Anurag Thakur’s Ethics Bill Could End Corruption in Indian Sports

Anurag Thakur’s Sports Ethics Bill, if implemented, is set to revolutionise Indian sports.

3 min read
President Ram Nath Kovind cleared BJP MP Anurag Thakur’s private member Bill – the National Sports Ethics Commission Bill 2016 – to be considered by the Parliament.

It was April 2000, and the nation was brimming with hope for the 21st century. New self-confidence was reverberating as the country had conducted nuclear tests and announced itself as a global power.

And amidst this new-found credence, news of some Indian cricketers’ involvement in match-fixing came as a shock. Had it been another sport, it may not have had as much of an impact. But, it was cricket – the nation’s favourite pastime and the newest religion.

After investigations, the BCCI punished the players. Some were handed lifetime bans and some were banned from playing cricket for five years, but the prohibitions were eventually challenged in various courts and couldn’t stand on any legal leg.

Cut to 2013.

India had an established domestic T20 tournament called the IPL, and weeks into its 2013 season, some of its leading teams, their officials, and players were found guilty of spot-fixing and betting. This again began a series of inquiries and court cases. It reached a point where the entire constitution and working of the BCCI was challenged and changed, but nothing concrete happened to stop the menace of corruption in sports.

Several dark moments have come and gone in Indian sports. Nothing, however, has came of them. When your religion (because cricket is a religion in India) makes you feel ethics don’t matter, what constitutes as moral or immoral?

Anurag Thakur’s Next Move

Recently though, President Ram Nath Kovind cleared BJP MP Anurag Thakur’s private member Bill – the National Sports Ethics Commission Bill 2016 – to be considered by the Parliament.

Thakur, the former president of BCCI and three-time MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, had moved this Bill in 2016 to counter the growing menace of match-fixing, doping, age fraud, and sexual harassment in Indian sports.

While Thakur was unceremoniously evicted from the BCCI by the Supreme Court in January this year, it did not end his pursuit of changing the root cause of trouble in sports. Thus, this Bill.

Thakur’s Bill speaks of considering as criminal offences the activities of match-fixing, sexual harassment, doping, and wrong registry of age/gender. Anyone – sportspersons or office-bearers – found involved in any of these activities, apart from being debarred from their respective sports federation, will also face criminal prosecution.

To this end, the Bill proposes a National Sports Ethics Commission which shall enforce the conviction and punishment. The Bill also recommends that the commission take over pending cases relating to sports from the judiciary. It also calls for each sports federation making its own ethics guideline.

It is genuinely bold and surprising, coming as it is from the former boss of BCCI – an organisation tainted by the alleged violations of ethics since its inception.

Women Athletes’ Safety a Concern

The problem of sexual harassment is also a silent one, which has not grabbed much media attention. A young female athlete was, allegedly, sexually harassed by a few senior athletes in May 2015. The 15-year-old killed herself after the incident, and three others were hospitalised after consuming poisonous fruits in an apparent suicide pact. The athletes were training at the Sports Centre of Sports Authority (SAI) water sports centre in Kerala. Apparently, there was no action taken against the culprits.

A few years ago, former Olympic bronze medallist Karnam Malleshwari revealed that women athletes in India are subject to sexual harassment not just by coaches, but also by federation officials.

Fighting the Dope Taint

Doping is as old as sports itself; From the greatest boxers to Olympics athletes, doping allegations have stuck to many a sportsperson. Perhaps the most famous being the great fall of Lance Armstrong. In Rio Olympics, wrestler Narsingh Yadav failed drug tests and was banned for four years. Interestingly, India had earlier allowed him to compete, accepting his defence over the same.

This means that the Indian sports administration is not even serious about unethical practices like doping.

Why is there a need for ethics in sports? Because, sports represents everything that humanity stands for – will, courage, strength, and perseverance. Unfair play in sports means stabbing at the very heart of humanity!

This Winter Session, as Parliament hopefully reconvenes again, let us hope all the parliamentarians rise to the occasion to support the sports ethics commission Bill. If it's cleared, it will be the first concrete step to stop the menace of corruption in sports in India.

(Nishant Arora is an award-winning cricket journalist, and most recently, the media manager of the Indian Cricket Team. He also co-authored the best-selling book on Yuvraj Singh’s battle with cancer.)

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