Russia is still sulking following the uproar about state sponsored widespread doping practices that led to a smaller team than Moscow had anticipated being sent to the Olympics, and the entire Paralympic team being banned altogether. Fairness in sport is fundamental. So too is preventing foul play.
That was why three boxers at the Olympics in 388 BC were punished when it emerged that they had been bribed by the winner, a certain Eupolos – who was also disgraced as a result. Huge statues were then erected to warn others of the consequences of cheating, with the authorities forcing Eupolos to pay for them himself.
Some got away with it – like the Roman Emperor Nero, who fiddled the competition in 67 AD to win the prize chariot competition, defeating all-comers who realised that standing in his way would not be in their best long-term interests (or their short-term ones either).
Fair play was as important in the ancient world as in the modern. That’s one reason why the discovery of a new inscription in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) it is so exciting – and in some ways so unsurprising.
A rock carving found in the summer of 2016 near Beyşehir near Konya in central Anatolia, features a depiction of a horse and a jockey – and outlines the rules of horse racing. The inscription sets out the guidelines to make racing fair and therefore enjoyable. No one wants to watch a race where the outcome has been rigged. One of the most interesting elements is the instruction that once a horse has won one race, it is ineligible to enter another. Likewise, an owner who had one winner, could not enter another race – to give others a chance to have fun too. Nice that more than one person should have something to celebrate.
This wasn’t about pushing mediocrity, but a way of making sure that the rich didn’t monopolise the entertainment, by buying the best horses, hiring the best trainers and paying the best jockeys. The Jockey Club of the time, at least at Beyşehir, saw it had a useful role in civic society.
Must have been a good looking sort too: ‘he died before he was married.’ Lovely man, great skill, and a heartthrob too. The perfect sportsman.