New commitments in the fight against corruption in sport

January 01, 1970 by Mark Dunn

Governments, Olympic sports officials, international bodies and betting operators met to discuss corruption in sport at the International Forum for Sports Integrity (IFSI) in Switzerland last week. The Forum, chaired by the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), made recommendations on how to prevent competitions from being manipulated and how to protect clean sport.

Sport carries a range of corruption risks

The Forum was set up in 2015 to bring together governments, internationals organisations, sports organisations, betting entities and other experts "to collaborate on the protection of clean sport". Last week was the second meeting of the Forum, and the main decisions taken were to set up an Olympic Movement Unit on the Prevention of the Manipulation of Competitions, and to launch an International Sports Integrity Partnership. This Partnership is intended to "enable better cooperation between the key stakeholders and ensure a coordinated approach to the implementation of dedicated measures". The Forum also called on national governments to sign the Council of Europe's Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, which targets match fixing in sport.

The Forum's focus on preventing the manipulation of competitions follows accusations of doping in the Olympic Games in Brazil last year. During the Games, a weightlifter from Kyrgyzstan was stripped of a bronze medal and a number of other athletes were sent home because of doping allegations. More than 100 Russian athletes were banned from competing in the Games after allegations of a state-sponsored doping regime. Being associated with doping can cause reputational damage for companies that sponsor or advertise at the Olympics. For example, Gazprom has faced criticism for sponsoring the Russian Olympic team.

In addition to doping, recent international sports events have been hit by accusations of other kinds of bribery and corruption. In Brazil, a senior member of the IOC was charged over allegations of ticket touting. Previous Olympic Games have seen accusations of bribery in the awarding of tenders to build Olympic stadia and infrastructure; in deciding which country should host the Olympics; and in using access to events to bribe prospective clients or politically-exposed persons. The panellists at this week's Forum reflected on the wide variety of risks facing international sports events: there were directors from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Lottery Association and the UK Gambling Commission. So governments and companies should be aware of the risks of being associated with major sporting events, and carry out due diligence before they get involved in sport.


Fight against corruption in sport goes global

The Forum was attended by more than 180 people from different governments, sports committees, and international bodies, which reflects the growing international collaboration against bribery and corruption. The IOC's president, Thomas Bach, stressed that the fight against corruption in sport involves collaboration with a wide range of national and international bodies. The IOC is collaborating with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in research on criminal legislation on competition manipulation in 52 countries. It is also working with Interpol on a Global Capacity Building Programme and to hold workshops to support government, national law enforcement and sports authorities to respond to integrity threats. If more countries follow the Forum's call for them to ratify the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, it is likely that new legislation against corruption in sport will be introduced at the national level.

The Forum is the latest evidence of the IOC's increasing efforts to combat corruption in sport. In January the IOC announced that Nesta Carter of Jamaica and Tatiana Lebedeva of Russia have been disqualified from the Beijing 2008 Olympics after failing anti-doping tests. Their medals from Beijing have therefore been invalidated. A week later, two athletes from Russia and a boxer from Turkey were disqualified from the London 2012 Games. In recent years, the IOC appointed a Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer and an independent internal auditor, and launched an Integrity and Compliance Hotline which whistleblowers can call with information about corruption. In his speech at the Forum, Thomas Bach recognised that "as the role of sport in society continues to grow, so do the expectations of the public with regard to the credibility of sports organisations".