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"Secret Cultures" Are a No-No For Any Sports' Growth

The Guardian takes a big swipe today at the International Tennis Federation in a story, "How a Culture of Secrecy Aids Corruption"

"Tennis authorities can have no excuses for an opaque process that only serves to protect the sport's image rather than its integrity"

Further, "The idea that investigations should be conducted in the dark, shrouded in secrecy and accompanied by an air of paranoia and unease, can only add to the impression that the ITF is more concerned about the image of the sport than being seen to root out corruption without fear or favour."

This is a systemic strategy we've seen in horse racing from time to time. "Accentuate the positive", "nothing to see here, move along", the Sgt. Shultz method. It hasn't worked, and it won't work. It can never work; for three main reasons.

i) internal investigations, not releasing negative news, or spinning it in a positive, Pravda way, allows bad decisions to be unaccountable. Unaccountable decisions that are poor, are never corrected, inhibits the sport from moving forward. 

ii) The easiest folks to get back into the sport are those who once owned or bet, and left because of such issues. There's money on the table and the sport doesn't look to grab this low hanging fruit, they step on it.

iii) in an internet age, customers (horse owners, bettors) are more educated than ever before, and when they see "foot dragging" they pushback themselves, and this is unhealthy. As the Guardian notes: "Fans have gone from feeling uneasy about those who run their sports to outright hostility and scepticism."

Jeff Gural, someone who is trying to change the culture, shows just how tough this is. In the DRF yesterday, he was responding to a criticism of his tactics to ban people with bad tests from his racetracks (in this case EPO) that he catches.

"Just so you know, no race track owner in the area or Commission member has ever contacted me to ask why someone is not allowed to race at our racetracks.  You probably saw the press release from Yonkers extolling the virtues of Rene Allard, who is the leading trainer and who is someone we caught drugging horses multiple times.  The reality is no one really cares."

No one cares, or are we just "accentuating the positive?" A strong case can be made they're synonymous.

Horse racing needs sound decision making, it needs to address why bettors and horse owners have left the game and get some of them back; it needs to change the way people think about racing. This is not done in the shadows, following some sophomoric Baghdad Bob public relations playbook. Wishing Jeff Gural would shut the hell up won't help. It's done with leadership, sound ethics and a respect for those who patronize both the horse sales and betting windows. That will take a culture change, just like the one tennis is going through.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Jeff Gural has been quoted several timesm about how other tracks and state racing regulators have never contacted him to ask about people he's barred. Are track managers embarrassed by Gural's "get rid of the bad apples" philosophy? Do they just not care as long as they get a paycheck?

It's about time the racing media asks those questions. Let fans and bettors read why horsemen and horsewomen not allowed at the Meadowlands, or with histories of cheating, find tracks that welcome them. I've asked why drug cheaters and others with a long list of rules violations are permitted at the track near me. The person in charge answered,"They're licensed by the racing commission." Took no responsibility.