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Make sports cheating a criminal offence - Dravid

Sharda Ugra

November 12, 2013

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Rahul Dravid speaks at the first Cricinfo for Cricket event, London, August 19, 2013
'The question is no longer whether the law must intervene but it is how, to what extent and on what issues' © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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A law against sports fraud that offers real consequences of "jail time" could well be the deterrent for athletes in the fight against corruption in sports, former India captain Rahul Dravid has said. Speaking at a conference conducted by India's premier investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Dravid said the four issues needing legal intervention were doping, deliberate underperformance, involvement in the betting industry and age fraud.

"Criminal offences must be defined to include all forms of sports cheating, and jail time must be a genuine potential outcome where an offence is proved," Dravid, who formed part of a panel discussion on 'integrity in sport', said. Modern sport was at "a crossroads", he said, as it was "at serious risk of losing its moral compass". "The question is no longer whether the law must intervene but it is how, to what extent and on what issues."

Being banned from a sport, he said, did not end up having the desired effect, but being punished for a crime would. "Unless people see the consequences of your action… People have to see jail at the end of the day."

Former India fast bowler Atul Wassan, who was part of the audience, asked Dravid whether cricket needed to adhere to the anti-doping clauses pertaining to players' revealing their whereabouts to testing authorities, accept polygraph tests, and the possibility of entrapment by law-enforcement authorities. Dravid said, "I'm all for it - you need more regulation - it is what will protect the honest athlete even if it means a certain amount of loss of [personal] freedom."

One of the other speakers on the panel, Chris Eaton, director of the International Centre for Sports Security, said sports fraud needed to be tackled at a global, multi-dimensional level, involving sporting bodies, the police, governments and international co-operation. "Otherwise you are only papering over the problem, the entire gambling [world] needs to be called in to account." A former FIFA head of security, Eaton said just banning players involved was no solution. "Stop punishing only the players - they are the victims in this, you need to tackle the people making their money through this. You punish one lot of players, the people behind the fix move on to the next lot of players. These people have to be brought to account in some way."

The fact that betting was illegal in India did not, he said, mean that the betting industry could not be regulated and called to question. Unlike Eaton, however, Ravi Sawani, the head of the BCCI's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, said he did not believe that legalising gambling would solve the problem, stating that his view was that the laws in the western world were framed more with an eye on protecting the lucrative gambling industry rather than the sport.

The enactment of a special law pertaining to sports fraud would work best if combined with "a central agency" to investigate the problem, Sawani said. He suggested the creation of a special sports integrity intelligence unit under the CBI, which would bring several layers of the illegal betting industry under scrutiny. "Young players always ask us, we have to follow a code and if we break it, we get punished. But what happens to the bookies?"

Sawani had been part of the CBI investigation into match-fixing in 2000. At the time, the CBI, he said, had been advised by a former Supreme Court judge, Manoj Mukherjee, that laws 415 (cheating), 417 (punishment for cheating) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) under the Indian Penal Code did fall short in the case of fixing in cricket.

The IPL 2013 corruption scandal happened to be different from what happened in 2000 in one important aspect, he said: in 2013, the cricketers were under a legal obligation to their franchises by contract. Sawani said the BCCI had always "welcomed" investigation by the police agencies, and had currently passed on information to sections of the police. "It [how the information is used] depends on what the police priorities are on looking this up."

The government representative on the panel, sports secretary Ajit Sharan, said that the draft framework of a new bill pertaining to sports fraud had been prepared and was in the process of being put out on the sports ministry website to invite "stakeholder" feedback.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 14, 2013, 7:40 GMT)

I disagree. Why punish the weak?.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2013, 11:57 GMT)

IPL is claimed to be a private enterprise. So if one employee of one enterprise decides not to do what his organisation expects him to do, is it not the private business of that organisation? As far viewers and spectators are they not supposed to be watching at their own risk - caveat emptor (buyer beware)? Just a thought!

Posted by brusselslion on (November 13, 2013, 10:39 GMT)

Jail time might be a deterrent but, as some other posters have indicated, whether the punishment fits the crime is debatable. This has to be one for the individual nations; we certainly won't get world-wide agreement/ consistency on this matter.

I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with Mesrs Eaton and Sawani. I agree with Eaton that you need to tackle the people making money from this, but think that it is utter nonsense to portray the players who commit these offences as victims: Likewise, I agree with Sawani that "..the laws in the western world were framed more with an eye on protecting the lucrative gambling industry rather than the sport" but to think that you can regulate an illegal activity is, IMO, plain daft (unless you agree that a certain level of illegal activity is "acceptable").

Whatever, one's moral view is about the betting industry, by and large, a legal industry under regulation works well in the UK (yes, there is the odd exception).

Posted by   on (November 13, 2013, 10:20 GMT)

Ravi Sawani, head of the BCCI's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, says "laws in the western world were framed more with an eye on protecting the lucrative gambling industry rather than the sport." In short legalizing betting may not affect match-fixing.

Posted by Kaka13 on (November 13, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

I agree with Dravid and punishment to the cheats (throwing match for money) should be treated as Criminal Offence and such that players should not think about it at all. To the game cheats where batsman not walking in case of very clear nick etc. should be dealt with monetary fine and ban.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2013, 5:51 GMT)

jail terms for cheating in international cricket? yes, of course! when you represent your country, a certain extra responsibility goes with it, you have to play in a way that upholds the honor of your country, it is akin to spitting on your flag if you cheat while wearing the colors of your country. Also, lesser criminal punishments should be exercised for any cheating in a professional cricket match where money is involved.

Posted by aditya.pidaparthy on (November 13, 2013, 5:37 GMT)

Before considering laws pertaining to deliberate under-performance, one has to settle the matter whether BCCI is a private body or a public one or a private body performing a public service at the behest of the government (in organising the sport of cricket in India). Any law created before this issue is settled will not hold in the court or law as BCCI in its own words, is a private body. Even if the law is created it would not be possible to apply it to BCCI because it is a private body. That would be somewhat similar to Reliance industries suing someone for tax-evasion. There are common laws and there are laws for transactions between two private bodies. If someone deliberately under-performs or does age fraud the best BCCI can do is lodge a criminal complaint for cheating/sabotage for which laws already exist. IPL is a private body which is why it made sure to lodge complaints against the cricketers on its own. Because on a community level the charges of spot fixing are murky.

Posted by jimbond on (November 13, 2013, 4:18 GMT)

For once, I disagree with Dravid. The punishment has to be corresponding with the crime. The game of cricket may be very important for Dravid, but for the common man, there are other things more important. Punishments or banning should be limited to the sporting bodies who conduct the activities, and it should not be something that adds to be burden of law enforcement in the country. Conformance to fair norms can and should be encouraged through creation of a culture that prides itself on fairplay.

Posted by vish57 on (November 13, 2013, 4:16 GMT)

Good article, on the cricket field or on mike, Dravid is perfect.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2013, 1:36 GMT)

Absolutely right Dravid, they should make it a criminal offence so next time when a player thinks about cheating with the game, he better start thinking about jailtime he would have to serve as well. It not only makes the country look awful but disregards the trust that their fans have in the game when they sit down to watch a game of cricket and expect it to be a fair one.

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