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Thou Shalt Not Inflict Moral Injury

I don’t know if it’s standard legalese or what, but I kind of like this term: moral injury. (In French, préjudice moral.) I read it in Appendix B to the International Sporting Code, released today by the FIA. What Appendix B does is describe the Code of Good Standing, with which senior team members in all international FIA series — not just Formula 1 — must now be in compliance to certified with the FIA.

Specifically, “All FIA Licence-Holders and all Participants in International Events” must, among other things, not

. . .inflict, by words, deeds or writings, any moral injury or loss on the FIA, on its bodies, on its members or on its management, and more generally on the interests of motor sport and on the values defended by the FIA.

By “deeds,” they of course mean such things as race fixing, which those do-gooders at the FIA apparently take exception to. Imagine! This “injury” must relate primarily to general-public perceptions of antiquated concepts like “sportsmanship.” Certainly they have little to do with the concerns of true, hardcore F1 fans, who are far too sophisticated to worry about esoteric concepts with no bearing on the engineering/marketing exercise they follow — one that just happens to be reported on in the sports pages, for whatever reason.

All dripping-with-sarcasm-while-resigned-to-the-fact-that-many-reading-it-would-say-“Yes, now you’re getting it!” joking aside, this new registration scheme was drawn up in response to the Singapore race-fixing scandal, aka “Crashgate,” which I’ve mentioned maybe once or twice in this blog. The French courts overturned the bans on Briatore and Symonds, and my understanding is that the FIA wanted to devise a means by which they would have something tangible to revoke — something even the French courts couldn’t argue with — should a morally injurious debacle like Crashgate happen in the future.

But will Briatore or Symonds receive a certificate from the FIA in the future? It’s hard for me to imagine that Symonds wouldn’t. His original ban was, after all, never a lifetime ban, and in a real way he has already made his return to F1. Briatore, on the other hand? Yeah, I’d love to be able to say “I doubt it,” but then again I kind of don’t. It has nearly stopped being surprising to me, the number of people who seem open to the idea of his return to the sport. Such a colorful character! So beloved by all! Well. . .save some annoyingly puritanical killjoy types. And the Piquet family.

As long as Briatore and Symonds go about whatever shady business they deem necessary to win races and don’t get caught doing it — well, that’s avoiding moral injury to the FIA altogether, isn’t it? No harm, no foul. Both men have surely learned something from the way Crashgate went down and would presumably take steps to avoid having it happen again. Neither would ever again be, as I’ve heard it put many times, “stupid enough to get caught,” which was their primary crime in the eyes of so many.

Not being stupid enough to get caught will obviously also help the two of them keep from running afoul of all the other parts of the Code — most notably, the part about fairness in competition. What — Briatore “. . .behave in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the result of a competition in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics”? Wouldn’t dream of it! He’s just sitting there at the pit wall trying to be a team principal. Is it his fault one of his drivers crashed rather suspiciously? Yes, you say? Well, he’d like to see you try to prove it!

From now on, I’m guessing that will be a lot more difficult.

As a side note, I want to mention that the only news sites I’ve seen reporting on this so far are the BBC News F1 site and Autosport.com. (Yahoo! Eurosport UK reproduces the Autosport story. F1SA.com reproduces the FIA press release.) I’m awaiting further reports in a mildly eager way, because one of my new favorite hobbies is comparing reporting on the same story by different F1 news outlets. I’ve noticed some interesting differences, which I’ll go into in detail in a future post. But just comparing the two stories linked above, did you notice that the Autosport story makes no mention of Crashgate whatsoever? (I should mention, though, that neither does the original FIA press release. Not surprisingly.)  I’m looking forward to seeing how other sites frame it.


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