Professional sport has never been free of deception or dishonesty. The prestige and vast sums of money that underpin it - and the normal human weaknesses of its practitioners and administrators - have led to some extraordinary episodes of cheating and match-fixing in decades past. Unfortunately, professional sport has never been so mired in controversy as it appears to be right now. Revelations of apparently institutionalised drug-taking have rocked international cycling in recent months, and this week Europol, the European Union's intelligence-sharing agency, released a report alleging a massive match-fixing conspiracy in hundreds of professional matches ranging from fourth-division games in Germany to European Championship and World Cup qualifiers. On Wednesday, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL announced they were investigating whether supplements taken by Essendon players to improve performance were in fact illegal substances. The spectre of doping has even emerged in the normally genteel sport of professional golf, with former World No. 1 Vijay Singh facing suspension after admitting to using a product containing a banned substance.
With Singh and the Essendon Football Club, the recourse to supplements of apparently dubious provenance seems to have been driven by the desire to secure a competitive edge. Purists would argue this constitutes cheating as it disadvantages rivals playing by the rules.
With match fixing, the motive is plainly money. In either case, administrators have often seemed slow to put preventive measures in place - either because of an unwillingness to expose their sport to bad publicity or because the development of performance-enhancing substances has outpaced existing rules. Severe sanctions - life bans for players, administrators or coaches caught either betting, supplying information or ''sandbagging'' through deceptive performances - would go a long way to eliminating match-fixing. However, many authorities react to accusations by pretending the problem does not exist. The cavalcade of allegations and revelations in recent years suggest otherwise.
Administrators have the power to eliminate most of the cheating and deception in professional sport, but frequently lack the resolve. Only by admitting there is a problem in the first place will the scourge be minimised. On the evidence so far, there is still a long way to go.
If opinion polls have any credibility, support for same-sex marriage in the Anglophone world is conspicuous, and growing by the year. Nonetheless, supporters of the push for marriage equality may have been surprised by the margin of the vote (400-175) in favour of a bill legalising gay marriage in the British House of Commons on Tuesday.
The Conservatives (who govern Britain in coalition with the Liberal Democrats) have never been enamoured of the idea of legalising gay marriage, and 136 of their MPs chose to vote against the bill (with five abstentions and 35 who registered no vote at all). Of 303 Conservative MPs, only 127 voted for the bill, but with the strong support of Labour and the Lib Dems, the vote was carried overwhelmingly.
Prime Minister David Cameron can take most of the credit for the bill's success. Shortly after becoming party leader in 2005, Mr Cameron expressed support for gay marriage as part of his plan to modernise the Conservatives, and pressed the case despite vociferous criticism from within his ranks. Indeed, the size of the Conservative nay vote has been characterised as evidence of a deep rift within the party.
Mr Cameron claims to remain a strong believer in marriage, describing Tuesday's vote as being ''about equality''. His view, and willingness to achieve social reform in the face of strong establishment opposition, contrasts strongly with Julia Gillard's. As the leader of a nominally progressive political party (who just happens to hail from its Left) Ms Gillard has every reason to advance the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia. And yet she has never even chanced her arm. That achievement will ultimately fall to a politician with a better grasp of the fact that, like it or not, there is popular support for marriage equality in Australia, and that change appears inevitable.