When trust is broken in sport

Kate Smart Columnist

By Kate Smart, Kate Smart is a Roar Expert

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    Yesterday it occurred to me that a fundamental principle of sport and of investing your time, passion and belief in following sport is one of trust.

    Trust is an incredibly big word. What does it mean? Who do we trust and what happens when that trust is shattered?

    Firstly, let’s consider ‘trust’ from the viewpoint of the athletes. Who do they trust?

    They trust their parents to drive them from sporting commitment to sporting commitment as they are growing up. They trust their coaches at the junior level to support them, help them and encourage them to be their best.

    So, what happens at more senior levels of sport? Who do young athletes trust? Should they trust anyone at all?

    Perhaps if you are an AFL footballer, you shouldn’t trust anyone, which to some is a fair assessment after Tuesday’s breaking scandal, I mean breaking news, at the Essendon Football Club?

    I have no doubt that these young men ‘trusted’ the staff employed by the football club to take care of their needs as professional footballers.

    Surely, Essendon’s management would take their duty of care for the health and well being of their employees (and remember, we are talking about employees here) seriously.

    How could that not be a priority?

    Surely, Essendon’s management would be aware of the fitness and training programs being dished out and of the ‘supplements’ being given to players?

    What kind of an organisation would not be protecting their most valuable assets?

    What makes a football club viable and competitive is healthy, fit and talented players. It would be fair to assume that Essendon’s management is aware of this fairly basic principle.

    But then again, we all know what assumption is the mother of.

    So, from the viewpoint of the players, it is fair to suppose that their trust in the club’s management and leadership has been severely battered, if not destroyed.

    Now, I know what many of you are thinking and you are probably formulating your response to this piece, that no one forced the players to accept the supplements and they should have acted more responsibly.

    I do agree with this. Any athlete knows the buck stops with them. They are responsible for what goes into their bodies and they will bear any penalty if they are found to be in breach of anti-doping regulations.

    But, you know what, if there is anything I have figured out in life, it is that we often put our trust in others, even if it turns out to be misguided.

    If I was a young athlete playing at an elite level, where I am under the assumption (yep, there’s that word again) that the club, my employers, take a keen interest in my health and well being, then you know what, I doubt I would have asked the questions that many are saying these players should have.

    It’s easy for us to make judgements, especially if we take the word trust out of our thinking. Sometimes we forget what it’s like to be young, to put our faith in those around who us, who tell us that we should trust their judgement.

    Also, how well educated are athletes in the area of ‘sports science’? There are some in elite sports who insist that these supplements are beneficial, even necessary for athletes to recover.

    There are also those like, former Anti-Doping Agency director Nicki Vance, who is quoted as saying these supplements are “very expensive urine” and the benefits for AFL players are questionable.

    But trust in sport doesn’t just reside in athletes needing to trust the professionals around them to act with integrity. There is a bond between sport and spectators that is also heavily invested with trust.

    I’m not going to comment further on Lance Armstrong and the breach of trust at the heart of cycling’s monumental scandal. There has been enough said on that.

    I’m also not going to discuss my bewilderment that it is my beloved Bombers who have broken the hearts of their fans. Sean Lee has done a far better job at than I could and if you haven’t read his piece, published on Wednesday on The Roar, then make sure you do.

    Again, to make a further reference to cycling, Tim Renowden’s piece, also published on Wednesday, on race fixing is far more educated and eloquent than anything I can write, so read that if you haven’t already done so.

    What I am going to say is this. My trust in sport has been shattered.

    I can withstand cycling’s woes and continue to passionately follow the sport. Can I still follow the Bombers? Yes, I will always be a Bombers fan and I will always view the world with one red eye and one black.

    But, you know what, this scandal has taken me to the edge. On top of it all is news from Europe about rampant match fixing.

    Our trust in sport is teetering on a precipice. Sporting clubs, bodies and administrators need to understand that the public invests not just it’s time into following codes, games, matches, but what we really invest in sport is our trust.

    It is the magical sporting moments from our childhood and our adult lives that bond us to the sports we passionately watch, write about and love.

    When that trust is broken, so too is the sport we choose to support.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:55am
      Pot Stirrer said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      Professonal sport is in a precarious position at present i think. Everybody is just a little sceptical about athletes becuase of PED’s but we are also now entrenched with betting on out comes that i thk most of us wouldnt be supised if in years to come some of our favourite storys turn out to be fiction due to cheating.

    • Columnist

      February 7th 2013 @ 10:26am
      Kate Smart said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      Pot Stirrer, Sadly, I think you’re spot on. Betting, money, greed, big business have all had negative impacts on sport. It’s sad that we can’t enjoy feats of human endurance without having that nagging doubt that this is all a charade.

      • February 7th 2013 @ 11:16am
        Pot Stirrer said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Sport is suppose to be a release from day to day life for us fans but Its almost getting to a point where you no longer want to read about your sport becuase there seems to be more contoversy than anything else. Ignorance is bliss i guess.

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2013 @ 10:37am
      langou said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      Kate, I feel your pain.
      My six favourite sports to watch are soccer, footy, cricket, golf, horse racing and cycling. So far four of them in the past six months have been faced with major match fixing scandals (amazingly cricket is one of the clean ones and golf the other). Add the illicit drug scandals of AFL and Cycling and its becoming hard to know what to think.

      • Roar Guru

        February 7th 2013 @ 10:45am
        Redb said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Iangou,

        Mate I think golf might be the only one.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 11:00am
      Brendon said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      I just want to watch sport, and if I had the chance I’d play elite sport for a lot less money than the current crop of players are on. I think that as with everything big money gets involved in, we lose sight of why it’s being played in the first place, and that’s enjoyment.

      I don’t enjoy sport more than I used to, the big dollars getting thrown around make the game less enjoyable, what with advertisements every five seconds on the telly and covering every bit of space on the field, ball, jumper etc. Seriously I don’t care, I just want to watch sport, pure, passionate sport.

      Even if the PED scandal turns out to be supplements that are legal, the fact that we have athletes having intravenous treatments is such a bad look and the practice should be banned immediately, the fact that PED’s can’t be administered orally to any positive affect means that they are not natural and therefore shouldn’t be legal in any sport, if it has to go in your arm and then builds muscle or endurance quicker than normal process’, that’s not right.

      I look at the AFL in a slightly different light after the previous weeks news, but hopefully it will got the way the cycling has, I now think the sport is a lot cleaner than it was with the biological passport doping system, still, it’s a shame it’s actually needed.
      Shame on the clubs for going down this path, how did anyone think that this wouldn’t blow up, legal PED’s or illegal PED’s, it was always going to bite them.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 11:46am
      Kris said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      As an Essendon fan, I do see what you’re saying. However, I’ll be honest and admit that it surprises me that people are surprised by Lance Armstrong, that people are surprised by the Ray Lewis juicing allegation, Manny Pacquiao, the latest on match fixing in soccer, cricket, Melbourne tanking, the Adelaide/Tippett saga etc etc.

      It’s sport. Big money. People always looking to exploit gaps. Everyone looks for edges to exploit, whether it is draft tampering, drugs/ synthetic agents, throwing games etc etc. I mean, we all know that Melbourne clearly didn’t want to win games a few years back (as they shouldn’t have) and they went to some lengths to ensure that. My response? I shrug my shoulders. Why be surprised that clubs look to other sports for an advantage to win games? Time will tell if the substances were on a banned list or will be on a banned list.

      I’m bemused at the furore over keeping Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Mark McGwire out of the MLB Hall of Fame even though a) they never tested positive for a banned substance while playing; b) a lot of the gear [allegedly] being used wasn’t banned at the time; and c) the HoF is full of guys who openly talk about the banned substances flying about in every earlier era. (Not to mention the rapists, racists and murders already in the HoF).

      Life is too short to get so worked up about sport.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 1:39pm
      Allanthus said | February 7th 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

      Hi Kate

      Agree with your premise, it is crucially important that contests are authentic and genuine otherwise it all becomes pointless.

      I have found it hard to follow Formula 1 with any passion because for me it isn’t – for the most part – a genuine contest of skill, but more often a matter of who has the most money has the fastest car. To which there can be drawn a parallel against whoever has the best “juice” has a head start on those who are clean.

      No doubt we will hear the arguments again to make it all open slather – anyone take what they like so it’s fair for all. But of course, just making it fairer in that warped sense does not make it better or right, and I, and no doubt many others would find something else to do with my time. So, as tough as it is trying to stay ahead of the evil doers, the battle must continue to be fought.

      (Just a quick word on your post if I may – you write well, don’t waste your lines going on about how your article is inferior to others. If you don’t think it’s up to speed then don’t post it. If you do, then post it and be positive about it! I hope that came across how I intended…)

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