Corruption clouds sports

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

It seems that sports always have some sort of controversy surrounding them at all times, no matter how large or small the problem is. This summer has seen three of the biggest scandals to ever rock the world of sports. With allegations of steroid use following Barry Bonds, the illegal gambling former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was involved in and Michael Vick being charged with running an illegal dog fighting business, the world of sports has never received so much unwanted attention.

Barry Bonds’ pursuit of the all-time home run mark of 755 held by Hank Aaron was not the feel-good story expected when one of the most famous records in sports is about to fall. Bonds’ suspected use of performance enhancing drugs, which dates back to 2000, has made him a villain instead of a hero. The stoic image of Aaron as one of baseball’s most respected and admired players of all time only makes Bonds look worse then he already does. Bonds is seen as someone who stole the record away from Aaron who earned it the hard way rather than by taking supplements to aid him in his quest for baseball greatness. While no official or authorized evidence has found Bonds guilty of steroid use, he has already been guilty for years in the court of public opinion.

On July 20, it was reported that the FBI was investigating an NBA referee who had placed bets on NBA games and was affecting the point spread of the games that he was officiating to please the mob bosses he was working for.

The referee, 13-year NBA official Tim Donaghy, later pleaded guilty to gambling charges and to providing confidential information, such as which officials were working at which games, to members of the mob and bookies. Donaghy started this illegal activity because he had thousands of dollars in gambling debt that he could not pay back.

Donaghy was fined $500,000, and will also have to pay at least $30,000 in other compensation. Donaghy was released on a $250,000 bond and is currently awaiting sentencing on Nov. 9. He could face up to 25 years in prison, though he will almost certainly get far less if he cooperates with the ongoing government investigation.

According to published reports, Donaghy plans to expose other NBA referees for violating the NBA’s firm anti-gambling policy. NBA Commissioner David Stern said at a press conference that this is the most serious and worst situation that he has ever experienced as an NBA fan, lawyer and commissioner. Nonetheless, Stern believes that the NBA will recover from the damage.

The most serious and troubling sports story of the summer was Michael Vick’s indictment by a federal grand jury and guilty plea to felony and misdemeanor charges. The charges involved a 6-year-long interstate dog fighting business called “Bad Newz Kennels” and tens of thousands of dollars in gambling activities related to dog fighting.

In federal documents, it states that “in or about April 2007, Vick [and two others] executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in testing sessions by hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog’s body to the ground.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended Vick indefinitely without pay. Goodell also wrote a letter to Vick in which he said “Your admitted conduct was not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible. Your team, the NFL and NFL fans have all been hurt by your actions.”

Vick apologized at a press conference on Aug. 27, saying that he takes full responsibility for his actions and gives his “deepest apologies to everybody out there in the world who was affected by this whole situation.” Some experts have estimated that Vick will lose upwards of $100 million in endorsements. Nike, Coca-Cola, EA Sports, Kraft Foods, Hasbro and other minor sponsors have dropped their sponsorship of him. Vick will be given the terms of his sentence on Dec. 10. Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of one year to 18 months.