Whenever I’m confronted with a problem in life, I tend to follow a particular process. I try and understand the nature of the problem, put it into perspective then tackle the cause of the problem. Tackling the cause of any problem often entails dissecting the problem into many small parts and drilling down until you reach the absolute core, or, if you like, “the lowest common denominator”.
We, apparently, have a problem which has been described ad nauseam as the “blackest day in Australian sport”. On Thursday 7th February, 2013, the Federal Minister for Sport Kate Lundy in conjunction with Australian Crime Commission CEO John Lawler went to unprecedented measures to tell all and sundry that Australian sport and, in particular, AFL and NRL was riddled with drug related issues. Specifically, there are assertions of excessive use of performance enhancing as well as illicit (I hate the term “illicit”! please people, it’s “illegal”) drug use by elite athletes. There are also reports of organised crimes and match fixing.
11 days later, we still don’t have one single charge. Not one shred of evidence. Not even a solitary name. Every club has vehemently protested its innocence. All we’re left with is plenty of rumours, innuendos and finger pointing – poor old Stephen Dank must feel as though he’s committed genocide! Media groups are generating millions in advertising revenue, lawyers will make double that amount, we may get one scapegoat no-name footballer and Australian sport will have its proud reputation eternally tarnished. Somebody please answer me – WHY? Is there a political agenda or is ASADA really onto something? Where is the perspective in all this???
I’m not for one minute suggesting that we, as a nation of sports participants, are completely free of illegal drug use. That would be Alice-in-Wonderland’ish. Why do athletes run the gauntlet? Why do they risk all that they’ve worked so hard for? Why do they run away from their NRL clubs in the middle of the night to join a second division French rugby team? The lowest common denominator is always MONEY! The root of all evil they say. Whilst ever there is money and sport, there will always be the lure of wrong doing. It’s been happening since the ancient Greek athletes used hallucinogens when competing for cash prizes and olive wreaths. In more recent times, we’ve had revelations like former sprinter Ben Johnson, the German women’s swimming team, the Chinese swimmers, Pakistani cricketers, Marion Jones, Cycling (Lance Armstrong), the list goes on. For what? Glory, prestige, gaining an advantage, call it whatever you like. It’s all about the money!
How do we stop it? “Eliminate sports betting” I heard one caller say on a radio program. Like, that’s ever going to happen… “Make it open slather and allow all athletes to take drugs”, I heard another say. Now that is absurd! The fact is, we will never get rid of drugs in sport. What we can do is take measures to manage and prevent the likelihood of the problems occurring. Intelligence, rigorous testing, education all sound good. However, to make these polices effective, guess what we need more of? You got it….MONEY!