Issues of sports governance are often overshadowed by personalities and drama - Lance, Oprah, Deer Antler Spray, Oh My! Yet the ability of sports to work as sport depends upon something far more mundane - healthy institutions with the ability to enforce rules. Mundane, yet vital: Consider your favorite sport played without referees.
Over at The Breakthrough Institute I have an essay on Lance Armstrong and the importance of strong institutions. Yet, such institutions sit in a complex world where civil society overlaps with government, a tapestry made far more complex in an international setting.
Here is an excerpt:
The bodies that failed spectacularly in the case of cycling include the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the various national cycling organizations responsible for hosting races and overseeing their athletes. None of these organizations was able to identify the systemic rule-breaking, much less bring the offenders to account. Armstrong explained to Oprah that he never worried about being caught.Read the whole thing here.
The rot within cycling did not go unnoticed — cyclists Greg LeMond and Christophe Bassons, close observers Betsy Andreau and Emma Reilly, and journalists David Walsh and Paul Kimmage among others brought forth evidence of systematic rules violations. These individuals have now been vindicated, in some cases after much professional and personal suffering.
Why was the sports community unable to identify and correct the systematic violations within cycling? This is a question that will require honest and independent investigations. The answers will be uncomfortable and likely suggest the need for significant changes in how international sports are governed. We can start to answer this question by understanding how it was that Lance Armstrong was finally caught.