Zagreb/Lausanne, 1 March 2011. - International Olympic Committee (IOC) is stepping up the global fight against illegal betting.

Zagreb/Lausanne, 1 March 2011. - International Olympic Committee (IOC) is stepping up the global fight against illegal betting. Among many activities the International Olympic Committee and it's president Jacques Rogge announced bellow document.

Illegal betting: Sport’s new scourge
By Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee

As the leader of the global sports movement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a moral and ethical obligation to protect the integrity of sport by combating cheating in all its forms.

For many years, we have waged a battle against the use of performance-enhancing drugs. We have come a long way in this fight and are proud of our accomplishments to date.

As our campaign against doping continues, we are also stepping up efforts to contain another scourge that is increasingly threatening to undermine the credibility of sport: illegal and irregular betting.

As our latest step, we have set up on 1 March the first ever meeting between the sports movement, governments, public international organizations and sports betting operators to discuss ways to battle irregular and illegal sports betting. We are encouraged by the massive response and support we have received from the invitees, which include members of Interpol, the United Nations and governments as far away as China and the Australia.

The potential for corruption is at an all-time high due in part to the advent of betting on the Internet and the anonymity, liquidity and sheer volume it encompasses. It can be argued that there are more temptations and pressure on athletes, coaches, officials and others to cheat for betting gains than at any other time in the past. What’s worse, this cancer continues to go largely unregulated in many parts of the world.

The global community does not share a common definition of illegal and irregular gambling, despite sharing growing concerns about the issue and how to deal with it. We are looking forward to constructive discussions at our March meeting that we hope will eventually lead to a global definition and coordination of actions against irregular and illegal betting.

Illegal or irregular betting — which should not be confused with legal and regular betting offered by national lotteries and private entities, which is a major source of financing for sport — is potentially crippling. Each instance that comes to light undermines confidence in sport, which can lead to spectator apathy and drops in attendance, TV viewership and sponsorship. At its worst, it can deter people from participating in sport in the first place.

While illegal betting has yet to be detected at an Olympic Games, we are not naive. We know the day will eventually come. We must be vigilant and ensure measures are in place to limit its effect and discourage any recurrence.

The IOC started tackling the problem in earnest in 2005. In many respects, our work is similar to that we initiated 20 years ago with doping. Our first task was to lead by example and to adapt our own rules in face of this new threat, and also to raise awareness of the issue through measures such as educational programmes, seminars, and the drafting and adoption of a list of recommendations aimed at unifying the approach of the entire sports movement. We have been proactive in our message and continue to push for dialogue with all parties wherever and whenever possible.

We are currently in the process of encouraging all our partners in the Olympic Movement to adopt rules that forbid betting on each sport. We initially called on the sports that had dealt with cases of match fixing to join us in taking a unified approach to the problem. Cricket, tennis and football have all done an admirable job in this department, but there remain many International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) that have no legislation in place to combat irregular and illegal betting. Without it, there are no grounds on which to punish the cheats.

The support of governments is also paramount. They are the ones with the authority to create a legal framework in which legal and regular betting can take place. They, and not the sports world, can also conduct investigative searches and initiate criminal proceedings. As it becomes increasingly obvious that large criminal networks are benefiting from illegal betting, we encourage governments, wherever possible, to put in place specific criminal legislation dealing with match-fixing and cheating in sport.

We have also begun monitoring betting activities on the Olympic Games. We have established a company called International Sports Monitoring (ISM), which is tasked with monitoring the Olympic Games for suspicious betting activity, in conjunction with over 300 legal betting companies. When ISM detects abnormal betting activity, it contacts the IOC, and we work with the respective NOCs and IFs to determine if it is genuine or suspect. If it is suspect, we launch an inquiry and the betting companies transfer all the necessary information regarding the bet and the bettor to the IOC. Thankfully, we did not have to activate this system at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 or in Vancouver last year.

But a serious, concerted effort by all parties is needed to combat the problem, which is becoming increasingly difficult to detect as the cheaters are trending away from manipulating major sporting events or even the outcomes of matches. It is too risky. Instead, they focus on matches with less media attention and public scrutiny. You can have all sorts of issues in sport that happen regularly in the field of play without any suspicion and that is the great danger.

We still have a long way to go, but I am confident we are headed in the right direction. I envision that, in the next few years, we may even have a global watchdog in place, similar in structure to the World Anti-Doping Agency, and that fighting illegal betting and match-fixing will be obligatory for the IFs if they wish to remain part of the Olympic Movement.

Our fight has just begun. It is now up to all of us to join together to stop the cheats from cashing in on the popularity of sport.