his case is different, and if athletes merely run for the highest bidder, the spirit of international competition is over.

He knows precisely what Wilshere meant; so why did so many others wilfully misunderstand?

Tan credit crunch may backfire

Vincent Tan no doubt thinks the past week has gone very well. All eyes on him. He doesn't care what the people are thinking, he just knows they are thinking about him. Big boss guy, El Supremo, Mr Cardiff City.

The internal strife at Cardiff was never really about budgets, or directing football or any of the issues surrounding the unhelpful removal of head of recruitment Iain Moody. This was about ego. Picking on Moody put Malky Mackay, Cardiff's manager, in his place.

Tan sees himself as Cardiff's saviour and resents it that the fans credit success to Mackay. This is nothing new. Sir Alan Sugar resented Terry Venables during their brief time at Tottenham Hostpur, Harry Redknapp says Portsmouth's former chairman Milan Mandaric was driven mad by the 'Harry and Jim' chant. He couldn't understand why Redknapp's assistant, Jim Smith, got a name check at all.

Vincent Tan
Malky Mackay

Centre of attention: Vincent Tan (left) sees himself as Cardiff's saviour rather than manager Malky Mackay

The fact is, the chairman gets the power, the manager the glory and both factions must accept it.

No matter his success, Sir Alex Ferguson was always an employee at Manchester United. He still had to get his major decisions ratified by those in charge. Yet, equally, there are no songs glorifying the shrewd business acumen of David Gill, and an Old Trafford stand is named in honour of the man who won the matches, not the directors smart enough to employ and support him.

Problems always occur when those who get the glory seek power, or those with the power want the glory. Tan wants it all at Cardiff but may end up losing the lot if Mackay departs; there is very little power or glory in a steady fall back towards the Championship.

Euro Super League doomed to fail

According to Unal Aysal, chairman of Galatasaray, the top clubs in Europe are discussing setting up a 20-team Super League when the current Champions League deal with UEFA expires in five years' time. And they probably are. That lot are always up to something.

What intrigues is Aysal's presumption that his own club would be included and what would be in it for them. Clearly, with numbers limited, some folk are going to be disappointed. From England alone, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City would all want in, constituting 25 per cent of the league, which is plainly not going to happen.

After that, the essential names just keep coming: Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Porto, Benfica. Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven - 12 right there and we've only got one team from Germany and France and nobody from the east.

Eyes on the prize: Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in action for Turkish giants Galatasaray

Eyes on the prize: Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in action for Turkish giants Galatasaray

So, Borussia Dortmund, Marseille, Celtic, Spartak Moscow, Dynamo Kiev, Shakhtar Donetsk, then take just three of those five Premier League clubs and we're already oversubscribed. Yet, equally, a case could be made for Lyon, Anderlecht, Schalke 04, Roma, FC Basel and, of course, Galatasaray. And right there is the reason why, although a Super League might one day be attempted, it won't work.

Galatasaray in Turkish terms are super successful. Galatasaray in European terms are pipsqueaks. Their glorious history is relative. They won the UEFA Cup in 2000 which is a massive achievement for a Turkish club but pales beside the many triumphs of their major European rivals.

Indeed, most teams who would expect to be included in any Super League have won multiple European titles. Galatasaray reached the semi-finals of the old European Cup once, in 1988-89, and have been quarter-finalists five times. Their recent European record is also below par. In the last 10 completed seasons, Galatasaray have made it into the Champions League four times.

Silverware: Galatsaray celebrate winning the UEFA Cup back in 2000 after beating Arsenal on penalties

Silverware: Galatsaray celebrate winning the UEFA Cup back in 2000 after beating Arsenal on penalties

They were quarter-finalists last season, got knocked out in the third qualifying round by Steaua Bucharest in 2008-09, finished bottom of their group in 2006-07, and third in their group in 2003-04. Qualifying for the UEFA Cup as a result, they were instantly eliminated by Villarreal.

In any European Super League, if admitted, Galatasaray would be in the lower echelon. They opened this season's Champions League campaign by losing 6-1 at home to Real Madrid.

Imagine a result like that every other week. Supporters reared on consistent success would have to endure a new existence as the equivalent of Crystal Palace or, at best, Norwich City. Sponsorships would become devalued, or dry up, commercial revenues would fall. It wouldn't last, it couldn't last, unless the elite agreed to a set-up akin to America's franchise system, with the weakest team from the previous season getting a head start in the summer transfer market. And they wouldn't do that.

So who among the mighty clubs of Europe would sign up to be the dead weight in this brave new world? Chairman Aysal should be careful what he wishes for, lest his ambition kills his club.


Stuart Lancaster, England's rugby coach, says his players will wear only the first-choice strip throughout this season. No more garish purples.

Lancaster is trying to build a sense of national identity and that means playing in white. Good for him.

All white on the night: Stuart Lancaster says England will wear only their first-choice strip this season

All white on the night: Stuart Lancaster says England will wear only their first-choice strip this season

There will be some long faces in the commercial department but he can live with that. Every team, every club, should wear the first strip on every occasion, unless it clashes.

What is the point in having an iconic look and then abandoning it? The All Blacks barely ever change and why would they? England's national teams should feel equally protective of those plain white shirts.


Having opened the debate about the way forward for English football we cannot moan at every flawed suggestion but Gareth Southgate's proposal for quotas outside the Premier League seems a non-starter.

All clubs have ambition and we cannot treat those beyond the elite by a different set of rules.

Level playing field: Watford manager Gianfranco Zola (right) must surely be allowed to assemble the best squad

Level playing field: Watford manager Gianfranco Zola (right) must surely be allowed to assemble the best squad

Yes, it is dispiriting to note that just 19 per cent of the players used by Watford this season have been English but as he pushes for promotion, Gianfranco Zola must surely be allowed to assemble the best squad, not the one that ticks the most FA boxes.

Watford's duty to the game in England is no greater than that of Arsenal and Manchester United and they must be allowed the same freedom.


There is disgruntlement at Crystal Palace where this season the players earn bonuses, not by the point, but retrospectively once Premier League survival is secured. A similar policy was in place at West Bromwich Albion last year. What is the harm in that?

In no other business would bonuses be paid in the event of a development as harmful as relegation. The very fact that Palace's scheme is unusual is proof that football exists in a parallel world.