Archive for the ‘Drugs in sport’ Category

Refs should be thanking the new fall guy in sport

It used to be that the sourest of sportsfolk would predictably turn their heads toward one minority at the end of a close loss. Or an embarrassing loss. Or a loss marred by controversy. Or a completely uncontroversial loss. Any loss, really.

I talk, of course, of the endgame barrages delivered to referees that have become both commonplace and complacently common. Ricky Stuart is one of many who have turned the blaming of referees for his side’s losses into an artform. Sure, it’s not as well expressed as a Tom Wolfe exposé, or as aesthetically dazzling as a Raphael, but it still forms a kind of guttural, mildly amusing art.

For a coach in the NRL, performing in this genre is easy. He simply must express his frustration to his club officials, week after week, at those interminable referees and their attempts to foil his side’s cheating. Then he must convince them that it’s worth 10,000 of their dollars (which surely could be better used in developing grass roots or some other ideal proffered as another of the many reasons his mighty game is losing the battle to AFL, or football, or ping pong) to let Ricky slag the refs after a particularly difficult game. Then Ricky Stuart hands a cheque to the NRL, paid in full by his club’s board, and gets a ‘fairer’ rub of the green for the next couple of games, as refs are scared that ol’ man Stuart is going to run after them with his musket if they don’t penalise the stuffing out of the other team.

But I’ve noticed that there haven’t been nearly as many articles about how clueless the referees are since the darkest day in Australian sport. Ever since ASADA has left their perch high above the Aussie sporting landscape and descended to the level of the daily sporting grind, they have become the new whipping boy for clueless columnists who want to create smoke where there are barely fire hazards, let alone a fire.

Every day we are exposed to one or another personality in the rugby league community break out the tar and brush analogy. Inevitably we then see another tired joke about Australia’s tar shortage. This leads to an article in response to the previous statement about how the investigation has to be over before we can give people the results, something people still don’t seem to get. Then we get a couple of hours of lull while there’s actual football on, then some idiot asks about ASADA again and we’re back to square one. This has been going on for two months now.

I must say it’s a lot more interesting than referee-slagging. The structural form of ASADA-bagging isn’t nearly as well defined and therefore is poorly constructed in comparison to the well-developed genre of bagging match officials. But we’re certainly getting to a point where people are blindly saying the same thing over and over again the public arena, heeding conventions no one knew existed three months ago. No one listens, but no one points out the ridiculousness of it all either.

Phil Gould is flip flopping on whether he likes ASADA more than a freshly caught fish deciding whether his left or right would be the better side to expire on. One day he understands completely that the investigation will take time, and that there is substance to these allegations. The next he’s columnising about how those up in their ivory towers (no doubt just as pompous, arrogant and disrespectful as those darned referees were) are just sticking their noses into the ‘Greatest game of all’ to have their moment in the sun.

ASADA, by giving themselves the exposure they have, have hampered their cause if anything. But consider this: when that announcement was made, with Jason Clare and Kate Lundy and Andrew Demetriou and Benji Barba, and they told everyone they were hot on the heels of a bunch of people who were cheating by using performance-enhancing drugs, do you think that clubs that did have an institutionalised illegal doping program (that is if there were any) would have continued on their merry way? Or do you maybe think that the announcement on that dark, black, opaquely noir day for sport would have prompted clubs to undergo a thorough cleaning out of the draws as well as a disposing of their programs, at least while the investigation is ongoing.

If there were clubs doping, I wager they would have stopped. The cleaning out of the cupboards bit is why the investigation is taking so long. I’m sure everyone involved would have been told to zip it if they were part of a club that had been cheating.

But I will say to those who continue to rant about how unfair all this is: they wouldn’t have announced anything if there was nothing to announce. Cooperation is extremely unlikely. We have a case in point down on the Sutherland Shire, where folks still seem to think it’s ok to turn up to a legally binding meeting in trackies and thongs.

And just as you had to get used to referees making mistakes, you’re just going to have to get used to this ASADA thing.

Sharks being circled? What’s next, Bulldogs’ heels being nipped?

In what is an irony spotter’s dream, everyone in the rugby league community is now circling the Sharks.

While it was previously the domain of the finned, cartilege-laden predator to swarm around its prey, circling them with demonic intent before rudely removing a digit or limb from their chosen victim, nature has found a way to turn it around on them this time. That’s right, finally the shark has become the hunted.

In a further sprinkling of irony, all this turning around of nature has been achieved through the most unnatural of means: using drugs to improve on nature. Confusing, isn’t it?

Shark victims and prospective shark victims aside, not many can be all too pleased by this news of Sharks being hunted, as it confirms the presence and widespread use of illegal drugs in the NRL. Not only have fourteen players been implicated, but it came to light on Fox Sports today that they’ve even been offered a year extra on their contract plus full pay so they don’t sue the club.

What does that tell us? Are the club trying to pay off players for something that was ostensibly the club’s fault? Did the Sharkies, knowingly and willingly, flaunt the drug code to gain an unfair advantage? I’m sure there are a number of reasons why you would offer your players those sort of incentives not to sue you. But you know what, for all those reasons I suppose that there are, I can’t think of any other myself. Maybe you can give me another explanation? Try the comments section below if you have any bright ideas.

All I know is that it’s a really bad look. It really looks like the club has given their players this stuff willingly. Two, three, four players may have just been a coincidence. But 14? 14 players is a whole starting team. And at one club. The chances of this being a coincidence are dropping by the minute.

A blurred photo... Looks suspicious, doesn't it? Is it a dirty, roided up footballer taking drugs? Or is it a man walking in a train station? You decide

A blurred photo… Looks suspicious, doesn’t it? Is it a dirty, roided up footballer taking drugs? Or is it a man walking in a train station? You decide


But let’s not pretend it’s just the club at fault here. A professional athlete has a responsibility for what he puts in his body. It’s his livelihood, and he can’t blindly subject himself to professional advice like cyclists apparently did all through the nineties and naughties. Tyler Hamilton was just as doped as Lance Armstrong. They both cheated; they both knew it was wrong. Whether Lance tried to force Tyler into it or not, Tyler still shouldn’t have doped. Same goes with the Sharkies. If something looks like dead rat, smells like dead rat, then it’s probably a dead rat. Any my dad always told me not to eat dead rat because it ain’t no crème brûlée.

I’m sure more than a few of you have received a text message or two from you mates with some rumours that are swirling around the other clubs as well. The rumours go that the Sharkies are merely the first to fall, and that major clubs are going to fall in the coming months, and with serious penalties and consequences. But these are just rumours, and they’re bound to proliferate in times like this. You can’t help but feel though that even when this Sharks matter is cleared up, there’s still a long way to go for ASADA. They’re not done yet.

Another interesting questions revolves around what the banned players are going to do while they’re cooling their heels on the sideline. What’s their media performance going to be like? Are we going to be told the hows, whys, wheres and whats, just like we were with Lance? I’m not going to be so bold to say that the public deserve to know, but realistically the public probably deserve to know. If one of Cronulla’s biggest players, the hero of kids who support the team, happened to take drugs, I don’t think putting a gag on him would be the right thing to do.

The players who took drugs have to be part of the solution.

All this is of course hypothetical, but it looks like it’s very much becoming a reality, and fast.

It’s also not a great look for all those folks who attempted to bluff ASADA into not investigating by thinking they’d called their bluff. Remember, an absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. There’s substance behind this investigation. Get used to it.

And if you’re a drug cheat, you might want to get used to being on the bench, because you’ll most likely have at least six months to practice it.

What Australian dopers should learn from Lance Armstrong

I noticed in Peter FitzSimons’ column in the Sydney Morning Herald today he refers to Lance Armstrong as “the most infamous drug cheat in international sporting history.”

Now we all know Peter has never really gone soft on Lance, but his unrestrained appraisals of the former cycling champ have most definitely been ratified by the evidence. FitzSimons jocular surprise of the comparison of Lance’s systematic approach to doping his entire US Postal (among others) cycling team to the bombshell that was dropped yesterday about systematic doping, corruption and the potential for match-fixing in Australian sport is also worthy of note, insinuating he suspected a seedy underbelly to the glitz, glamour and nasal accents of Australian sport too.

Whatever we make of his timing and judgement is irrelevant. What is worthy of note is that he picked up on the Justice minister Jason Clare’s comparison to Lance’s doping efforts. The most interesting question that this raises in my eyes, however, is simply “how low does it go?” but rather one of “what can athletes learn from the bad man Lance?”

Appropriate to his crime, Lance is a fallen angel, a veritable Azmodeus in today’s sporting landscape; an example not to follow. But also, in my view, an example to be learned from. For every drug cheat that is caught and sanctioned, lessons must be learned and action must be taken. This applies not only to the people investigating and testing for the crimes (used in a loose sense), but also those loading up their veins, and stomachs, and whatever else, with the gear.

Lance Armstrong could and would have saved himself months of ignominy had he only fronted up, fessed up, told the truth and got that monkey, that cost him so much of his life and so much of what he could have had, off his back. Imagine the weight that would have been lifted off his shoulders when he uttered those words to Oprah. All the years of bickering, fighting, lawsuits and lying to yourself and everyone else, gone. Of course in Lance’s case it was replaced by yet more bickering and yet more lawsuits, but that was for one reason and one reason only:

He didn’t tell us the truth in the first place!

Had he done that, we wouldn’t have had to watch Oprah at all, and we all would have known years ago that Lance was as drugged and dirty as a pillhead sleeping in a Kings Cross dumpster. At least the pillhead, acknowledging he went too far, can go home and have a shower. But when you sleep in a dumpster for too long, the smell doesn’t come off so quickly. You could say the monkey on Lance’s back quickly grew into an Orang-utan, and was the size of a Silverback Gorilla by the time he actually told Oprah what he really did to be the best.

"If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you," said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

“If you did cheat, the silverback Gorilla will find you. He will hunt you down and kill you,” said Sports minister Kate Lundy yesterday. Or something like that

So what are you getting at, Patrick? What’s with all this bullshit about people taking ecstasy and EPO and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs?) and PIEDS and whatever other acronyms we can think of?

Well, I humbly submit to those who have knowingly, unknowingly, or partially knowingly participated in this nastiness come forward and save yourself the persecution; because the lesson to learn from the biggest story ever about drugs in sport is that the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

You can hold on and not get caught, but look at what happened to those who do come forward.

Tyler Hamilton, who in his peak had more growth hormone pumping around him than a 15 year-old boy sired by Luke Longley and Lauren Jackson, now champions the cause for a cleaner sport of cycling and was a key witness in exposing Armstrong’s cheating. You might even say he was a fallen angel who finally returned back to the right side. People seem to like Tyler, respect his courage and place less weight on his cheating as a result of his confession.

Now whether we should judge Tyler less harshly because he came forward is another thing altogether, but so far that seems to be the trend. The Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, said it yesterday:

“I say to those athletes – ‘Come forward… come clean and be part of the solution, not part of an ongoing problem.’ I would think they should do it as soon as possible… investigations are already under way, so it is possible for people to come forward now.”

Sound advice, I would think.

The minister also mentioned the possibility of reduced sanctions and the potential for leniency for confessors. It’s more than they deserve, but it may prompt people into considering it.

So come forth, those who sought to gain advantage by illicit means. For the good of Australian sport, come forth, and unsully those veins. The law will welcome you with open arms and (possibly) reduce your sentence.

You mightn’t deserve it, but if you do manage to grow some balls back (it might take some time) it’ll save you a whole lot of pain.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair