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Sunday 25 September 2016

Money in doping, and doping in money

Doping in sport is like financial "doping", giving us the odd sacrifice, but staying one step ahead

Published 09/08/2015 | 02:30

Illustration: Jim Cogan
Illustration: Jim Cogan

There's a chap I know who has this tendency to describe various misfortunes which have occurred to him on the golf course, as if anybody gives a damn. "How unlucky can you be?" he says, as if the gods have used him for their sport in some special way.

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How unlucky can you be indeed?

Well - I think to myself - perhaps in time he will be able to gain some perspective on his plight, so that eventually he might see that being born in the poorest part of Calcutta, for example, mig­ht entitle you to feel just as unlucky as the chap who finds that his otherwise excellent drive on the 14th at the Grange has somehow found its way into a divot mark.

Yes, it can be hard to feel the compassion that others are feeling for themselves. And yet last week, when we received the latest confirmation of the massive levels of doping in sport, we thought about the likes of Lance Armstrong.

And we wondered if he was feeling just a small bit sorry for himself - and if indeed he might have a small bit of a point? We figured that after studying these latest findings he might even be thinking with a certain amount of justification, how unlucky can you be?

After the recent Tour de France, he must have been looking at the game which celebrated his act for so long, and allowing himself a cartoon cackle at the story they are selling this time - it seems that cycling has emerged from the embarrassment of the Lance era, and while it may not be completely fixed (human nature being what it is) it is a much cleaner game than it was.

Poor Lance - not only was he nailed eventually, he is being used as a kind of a masking agent for everything else that is wrong. In a sporting culture that is utterly corrupted, the notorious ones can end up like this. Like what they did was an aberration. And it's better now.

And in an odd way we are not actually thinking about the drugs any more when we are watching sport. As our friends in the Stock Market would say, we have already "priced it in".

In their own game of financial doping, last week the money-men saw a particularly luckless colleague, a City trader called Tom Hayes, get 14 years for fixing the Libor rate, a sentence which some including Nick Leeson felt was "a bit heavy". To date, 11 others are facing charges for the rigging of the global interest rate benchmark.

That's a dozen people who must be wondering why they are in such a bad place, when so many others are in the same place as they always were - walking through the doors of some Canary Wharf skyscraper every morning, expecting to make a hundred grand before lunch, and not greatly concerned as to how they might achieve that, going forward.

Then again there was a while when it seemed that one of the few well-known figures from the Celtic Tiger experience who might go to jail was Glenda Gilson.

Which seems like some kind of a line from a stand-up merchant until you recall that back in 2011 it was reported that "the model and TV presenter and her brother Damien could face jail after consistently refusing to comply with court orders in relation to the liquidation of their car company."

Whatever the issue involved, it seems almost fantastically trivial in scale and in substance by comparison with certain issues that arose in relation to various other well-known figures of that time. And yet it was Glenda Gilson who had the word "jail" sitting there in uneasy proximity to her name, due to "the liquidation of a car company", while a whole class of players walked away without a scratch from the liquidation of an entire country. In the end, Glenda remained free.

Even when "justice is done", it seems to have this touch of surrealism. If I were one of the Anglo Three for example, languishing in prison, I would probably be thinking that the baleful gods had been extremely unkind to me.

I would be wondering how the hell, out of all the characters working in the financial services sector at the time, doing the sort of things that such people did as a matter of routine, it had somehow come down to me and to these two other characters standing there in the dock. I might even be thinking: how unlucky can you be?

So in some perverse way, it doesn't reassure us at all when a few bankers go down, no more than the demonisation of a few dopers reassures us that athletics or cycling is clean. If anything it disturbs us because it all feels a bit random in nature, and we are not in the least surprised when the next massive scandal arrives.

We have priced that in too.

Sunday Independent

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