Pope Francis Urges Sports Leaders to End Corruption in Sports

The Pontiff stiffly condemned the rampant corruption in sports events; challenged sportspersons to stop using drugs to win.

For Pope Francis, faith is not just about church and prayer. Having already addressed issues like poverty, immigrants, war, and recently, even gossipy journalism, the Pontiff has now added a new dimension to this list, corruption in sports.

In a speech delivered on October 5, the Pope observed that the Catholic Church is working in the world of sports to “bring the gospel's message of joy” to the world. By this, he implies sports are a platform to be used for spreading good.

“When it is like this, sport transcends the level of pure physicality and takes us into the arena of the spirit and even of mystery. And these moments are accompanied by great joy and satisfaction, which we all can share, even those not competing.”

However, he said the way in which sports are misused for financial gains by greedy and selfish forces is a tragedy.

The Pope's words came during a Conference called “Sports at the Service of Humanity.” Speaking at the opening ceremony, Pope Francis drew attention to the fact that ethnicity, beliefs, races, language, nationality, and all the factors that divide people, do not exist in the world of sports. He said sports bring people together. He expressed his disappointment that despite sports having such power to promote good, corruption is slowly causing a decay in the morality and spirits of athletes.

The Pontiff urged sports leaders to proactively put an end to the corruption in sports. He said "It would be sad for sport and for humanity if people were unable to trust in the truth of sporting results, or if cynicism and disenchantment were to drown out enthusiasm or joyful and disinterested participation."

The Pope's remarks were in relation to recent scandals in the sports world. These include abuse of tickets at Olympics events, FIFA scandals, and the scores of incidents of match-fixing in various tournaments and games.

Pope Francis then took his focus to the players themselves. He strongly condemned the use of drugs by athletes as an aid to winning and called these types of victories “sterile.” He challenged athletes to live up to the challenge of being clean in the competition, and winning solely based on their talent and ability rather than by using drugs.

The three-day conference, which was held at the Vatican, was attended by athletes, soccer executives, and even Olympics committee members. IOC President Thomas Bach and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon were present as special guests for the opening ceremony. 

The conference’s goal is “to help the ones who need it most, especially the marginalized and the disadvantaged, and to encourage everyone to develop their life skills, character, values, and enjoyment of life itself, through sport.”

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