Critical condition... Armstrong helped put  our faith in sport on life support.
Critical condition... Armstrong helped put  our faith in sport on life support.

There is an epic contest happening in the world of sport right now.

It's a battle for the soul of sport itself.

And the cheats are winning.

Last week's revelations by New Zealand batsman Lou Vincent that he'd been involved in spot and match fixing of cricket games across the globe put a name and a face to a virus that has been slowly killing the games we love.

Cricket has Vincent, Cronje, Azharuddin, Asif and god knows how many other rats in its ranks.

Cycling has Armstrong, O'Grady, Contador, Vinokourov and a veritable peloton of parasites who've blackened it's name.

The AFL has Essendon and the NRL the Cronulla Sharks where the prevailing philosophy seemed to be "whatever it takes and take whatever" to make it.

Football has FIFA. 

The governing body of the world's most popular game is so tainted by the stench of corruption and self interest it conducts it's dirty business in public, awarding The World Cup to Qatar and offering a pathetic apology years later.

This cheat sheet could go on and on, such is the erosion of values in contemporary sport. 

Many of us have comforted ourselves with the belief that a few bad apples couldn't spoil the entire orchard. It's getting harder and harder to keep faith with that.

Vincent's admissions implicated many others. Cricket's nest has been polluted by so many who've been prepared to sell it out, the game itself is diseased and discredited.

Who can seriously look at an Indian Premier League contest, a Big Bash game or any of the countless One Day Internationals around the world and not suspect that the only thing being played are the fans?

So many fabricated franchises, playing in meaningless games in pop-up leagues has left the game an empty vessel.

Cricket increasingly looks little more than a rat running inside a reel, spinning the wheels of the gargantuan gaming industry, legal and otherwise.

If we're honest about it, cheating and spot fixing are merely an extension of the larger game itself.

It calls to mind Omar's testimony against Bird in season 2 of The Wire.

When confronted by his gang rival's expensive lawyer who labels him a parasite he calls him out.

" I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. it's all in the game though, right?".

And so it is.

The integrity of sport - the importance we all places on a clean, fair contest conducted in a spirit of mutual respect - has been drowning in the rivers of gold that sport has delivered as it's become bigger, richer and omnipotent. 

Sport is literally killing itself with its own success.

Whether it can be saved from itself is the question.