Badminton World Federation seeks to preserve the Spirit of Sport with a sweeping plan of action in their “I Am Badminton.” campaign.
What is the “Spirit of Sport”?
In its Integrity Overview, BWF Corporate makes an effort to define the “Spirit of Sport” as “the celebration of the human spirit, body, and mind.” They clarify this definition by highlighting values that are core to all athletic competitions. These values include but are not limited to things like:
- Honesty and fair play
- Health and wellness
- Respect for self, rules, and others
- Community and solidarity with fellow athletes
Worried about threats to the game, BWF provides an extensive amount of information about how it intends to keep members of its community aware.
What violates the spirit of sport?
Threats to the spirit of sport include things like match-fixing, performance-enhancing substance abuse, illegal betting, sharing insider information, and deception. Keeping silent about knowledge of these activities may also fall under the category of “violation”. BWF asks that all interested parties hold each other accountable by not keeping silent about infractions to their regulations. It may sound unbelievable, but these types of occurrences have, and will continue to occur in this sport. Combatting unethical behavior is a difficult task, but BWF’s Integrity Unit is up for the job.
Match-fixing is the practice of manipulating the unknown outcome of a game or match through coercion or deception. Match-fixing includes ‘throwing a match’, or intentionally losing. Intentionally losing a match might be done for financial gain, if a competitor or coach has placed a bet on the outcome of their own match. Though it seems counterintuitive, sometimes losing can help a player to gain an advantage in future placement. One of the largest match-fixing incidents occurred at the 2012 Olympic games when eight women’s doubles players were disqualified for deliberately losing matches to gain the advantage in future pairings. Charges of misconduct were carried out by BWF. Similarly, two Malaysian players were slapped with career-ending bans for prolonged match-fixing.
Performance Enhancing Drugs a.k.a. ‘Doping’
Professional athletes are responsible for every single thing that they put into their bodies, be it food, vitamins, medications, or supplements. If drug tests find a banned substance in their bodies, they are responsible for explaining how that substance got there. Though there are limited Therapeutic Use Exemptions for certain medications, most steroids, stimulants, and masking drugs are strictly forbidden for competing professionals. Any substance found to give a player an unfair advantage in the competition is most likely landing on the list of banned substances. The Badminton World Federation partners closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in tracking, testing, educating, and monitoring players.
They reserve the right to perform no-notice drug testing to athletes and para-athletes both in and out of competition. Testing is performed via on-demand blood and urine samples provided to WADA approved testing facilities. The Badminton World Federation utilizes WADA’s ADAM System to monitor athlete’s whereabouts via self-reporting 365 days a year.
Illegal Betting or Gambling
Wagering money (or any other form of financial gain) on the outcome of a match or tournament by anyone associated with the competition is strictly forbidden. These regulations apply to a group of people referred to as “covered persons”. A covered person refers to:
- Any player competing in a BWF sanctioned competition
- Any related person to a player including:
- Family members
- Tournament guest
- Managers or agents
- Any tournament support person including:
- Directors or owners
- Officials or line judges
- Tournament volunteers
Wagering on outcomes by covered persons often leads to match-fixing in some form. Trading insider information or approaching others with a request to manipulate the outcome of a match for financial gain is forbidden, as it completely undermines the fair-play goal. On its website, the BWF cautions players to be wary of outsiders who befriend them for information. They spin a cautionary tale of offers to pay travel or tournament expenses in exchange for information about competitors or tournaments that is not common public knowledge.
What’s being done to prevent threats to the game?
The BWF, in partnership with WADA, has come up with a comprehensive plan of action to combat these threats to the game from many angles. In the interest of transparency, all procedures, rules, and regulations regarding anti-doping, match-fixing, illegal gambling, and investigation results are public on BWF’s corporate website.
BWF Integrity Unit
Badminton World Federation has an integrity unit dedicated to all of this. The Integrity Unit manager is Andy Hines-Randle. The Integrity Unit employs a trilateral approach to keep athletes and their cohorts morally upright.
- Education – Education is a form of prevention. BWF offers training for parents, coaches, and players to educate them on the threats that could be presented to them. BWF implements their own training and education programs at both the junior and adult professional levels.
- Deterrence – Deterring players and covered persons from participating in corrupt sporting activity is part of the integrity unit’s comprehensive measures. All betting is monitored and drug testing is administered.
- Investigations – If an individual is reported to the Integrity Unit as a potential threat to the fair play system, BWF reserves the right to open an investigation without announcement. Through the whistle-blower system, BWF is alerted to unethical activity by its members. If an investigation reveals that accusations were founded, persons in violation face disciplinary action or a period of ineligibility. Results of investigations are publicly posted after findings have been finalized.
Speak up and Report System
“Covered persons” serve as mandated reporters. The Integrity Unit asks all interested parties to follow the “If you see something, say something” mantra. All parties of interest are obligated to report their knowledge of unethical behavior. If an individual is approached by any other person or persons soliciting insider information, offering financial bribery, or encouraging match-fixing, they must report this incident. Individuals must report instances during which they were witness to unethical behavior. The Badminton World Federation has a downloadable “Whistle-blower” form located on their website that can be filled out and emailed confidentially to the Integrity Unit Manager. This Speak Up and Report System not only leads to necessary investigations but acts as another deterrent to at-risk athletes who may fall prey to the pressures of misconduct.
I Am Badminton Ambassadors
When BWF unveiled the “I Am Badminton.” program in 2015, they selected several ambassadors to promote the program. These ambassadors were prominent athletes, coaches, or administration within the organization. In April of 2020, they updated their roll call of ambassadors, adding familiar faces like PV Sindhu of India, and Michelle Li of Canada. What do these ambassadors do exactly? These respected athletes act as the face of the I am Badminton campaign. They commit to being good role models. They agree to participate in education and media activities. They encourage youth and future players to keep playing clean, honest badminton.
As it is with athletes in any sport, with success comes a platform. All athletes can choose how they use this platform. Luckily, badminton has athletes of character who use their status and familiar face for good. They essentially protect the integrity of the sport they love and encourage others to do the same.