Gambling with athletes’ lives

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Gambling with athletes’ lives

Prosecutors recently arrested former and current players of Korea’s professional volleyball league for fixing matches on behalf of illegal gamblers, suggesting that the spirit of fair play in the country is being sold off. A number of Kepco team players have been indicted, as has a gambling broker who paid them to rig results of games in the 2009-2010 season.

The news follows a spate of arrests and suicides related to last year’s match-fixing scandal that wreaked havoc on the nation’s professional football league.

Match-fixing is a crime that jeopardizes sports principles and betrays sports fans. If manipulation and collaboration intrude on the drama on the field of play - which is enjoyed precisely because of its unpredictable nature - there is little point in watching the game in the first place.

The news also bodes ill for all those young people who look up to sports stars as role models. They have already seen how match-fixing scandals lead to a messy, and in some cases macabre, ending. In Korea, two former football players killed themselves last year after a handful of young players were prosecuted after it was discovered that they had taken bribes from criminals working on behalf of illegal betting sites.

Meanwhile, Japan’s national sport of sumo wrestling is on the brink of collapse after police discovered last year that match-fixing permeated the history of the 2,000-year-old sport.

This is deplorable and shows how tougher action is needed to clean up sports globally in order to restore lost credibility.

Sports leagues and teams must apply strict discipline so that their courts and fields are no longer tainted by rigging and gambling. Athletes should also be re-educated on the finer points of sportsmanship, and prosecutors must act thoroughly in conducting their investigations.

The authorities must crack down on Internet sites for illegal betting that tempt young or poor athletes. The criminals that bait athletes to betray their sports should be prosecuted with the heaviest possible penalties because they are not only ruining people’s careers, but also the world of sport.
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