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RKN Global on Sports Corruption: Doping

Corruption take as many forms as there are areas of human endeavor; this holds true for corruption in specific areas as well.  Match-fixing is one major area of sports corruption; the other major area, doping, made headlines recently with the revelation that numerous athletes, including many medal winners, were discovered to have cheated through doping in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, focuses his attention on sports corruption because even though at first glance it seems to be innocuous, it really does cause tremendous harm to society at large, to the institutions of sport in particular, and to individuals.

Doping is the use of illegal or disapproved chemical substances to give oneself an advantage in a sporting competition.  Athletes who cheat through doping have always looked for ways to hide their activities from authorities, either through timing so that residual particles from the drugs won’t be present in their system at the time of testing, or through the use of drugs that are undetectable.  Authorities remain one step behind these athletes, in a sense, because it takes time to realize that a new method for hiding doping has been created.  On the other hand, now that samples can be stored for years, the science of drug detection catches up to the cheaters.  This is what happened in the instant case.

RKN Global founder Ronald Noble has great confidence in the every growing forensic capabilities of law enforcement and sports authorities, combined with important initiatives to dissuade athletes and those who support them from engaging in doping and other forms of corruption of sport.

Recently, a large doping program was discovered to have been run by Russia.  In the wake of this discovery, Olympic officials began testing old samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.  The result is that over 75 athletes from those Olympics were found to have been doping.  Forty or more of them were medal winners.  Those found guilty have been disqualified, and their medals awarded to the next-best-performing competitors.

While this results in some justice in that the violators have been stripped of their medals, it does not provide complete solace to those who really won.  American high jumper Chaunte Lowe discovered this week—8 years after she competed—that she won a bronze medal.  While satisfying, she cannot get back the opportunities that would have been available to her had she been recognized in 2008:  Sponsorships and other financial doors have subsequently shut as she has aged out of her sports career.

The damage caused by corruption cannot be easily undone.  And while the battle against doping and sports corruption continues, at least in this case a partial victory has been gained against those who would corrupt sport and wrongfully seize the opportunities of victory for themselves.

RKN Global on Political Corruption: The Alleged South Korean Scandal

At the time of this writing, a fourth weekend of large public protests has taken place in South Korea.  The protests are directed against the country’s president, Park Geun-hye, who stands accused by prosecutors of conspiracy to commit extortion and abuse of official power.  Ms. Park has not yet had her day in court, so this article makes no claims as to the accuracy of the allegations. (Indeed, she enjoys immunity from prosecution while she serves as President).  However, the allegations themselves yield a picture that is worth examining, because the phenomenon of corruption at the highest echelons of power does occur, whatever the ultimate truth of these allegations.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald Noble, underscores the damage that the corruption allegations are causing to President Park’s ability to govern and to the national morale of South Korea.

President Park has allegedly allowed classified and detailed political information to be obtained by her friend, Choi Soon-sil.  Park has known Choi Soon-sil for decades, back to the time when her father, Park Chung-hee, held power in South Korea, before the establishment of the country’s democracy.  Furthermore, prosecutors allege that she helped Choi Soon-sil use her closeness to Park to extort money from businesses.

Prosecutors accused Choi Soon-sil of using the threat of government retribution to force 53 major companies, including Samsung and Hyundai, to donate millions of dollars to her foundations, and to divert millions of dollars of contracts to her private businesses. 

Ronald Noble, founder of RKN Global, asserts the absolute importance of transparency on behalf of political leaders, so that they can not only avoid corruption, but even the appearance or accusation of corruption.

While President Park enjoys immunity from prosecution while she is in office, her ability to govern with large swaths of the public and numerous members of the government, including members of her own party, opposed to her.  She has refused numerous calls for resignation and hunkered down, even as her some of her aides face indictment.  In the business of running a country, it is hard to see how a leader so embattled—regardless of the accuracy of the allegations—can govern adequately.

Another aspect of the corruption that is worthy of note is the nature of the alleged acts of President Park and Ms. Choi.  The legitimacy of the President’s acts does not depend upon whether her friend was trustworthy, or whether her foundation and businesses were worthy of contributions or donations.  If true, it is the illegal manner in which Ms. Choi had access to classified information without clearance, and the corrupt manner in which donations were solicited and contracts obtained, which is morally and legally problematic.

RKN Global on Identity Theft from the Dead: Corruption Seeks Every Crevice of Opportunity

Identity theft and identity fraud remain significant areas of crime largely because the opportunities are so plentiful to engage in them.  Few people take even basic steps to protect their identities, including protection of their personal information, maintaining online vigilance, and checking their credit reports regularly.  This is even more so when the victim of identity theft is no longer alive, and it falls to grieving and overwhelmed family to do so.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, observes that many criminals and corrupt individuals seek the past of least resistance when engaging in crime and corruption.  While identity theft of the living is often easy; identity theft of the dead may be even easier.

Perhaps the perpetrators of identity theft of the dead believe that they are committing a “victimless” crime, since the person whose identity they steal is no longer alive.  Yet nothing can be further from the truth—stealing the identity of the dead causes great harm and distress to their surviving families and the good name of their loved one; the identity fraud that is committed with the stolen identity to open lines of credit and make purchases directly harms the businesses and people stolen from.

Over 800,000 dead become the victims of identity theft, amounting to a whopping 2,200 per day.  More than 1.5 million more become victims of “accidental” identity theft, where thieves concoct a fake social security number that happens to match a dead person.

Because death records take months after a person dies before they are disseminated to the full range of banks, credit bureaus and government agencies, identity thieves have a comfortable window in which to open lines of credit, make purchases, and even file tax returns in order to get refunds in the name of the deceased.  Many of them glean personal information, such as the deceased’s date of birth and home address from the deceased’s obituary.  The person’s social security number can then be purchased illegally online for between ten and twenty dollars.

Though families are not responsible for these thefts, they suffer emotionally on hearing the way their loved one was abused.  72 year old Johnnie Salter died with only two credit cards to his name, yet within months of his sudden death, criminals had made 21 credit card applications in his name, stolen $10,000, and purchased a car.  Even dead children, whose parents so acutely feel their loss, are victimized.  Thieves filed tax returns in the name of Loie Hammond, who had died at age three.  Her parents described the discovery as an emotional punch in the gut.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, highlights the importance of taking preventative measures to prevent identity theft from loved ones who have passed away.  Don’t list important information like dates of birth or the deceased’s mother’s maiden name in the obituary; notify the credit reporting bureaus of the death by supplying them with a copy of the death certificate; report the death to the Social Security Administration, cancel the deceased’s driver’s license, and continue to monitor his or her credit report.

The steps will make it harder for criminals to target your loved ones in order to steal from others in their name.

Ronald K. Noble on Sports Corruption: The Human Toll of Match-fixing

Corruption in sports is an everyday occurrence.  It can strike every sport at any level, anywhere in the world. Examples of fixed matches, as well as doping scandals, abound. Yet rarely do the disgraced come forward and talk about how their lives were destroyed because they succumbed to corruption.  Several years ago, a Croatian soccer player did exactly that.

RKN Global’s founder Ronald K. Noble underlines the human suffering—of those who were innocent and get corrupted—caused by match-fixing.  The future integrity of many of our youth and of their heroes depends on how well we combat corruption in sports.

Mario Cizmek had a successful career in football spanning twenty years. He overcame the difficulties of living with diabetes to play for FC Zagreb from age eighteen to twenty-six, then becoming a free player in various countries and finally playing for FC Croatia Sesvete.

His club fell on hard times, and the players went months—fourteen months—without getting their regular salaries.  This led to desperation, where all the attention and care of the players was how they would make ends meet.  “We had no money, and we no longer spoke about training or football, but only about how we were going to survive,” described Cizmek.  The situation made them ripe for corruption by match-fixers.

A former coach of a well-regarded team made himself a presence among the team members, and insinuated himself into their lives.  The way that Cizmek described it,

“He was always somewhere around the field, at places where players socialized such as at coffee bars.  He literally became part of us, because he was always with us.  He used his good psychological skills to convince us to trust him and to feel safe.  Occasionally he [lent] some of our players money and he was often trying to convince us that we would succeed in getting a big transfer.  He seemed like a real savior and he really had a big influence on us.”

Ronald K. Noble and RKN Global underscore the insidious and well-planned way in which organized crime corrupts players.  They learn the players’ weaknesses, gain their trust, and exploit them, making them participants in crime and destroying their lives.

Cizmek intended to take the money for losing one game, but once he was in, he could not get out.  In total, he fixed six soccer games before he was arrested in front of his wife and daughter.  Cizmek was sentenced to ten months in prison.

He lost his job.  He lost his friends. He lost his wife.   He lost his passion.  “All of my achievements are erased as if they never existed,” he said.

Mario Cizmek is one example of a promising life destroyed by corruption. It is essential that we equip our youth who are involved in sports with training and education on how to recognize and avoid the machinations of those who would use and discard them for corrupt and evil gains.

RKN Global on Sports Corruption: More on Why They Do It By Ronald Noble

Sports corruption in general, and match-fixing in particular, is largely driven by money.  Organized crime is, of course, motivated by money—the money they can make and the money they can launder in altering the results of sporting events and gambling correctly on the outcomes they control.  It is less obvious why players, who have devoted their lives to a sport which is typically their passion, would throw away their passion and their integrity “just” for money.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, notes that while for some people, greed is enough reason to participate in corruption, it often is not sufficient by itself.  On the contrary, even when money is a factor in a sport player’s participation in match-fixing, it is on the flip side, where the player is not motivated by greed but by dire financial circumstances and the need to feed his or her family.  However, there are other reasons that combine with financial rewards that lead players down the road to sports corruption.

One of those factors is the appearance of harmlessness.  The action requested of the player—at least at first—doesn’t seem so bad.  Once he has done it, however, the person who asked him to do it has the upper hand:  he can say to the player, “now you’ve cheated, unless you help me fix one more game, I’ll report you and your career will be over.”   But the first opening is one where the player is presented with something that doesn’t look like the end of the world.

A player once recalled how this approach looked in soccer, when he was asked to help the other team win by three or more goals: “For you, it’s very difficult to win. . .”  Translation: You’re going to lose anyway, so I’m not asking you to change the outcome.  Your team isn’t going to lose any more.  So you’re not hurting anybody, and you’ll make a nice amount of easy money.  Come on, help us out, everybody wins. . .

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, says that sometimes, the players are lulled into participating in corruption because the request doesn’t even affect the score.  Since people can bet on numerous details of sporting events, a player might be asked to fix one of these details.  His team’s chances of winning remain basically the same, he reasons.

Of course, the match-fixing is far from harmless, as we have seen previously.

RKN Global on Corruption in Politics: Redux

Corruption can affect people in all walks of life, as we have noted in this column before.  Specifically, government corruption is particularly pernicious.

Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, has battled against corruption throughout his long career in national and international law enforcement.  He has seen that when corruption occurs in government, it is especially damaging.  This, for two reasons:  Government officials are supposed to serve the interests of the public, and have breached that trust; furthermore, because of the size of government and its involvement in so many projects, the size of corrupt deals in government is so great.

The recent announcement of the arrest of Sergio Cabral, the former governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro (in which the famed city of Rio de Janeiro is located), earlier this week, draws renewed attention to government corruption.  Cabral, who was governor of Rio de Janeiro from 2007 to 2014, stands accused of orchestrating a bribery system in exchange for contracts for major construction projects.  His crime ring allegedly took about $64 million in bribes in connection with projects that included the renovation, in advance of the 2014 World Cup, of Maracana Stadium.

Cabral allegedly took bribes equal to 5 percent of the cost of each project, plus additional money for his associates.

The criminal investigation in which Cabral’s schemes were uncovered, nicknamed “Car Wash”, began as a more limited investigation into corruption at a state-controlled oil company, but quickly expanded, implicating significant political figures.

RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble, points out that a culture of corruption makes further corruption even more likely.

This may be part of the dynamic in Brazil, where the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was thrown out of office for corruption charges earlier this year, and where the day before Cabral’s arrest, a different former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Anthony Garotinho, was taken into custody on voter fraud charges.

The effects of the corruption in government is evident in the judge’s order for Cabral’s arrest, which noted the “notorious situation of the ruinous public finances of the government of Rio de Janeiro.”

Rio de Janeiro, then, is the most recent example of the prevalence of and harm caused by corruption in government.  The people of Rio de Janeiro and of Brazil deserve transparency and honesty in both justice and in government.