With sport becoming a multi-million dollar industry and winners raking in a bagful of money, the time is past when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could just sit back and worry only about new anti-doping strategies.
A new malaise might have already touched the “fastest, highest, strongest” athletes at the London Olympic Games. And it goes by the name of match-fixing.
It’s no coincidence that an attempt was made to pursue India's best grappler, Sushil Kumar, to throw away his final bout at the World Championships for a sum of $10,000. It’s another thing that India’s flag-bearer at the London Games, spurned the tantalising offer and became more determined to beat his opponent.
The offer was made before the final at the 2010 World Championships in Mexico where the Russian camp, whose wrestler was pitted against Sushil, approached the Indian camp to fix the bout in their favour, the grappler’s coach told HT. The wrestler confirmed the incident.
Matter of pride
“We Indians play for pride, so such things can’t distract us. But I was surprised how anybody can think of overpowering the opponent with money power. In the arena, it’s muscle power that wins,” Sushil said.
“Before that I had never heard of such things in wrestling. Sports should remain clean, away from all these things.”
The offer to throw the bout, in fact, gave Sushil a physiological boost. “By making me an offer, the Russian, in a way, lost the bout even before it started. He was wary of me, that’s why he wanted to fix the bout. So, I took the mat as a winner,” he said.
Offer through coach
The Russian wrestler’s coach approached Sushil’s coach Yashvir Singh through India’s foreign trainer, Vladimir Mesta of Georgia, just before the final bout and made the offer. Sushil went on to beat Alan Gogaev 3-1 in the final.
“Valdmir told me that the Russian wrestler’s coach approached him and asked him to convey to me that they were ready to pay $10,000 if Sushil agreed to lose the title bout,” Yashvir said.
“At first, I was shocked as we had never come across such a thing, and immediately I said no. They approached us twice, and on both occasions the answer was no.
“At that time, I did not tell Sushil anything as it could have affected him. But minutes before the bout, I told him how scared the Russian wrestler was of him that they wanted to fix the bout,” added Yashvir.
In Asian boxing too
In the Asian Olympic-qualifying boxing championship too, money was offered to the Indian camp.
“The representatives of a couple of countries approached us during the qualifiers. Strangely, it’s not that money was offered only to lose the bout, but also to confirm that we would win the bout,” said a source in the boxing team management.
“We gave the answer to all of them in one word, ‘NO’,” he added.
Even during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there were allegations that bouts were being ‘managed’ and doubts raised about the scoring system.
The sport’s world governing body, AIBA, later announced changes in the scoring system.