Illicit drugs and McCarthyism in Australian sport

9 Have your say

“A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” (Thomas Jefferson, 1787).

I recently read through the report from the Australian Crime Commission – I thought it prudent after being bombarded by story after story, interview after interview on the television, radio and print news.

I have nothing to add to the dialogue concerning Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) (as defined on page four of the ACC report).

It is with these drugs that the report concerns itself with on the whole.

I want to focus on the report’s mention of illicit drugs (to be distinguished from PIEDs), also known as recreational drugs by the community at large.

Page five of the report provides that the ACC’s focus and chief concerns were: new generation PIEDs, that were previously considered to be only used by elite athletes and were now widely available; the involvement of organised criminal identities and groups in the distribution of new generation PIEDs; the use of WADA prohibited substances by professional athletes in Australia and current threats to the integrity of professional sport in Australia.

I assume that illicit drugs fall within the last paragraph, but I am only guessing.

Illicit drugs get a specific mention later on at page 33 of the report: “Information obtained by the ACC suggests that illicit drug use by professional athletes remains an ongoing issue, with official statistics for illicit drug use within professional sports likely to significantly understate the extent of actual use.”

A number of sports conduct testing on players for illicit drugs and maintain policies to deal with positive illicit drug tests. However, evidence suggests that loopholes exist and are being exploited by players seeking to avoid testing and detection.

The second paragraph above may be only referring to the AFL’s policies concerning recreational drug use, but perhaps not.

There are no details provided with the report. Between these two paragraphs are a number of statements by the ACC concerning illicit drugs which I have extracted below:

(1) Illicit drug use by athletes leaves them particularly vulnerable to exploitation for other criminal purposes, including match fixing and fraud arising out of the provision of ‘inside information’.

(2) There is also evidence to suggest that some athletes are supplying others with illicit drugs.

(3) The use of illicit substances by athletes is likely to be correlated in some cases with the use of WADA prohibited substances by those athletes.

(4) Some players are allegedly using both PIEDs and illicit drugs, and the risk-taking instincts which are integral to some elite athletes likely explain this decision.

(5) There are, however, some athletes who draw distinctions between taking PIEDs and illicit drugs, based on personal opinions and biases and in many cases on an evaluation of the likelihood of the activity being detected.

Point (2) is a criminal offence. Courts across the country have been dealing with illicit drug suppliers for some time (pardon the pun). It is hardly a surprise that someone who takes recreational drugs might be selling it on to his mates.

Points (1), (4) and (5) are statements as to athletes’ psychological profiles, psychological predisposition or preferences, personal opinions or biases. Generalisations that, again, don’t take the issue of illicit drugs very far and emphasise my point below.

Point (3) highlights what sporting organisations should be concerned about. That is the use of WADA prohibited substances by athletes to enhance their performance. That an athlete might be taking both is, frankly, hardly breathtaking news.

Illicit drug use has been a long standing issue in society.

With the exception of point (3), every statement in the ACC’s report concerning illicit drug use applies to drugs in society as whole and to any number of industries.

When distilled, the issues raised don’t actually differ from those raised about recreational drug use generally. I would like raise in return, the legalisation of recreational drugs and the failure of authorities in the ongoing war against same, but it will be ignored.

So instead, let us bring on the McCarthyism. You know the media are going to. The media will not doubt “nail anyone who ever scratched his ass during the National Anthem” (Humphrey Bogart). Athletes are being encouraged to come forward and confess before they are hunted down.

So now… for the confessional. ” I smoked a joint once. I think I was playing under 15 or 16’s rugby league at the time. I’m very sorry. If you let me off I would like to name the following people who smoked it with me…”

I was listening to Gerard Whateley on the ABC News this morning and I want to nominate him as the head of the Foley Square Trial of “dope” smoking athletes.

The definitive, unequivocal and highly descriptive way he was preaching, much as he did early this year concerning the various horse racing scandals, makes him perfect for the job.

I have finally learnt that the world is both black and white – but nothing in between – thanks populist media!

Perhaps we can focus on performance enhancing drugs, organised crime links and match fixing.

Perhaps then we could stop throwing in the words “illicit drugs” into the mix and justify it with sportsmen and sportswomen are role models for the next generation.

So are mothers and fathers. And what if your morals and ethics on recreational drugs aren’t the same as the most vocal part of society? They often kid themselves that they are the majority. No, you are just the loudest.

Isn’t there already a debate about this, without dragging in sport?

If it helps a 24 hour news cycle though.

Just remember, take the media with a grain of salt. “No one can terrorise a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices” (Edward R. Murrow).

Sit back, relax, turn on the television or radio and watch the sport of things to come.

Now where did I leave that joint?

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