The worst act of cheating in sport?
The back page of today’s Times carries an opinion piece that pulls no punches about Formula One’s race-fixing controversy.
“The worst act of cheating in the history of sport,” is the headline.
Not the worst act of cheating in F1, but the worst in any sport, in the opinion of columnist Simon Barnes.
What do you think about that assessment? Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine scoffs at that idea.
“Formula One has always been a war and in war all is fair,” he told the BBC. ”When I was in various teams you would do anything to win. Back in the day, it was normal. This is probably slightly on the wrong side of the cheating thing but in days past every team have done whatever they could to win — chat, bend the rules, break the rules, sabotage opponents. This is just the FIA going on a crusade.”
Looking back at examples of sporting fraud, the systematic doping carried out by the former East Germany really will for many stand out. That was state-funded and long-lasting. Athletes’ lives were put at risk while scores of others had their careers blighted by doped up rivals taking top honours.
Years of training, effort and commitment laid waste by cheats who were not found out until it was all too late for those competing against them.
Williams co-owner Patrick head commented on the Renault affair at Monza last week, his words relayed with headlines suggesting it was a test of Formula One’s ‘integrity’.
When I bumped into him again this week at a book launch for British great Stirling Moss, a man who stands for everything that is fair play and sportsmanship, Head gently pointed out that he would not have used that particular word.
It’s a fair point. Formula One has had its integrity questioned so much in recent years that cynics would question why anyone bothers looking for it any more.
That would be unfair to the thousands of honest and hard-working people in the sport, however, from team employees to sponsors whose businesses are conducted ethically and transparently.
They, more than anyone, need the sport to clean up its act so that it no longer ranks among the all-time worst offenders in a roll-call of cheating.
So who is right? Irvine or The Times?
FILE PHOTO: Renault Formula One driver Nelson Piquet of Brazil drives during the second practice session for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix, September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Russell Boyce