21 October 2004

Wild World of Sport… Litigation

Not all litigation appears in front of a court, particularly in sport. The so-called Court for Arbitration of Sport (to begin with, "court" for "arbitration"? See, e.g., C.K. Kleinman and C.E. Petit, Legal Aspects of Anabolic Steroid Use and Abuse, in Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise 333, 340-42 (C.E. Yesalis, ed., 2000).) actually made the correct decision, raising its batting average to roughly that of the Yankees last night.

The CAS ruled that Paul Hamm (PDF)can keep the Olympic gold medal he won in the all-around, over the protests of the South Koreans. The CAS is not well-known for following its own rules with great precision, so the fact that this matter was partially decided on "nonjusticiability" grounds is a hopeful sign. South Korea waited until after the conclusion of the competition to protest the score awarded to its gymnast on the parallel bars, asserting that the start value for the announced routine was set too low. (Think of different forms of the SAT changing the maximum score for that particular form.) Gymnastic rules, however, require an immediate challenge to scoring decisions. Although the CAS didn't actually reach the more-important issue, its rhetoric indicates that it influenced the decision it made. There is a lot of verbiage—under American standards, largely dicta—about how the different score might have resulted in variations in the rest of the competition. In other words, awarding the intermediate score properly at the time didn't guarantee that nothing else would change, and therefore would change the entire competition exactly as the appellant desired. Frankly, as stated this is a weak argument. What it masks, though, is that replays fairly convincingly show that the judges failed to take other mandatory deductions from Yang—deductions that would have left him with an even lower score had they been applied along with "correcting" the start value.

In any event, how 'bout them Yankees? I wouldn't care if it had been the South Park Elementary School Foulmouths who beat them. I despise baseball as a communist plot to destroy the physical fitness and teamwork of America's youth (a look at any recent Congressional session shows its success). I despise the Yankees even more. It couldn't happen to a nicer more-arrogant group of self-satisfied condescending unsatisfactory excuses for sportspersons. I don't just mean the team, either; the fans are, if anything, worse (as a group). I must grant, however, that Yankee fans aren't as bad as fans of Certain College Football Programs located in Indiana and Alabama (among other places)—at least Yankee fans don't treat every single loss as proof that somebody else is cheating. Sorry, but winning is not a divine right.

College sport also brought a decision from another body not renowned for its consistency: the NCAA Infractions Committee. The University of Washington got slapped across the wrist for some rules violations in its programs, although the charges were essentially reduced from a felony ("lack of institutional control") to a gross misdemeanor ("failure to supervise"). The NCAA system is a joke primarily because it refuses to accept that shamateurism in college athletics demeans both the athletes and the competition. The irony that US pressure on "professional" issues led to the modern Olympic allowance of professional athletes in certain competitions—and that, as early as the 1912 Olympics, American "professional" athletes were docked medals for their "professionalism"—seems to have escaped the NCAA. I am firmly against calling most of the morons in the so-called "revenue sports" anything like "scholar-athletes." Some of them are; but it's just as accurate as "Democratic People's Republic." We'd be better off just admitting that they're employees with certain rights and obligations to try to attend class and getting on with it. But then, I went to a Division III school (partly) because it was a Division III school that awarded no athletic scholarships.