Ethics Quiz: The Boxer Who Bet Against Himself, And Lost His Bet


Three Olympic boxers received “severe reprimands” from an International Olympic Committee last week for betting on fights during last month’s Rio de Janeiro Games in violation of Olympic  anti-betting rules.

The interesting one is Ireland’s welterweight Steve Donnelly, shown above. Donnelly bet against himself in a first-round bout but still won the fight.

The IOC said the three boxers received only reprimands rather than retroactive disqualifications or bans because a disciplinary panel determined “there was no intent to manipulate any event” and the athletes have apologized.

Donnelly, an evident idiot, said that he was in fact not aware of the prohibition against betting, though he had signed the documents agreeing to the restrictions. He hadn’t read them, he said.  He claimed that he bet against himself without intending lose his match to win those bets. He reasoned that if he lost the match, winning the bets ( he made two on his opponent) would be some compensation for his defeat.

Good thinking there, Steve.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day

Is a reprimand just and sufficient punishment for an Olympic competitor who bets on himself to lose, as long as he loses the bet and not his competition?

My view…

I can see the other side of this, I really can. It’s just that I think the other side is dead wrong. Maybe someone can convince me otherwise.

I believe that clear and undeniable corrupt and unethical conduct has been completed once the boxer bets on himself to lose, and goes into the competition with all competitors and spectators assuming he doesn’t have a self-created conflict of interest that calls into question whether he will do his best to win.

The fact that he didn’t in fact lose merely keeps such a boxer from committing criminal fraud. It doesn’t mitigate the unethical bet itself at all. By betting, by his own admission, Donnelly reduced his motivation to win by reducing the potential pain of losing. This might have affected his performance in many ways.

Maybe it would stop him from persevering, Rocky Balboa-like, if he was being badly beat but might rally with a super-human effort. Maybe, knowing that he had a cash reward waiting for him if he just refused to reach down for a special push, the bet would lessen his resolve and determination. Maybe Donnelly was waiting to see how tough his opponent was before deciding whether to did his best to win.

Or maybe his opposition,Tuvshinbat Byamba of Mongolia, threw the fight before Donnelly had a chance to, because HE had bet on Donnelly.

Of course, there are other illicit results likely when an athlete bets against himself. Whoever takes the bet knows, or may assume, that the boxer isn’t confident, or may be injured. If that information is passed along to other gamblers, it make give them an advantage.

This episode is another example of the ethics ignorance that pervades much of sports, and the Olympics particularly. Donnelly should be fined and banned. Nothing less stringent is appropriate or makes any sense. The boxer made it advantageous for him to throw a fight. Whether or not he knew it was against the rules doesn’t matter. He thinks like a cheater, ergo he is as untrustworthy as one.   The fact that for whatever reason—and the reason should not matter—he did not do what his bet created a motivation for him to do doesn’t mitigate the act of betting.

The excuse the IOCX accepted was the defense raised by Shoeless Joe Jackson after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, when gamblers paid eight members of the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series to the vastly inferior Cincinnati Reds. Jackson admitted that he took his bribe, but insisted that he never played less than his best, and the statistics backed him up, although that was impossible to prove.

Jackson was banned from baseball for life. Good. No sport cannot tolerate players who take bribes, no matter what they may do after the bribe is completed, and boxing cannot allow boxers to bet against themselves. Would Donnelly have been allowed to compete if everyone knew about his bet before the match? Never. Would anyone believe that he really tried to win if he lost the fight and then collected his winnings? No!

Donnelly’s other explanations and mea culpas to the committee included…

  • He engaged in betting to pass the time, because he had been bored in the Olympic Village.

Oh. Well that’s all right then! Cheating because you’re bored is something different entirely. (Ban him)

  • He understood he had made a mistake and regretted it.

What else would he say? How come he wasn’t ethical enough to know that betting against himself was wrong in the first place? If he can make such a basic mistake, why should anyone trust his judgment or integrity now? He regrets it because he got caught.

Ban him.

  • Donnelly said he was ready to help to educate his fellow athletes using his own experience.


Good one!

Ban him.


Filed under Around the World, Character, Quizzes, Sports

7 responses to “Ethics Quiz: The Boxer Who Bet Against Himself, And Lost His Bet

  1. Alex

    > Or maybe his opposition,Tuvshinbat Byamba of Mongolia, threw the fight before Donnelly had a chance to, because HE had bet on Donnelly.
    The movie “Rudo y Cursi” (previously on Netflix streaming, now only available on DVD) climaxes with two brothers trying to throw a football (soccer for the uncultured :P) game on each other. You’d probably enjoy it for all the ethical scenarios in the story (without spoiling it, most of them go the wrong way).
    > He engaged in betting to pass the time, because he had been bored in the Olympic Village.
    That most be a different Olympic Village than the one I’ve heard from. I have an acquaintance who competed more than a decade ago and he claims all the stories about never ending hookups and “parties” that have recently been raised by the media fall way way short of what actually goes on there.

  2. Wayne

    Well he’s Irish so what can you expect? Maybe some little old lady will clobber him with an umbrella in a bus in Belfast.

  3. Seems the answer is evident even before the apparent weirdness of betting against yourself but still winning.

    If you’ve summarized the rules accurately, then it isn’t against the rules to bet on yourself to lose and then losing; the rules seem to be that betting AT ALL is against the rules.

    So even if he bet FOR himself, he’d still be ban worthy.

    If you’ve summarized the rules accurately.

  4. Can you bet for yourself? If not… Why not?

    • Pete Rose bet on his own team to win. The problem is that when you DON’T bet on yourself, that becomes a statement that you don’t believe you will win.

      • Obviously…. My question was more of a “Is it really an ‘anti-betting’ policy, or an ‘anti-betting-against-yourself-because-it-looks-like-corruption’ policy?”

        Betting on yourself SEEMS like it should be acceptable, but I can just as easily see that distinction being ignored to avoid gingerly touching something that might have a shadow of a semblance of being a conflict of interest.

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