IOF’s Sudden Rush for eGold

Today the IOF has announced the preparation for the first Unofficial World eOrienteering Championships later in 2020. It is unclear though what, when, and how will be organised. The objective is urgent control over the evolving eOrienteering landscape as stated in the Council minutes. It is a late wake up call to deal with something that has been around for years, but now it is so urgent that the Council decided even to violate the IOF’s Statutes with pushing through a unlawfully late proposal on the inclusion of eSports.

Yet, the question “who benefits” from this panicky rush has no clear answer.

Virtual orienteering is nothing new

Virtual orienteering has been around for many years, though it has started to boom only this year due to the limitations on real life events.

This blog has pointed out already in December 2017, two and a half years ago, that
Virtual Orienteering is orienteering’s best chance to get to the Olympics.

The Council has ignored for years the highly visible emergence of eSports until this month. The sudden rush may remind one of the symptoms of narcolepsy when patients wake up suddenly from deep sleep and feel disorientated.

Virtual O - map

Continue reading “IOF’s Sudden Rush for eGold”

Orienteering Fair Play in practice

Since the Unfortunate Events in China (hope this is a PC enough reference), the IOF has put lots of emphasis on Fair Play.  The intention is to bring the topic of fair play into focus and help facilitate discussions throughout the orienteering community. A worldwide Fair Play Survey was launched and  a project has been initiated to create a values-based education tool around topics of Fair Play, and to connect this via a certification to the IOF Athletes License as reported in the Council meeting minutes #197.

For the upcoming IOF General Assembly the Finnish Orienteering Federation has also submitted a proposal (see page 98 in the GA Agenda) to “save the culture and Fair play of our sport” referring to the events in China as “an excellent wake-up for orienteers who believe in trust and in the sport’s own strong culture”.  They suggest a number of ethical and educational, as well as more technical actions as examples, but the focus of the proposal is to find out “which actions IOF has or will take to prevent unethical behaviour in our sport”.

All good stuff. Albeit, it feels somewhat theoretical. Everybody knows the right answer, or at least everybody can learn it. It is a bit like asking people in a Sunday school, if it is acceptable to sin or is it better to read the Bible; or upon a top university entry exam asking, if racism is tolerable. It is very unlikely that one gets the answer wrong.

This blog, trying to be helpful as always, would like to introduce the possibility of using real life situations from actual events to discuss fair play questions.  There are three cases taken from the IOF’s flagship World Orienteering Championships to ensure that the situations described are real life examples for international elite orienteering.

One should note that these cases all involved athletes from leading orienteering nations that provide the strong ethical basis for fair play, and not from the “uncivilised” new orienteering nations participating on their first international events. One should also note, that none of these events triggered a public reaction by the IOF on the status of Fair Play in Orienteering, like the one in China.

The three cases from the WOCs discussed below are as follows:

  • 2018: a Danish Spectator
  • 2017: a Swedish Trailer
  • 2015: a Scottish Favourite

These are all real life cases that happened over the past 5 years. Everybody remotely interested in elite orienteering will know the athletes involved. Yet, I will refer to them only by their nationality to emphasise that it is the situation that is important, not the person.

Fair Play - Latvia shown control - masked

Continue reading “Orienteering Fair Play in practice”

A Special Privilege

I was subjected to a special privilege by the IOF: I received an honorary mention with full name in the XXX. IOF Congress documents in one of the reports.

This is no small thing. A casual glance suggests that I might be the only one with no IOF function or candidacy who was subjected to this privilege. This comes within few months after the President of the IOF has mentioned my name in his speech on the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Hungarian Orienteering Federation as one of those who made a significant contribution to international orienteering.

I am flattered.

Some naysayers may point out that being mentioned in the activities report of the Ethics Panel is not flattering, but a mention is a mention. Some may even take the view that it was not ethical that the Ethics Panel named only me of all the involved in the five different cases investigated; especially considering that the Ethics Panel acquitted me of breaching the IOF Code of Ethics.

IOF Ethics Panel - report 1

IOF Ethics Panel - report 2

I cannot disagree more with the last suggestion questioning the ethics of the Ethics Panel. Bob Dredge, the Chairman of the IOF Ethics Panel, to whom I return hereby the honour of being mentioned by full name, is the most ethical person in the world of orienteering (by definition), and his actions are the pinnacle of ethical behaviour (by definition). Case closed.

A landmark case

My legal representative, the cynic he is, pointed out that it was not me who was subjected to the honorary mention. It is a long standing legal practice in case law to refer to landmark cases by the name of the parties involved. Many heard about the case of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision of the US Supreme Court; or the case of Socrates, who was sentenced to death for being a social and moral critic, and instead of upholding a status quo, questioning the collective notion of “might makes right”.   

The investigation of my blog was a landmark case, the first attempt by the IOF to use the powers of the Ethics Panel to silence a journalistic activity for asking inconvenient questions.

I am most grateful that I avoided the faith of the Greek philosopher despite committing rather similar sins of asking inconvenient questions and challenging the decisions and wisdom of people in elected office.

My legal representative also pointed out that the IOF Ethics Panel has to be applauded for their open and honest communication.

The IOF Ethics Panel declared (indirectly) that
• details do not matter,
• due process is irrelevant, and
• decisions are based on feel.

This may not be obvious for the ones not familiar with this very case, so I would like to help to explain the reasons why my legal representative was so impressed by the honesty of the IOF Ethics Panel.

Details do not matter

Despite the case of this blog is listed in the Ethics Panel report to the IOF Congress as one of the five referrals received, there is nothing published of this case on the page of the IOF Ethics Panel. To be precise, it is not even stated that there was a case regarding this blog.

The only place where you can learn about this case is here on this blog. This is understandable considering that the Ethics Panel could not even come up with a specific allegation of wrongdoing during the 8 month long process.

By listing the case in their report without publishing any details, the IOF Ethics Panel has clearly declared that details did not really matter in this instance.

Due process is irrelevant

The report of the IOF Ethics Panel implies that the case against this blog went through a full hearing. This is suggested also by stating under the case of the China World Cup that it “did not proceed to a full hearing”, but no similar statement for the case of this blog.

Yet, there was no formal hearing in the case of this blog. In his email of 24 February 2019 the Chairman of the Ethics Panel emphasised that the Panel was “seeking information to form a view as to whether a formal Panel Hearing is warranted”. It was never communicated that the case has moved to the stage of a formal Panel Hearing. The lack of any report on the web page of the Ethics Panel also suggests no formal Panel Hearing.

It is refreshing in many ways to see that the Ethics Panel did not get bogged down in the details of drawing lines between information gathering to decide whether a formal hearing was required, and a formal decision making process. Decisions on cases of ethics are noble tasks and should not be dragged down to the level of soulless bureaucratic nitty gritty like declaring formal panel hearings.

There were many more wonderful details around the whole process detailed in my earlier posts. My legal adviser referred to the overall process as “funny”. He particularly enjoyed that the reputable Ethics Panel demanded “clear factual evidence” to allegations they could not even specify.

Decisions based on feel

Typically, judicial bodies in the democratic part of the world are keen on projecting objectivity in their decisions. They try to cite specific points of the law, and stress the logic of their decision making process, no matter how vague or questionable that might be. They try to emphasise that decisions are objective, and not based on subjective feelings.

It takes a special courage to openly declare, as the IOF Ethics Panel did in their report, that their decision was based on feel. They did not feel the code was breached, they did not feel like imposing sanctions.

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I believe that we have to be proud of the IOF Ethics Panel. An Ethics Panel so open and honest would be the joy and pride of any sports organisation.