If Armstrong deserves to be forgotten, what about Azhar?

by FP Sports  Oct 23, 2012 18:43 IST

#Cricket   #Cycling   #ICC   #Lance Armstrong   #Mohammad Azharuddin   #SportsTalk  

Yesterday was a sobering moment for sport. One of cycling's greatest champions was consigned to the rubbish bin. International Cycling Union chief Pat McGain said, "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling; he deserves to be forgotten."

In essence, it means that Lance Armstrong's name will be replaced by a blank space. The winner of seven Tour de France titles will be reduced to a nameless cheat. It was sobering because it showed us everything that was wrong with sport; it was sobering because it was a monumental fall from grace; it was sobering because it showed that if the governing bodies show enough doggedness and intensity, they can win the battles.

"I think they've cut the ground from under Lance Armstrong," said senior writer Ayaz Memon. "He has been such an iconic figure not just for what he achieved as a cyclist but also for what he did through his cancer foundation. I think it's one of the most damaging and dramatic stories you can find in sports across any era."

If Armstrong deserves to be forgotten, what about Azhar? AFP

If Armstrong deserves to be forgotten, what about Azhar? AFP

"Lance fought against the authorities for almost 10-12 years and it seemed as if he has won the day until new revelations came through. And there are two things of note that arise through this: 1. The rigour with with which the American authorities went after him and 2. Armstrong fought back with equal effort but the evidence was overwhelming."

It is the kind of deceit that you don't want to see your sporting hero respond to. When you see a sporting hero fall, how do you feel? We, in India, have seen something similar happen when Mohammad Azharuddin was caught in the match-fixing scandal.

"It's bewildering and it's shocking. It's mind-numbing."

But at the same time, people still talk about Azahruddin's batting in glowing terms. Hansie Cronje has been forgiven by many. Some of the match-fixing accused are on TV as experts. Does cricket need to wipe the slate clean too? Does cricket need to expunge their records completely?

"If you are asking me whether their records should exist or not, it's a little different for cricket because it is a team game. In cricket, all kinds of things get affected," said Ayaz.

However, haven't things already been affected. The moment the match was fixed, things were affected. Would keeping the memory of a particular knock solve anything?

"It is a little complex but I share the view that there must be a very strong deterrent towards fixing in cricket."

But what is that deterrent?

"Expunging the records is one way of doing it but one needs to sit with some thinkers and decide whether it affects the history of the game. You might find that a player has played for 10 years, fixed two matches and been unlucky to be caught for one. That's bad enough but do you expunge all his records? So these are issues that are not easily addressed but I do agree that a severe indictment needs to be passed and perhaps even expunging the records is an option."

On the other hand, is there enough of a stigma attached to match-fixing in the sub-continent? For example, Salman Butt, who was convicted and went to jail for match-fixing was sitting in a studio as a cricket expert in Pakistam.

"There is a stigma attached but perhaps in the sub-continent... the players, officials, umpires have taken it seriously enough. Because cricket has exploded so much that it's almost like the Wild West -- everyone's out to make a quick buck and anything goes."

ICC's Dave Richardson had recently said that there needs to be a war of corruption in the sports but still you wonder if the ICC is doing enough, indeed if it CAN do enough. The least sports fans across the globe can expect is that players on the field aren't play-acting, they are giving it their all -- and that is the biggest battle that sports authorities around the world are facing.

Watch the entire discussion between Ashish Magotra and Ayaz Memon in the video above.