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GOING NUTS: Sleeping officials bring shame to country

As published in Malay Mail today. 

By Graig Nunis

ON April 8, news broke that Malaysia would host the next three World Championships for women’s squash starting from December.

It was a big deal with local newspapers highlighting the fact eight-time world champion Datuk Nicol David would have three opportunities to finally win a world title on home ground after failing to do so in March 2014 (this was for the 2013 World Championship which was postponed after prospective hosts Hong Kong and Egypt had their bids rejected).

The 2014 event was in Cairo, Egypt in December where David won her record-extending eighth world crown.

However, in August of that year, Hallmark Events Group was awarded the rights to three consecutive world title events with a guaranteed prize-fund in excess of US$500,000 (RM2.1 million).

Between August and April Hallmark was “negotiating” with prospective hosts before revealing Malaysia had won the right to host the World Championships for three years.

Questions are now being asked as to who agreed to bring the event to Malaysia?

The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) claims it is “not directly involved and only provides technical assistance and referees.” But isn’t it the guardian of the sport? Shouldn’t it have played a more active role in ensuring everything was in place?

If it didn’t agree to the World Championship being held here, then who did?

The Youth and Sports Ministry? The Tourism Ministry? The Malaysian government? No one has stepped forward to take responsibility. Don’t expect anyone to do so now the tournament has been called off “for security reasons”.

Under the Sports Development Act 1997, SRAM should arrange for the Sports Commissioner to approve the event and licence. This was supposed to be done before bidding for the event. Sports Commissioner Datuk Zaiton Othman said this was not done.

Who’s to blame?

The World Championship is a huge event yet on Sept 15, Mailsport quoted SRAM president Huang Ying How as saying the national body had yet to be informed about the status of the tournament.

Doesn’t that speak of negligence on SRAM’s part?

As rightly pointed out “an event Facebook page had been set up following the media release 15 months ago, but no further posts have been added since.”

Shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing if SRAM had not received any updates three months before the biggest tournament on its calendar?

Where were the promotional details? What about the permits needed to secure the location for the final — said to be at Kuala Lumpur City Centre? Were the police informed? How about Kuala Lumpur City Hall? Hotels? Internal travel arrangements?

Shouldn’t SRAM be part of all these?

The Professional Squash Association (PSA) must shoulder some of the blame as an email reply to Mailsport’s Nicolas Anil on Sept 15, claimed “SRAM are not involved in the tournament. It is being run by Hallmark”.

And SRAM happily accepted its role.

Yes, it is not the organiser but being the contact point and the local governing body, SRAM should have insisted in being kept in the loop — especially so close to the event.

But, no. It was happy to point fingers at Hallmark and PSA.

It is sad. A sport with so much potential and a serial winner in David has allowed itself to be exploited.

Hallmark may have tried to “blackmail” the country into giving it RM3.5 million for “security arrangements” for the tournament and it is rightly being investigated by Malaysian police (see page 50), but we have been let down by SRAM’s lackadaisical attitude.

A running scam

Are our running competitions drug-free?

Going by what the Anti-Doping Association of Malaysia (Adamas) says, there is no control or drug testing done apart from the Standard Chartered marathon and Putrajaya night marathon.

Many runners say they get their “high” by recording their best times, but these are the social ones who compete for fun or to keep in shape.

How about the ones who race for money? Every weekend, there is at least some fun run somewhere.

Most of these events offer attractive prize money, yet there are no regulations regarding doping and “foreign talent” taking part in the competitions.

Adamas said a runner had tested positive for a prohibited substance during the Standard Chartered marathon last year. The local runner had traces of furosemide and was slapped with a one-year suspension.

That was at just one event. A friend of mine has taken part in 26 runs this year and said there were no dope tests apart from the ones mentioned above.

He falls under the social category and doesn’t care for the prize money so he has no reason to cheat.
Then there are grouses regarding the Kenyan and other foreign runners.

Many enter the country on social passes or race on expired visas. More often than not, African runners scoop up the top prizes.

There is an agent who houses these athletes in Kajang and enters them in competitions, earning a cut from their winnings.

Hopefully the authorities can sort out this mess.

GRAIG is Malay Mail sports editor and who used to play squash — when he was 20kg lighter. He can be reached at Twitter: @gnunis1892


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