Why I don’t care about drugs in Aussie sport
A composite image of David Gallop CEO of Football Federation Australia (FFA) (top left), Andrew Demetriou, CEO of the Australian Football League (AFL) (top right), David Smith, CEO of the National Rugby League (NRL)(bottom left) and Bill Pulver, CEO of the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) (bottom right). AAP Image/Lukas Coch
For a self-confessed sports nut, my following of the Australian Crime Commission’s report into drugs in Australian sport has been strangely lackadaisical. To say I’ve been detached from the drama would be an understatement.
I haven’t watched a single second of the television coverage, nor listened to a single second of the radio coverage. From a media point of view, the most engaged I’ve been with the topic is reading the odd newspaper headline, and casually scanning online stories.
The chatter amongst friends and family is probably where I have learnt most of my knowledge about the whole drama. Yet even then, my reluctance to fully enter the conversation has been duly noticed.
It seems strange that someone who writes for a sports opinion website doesn’t have an opinion on the biggest sports story in recent times.
The truth is that when it was first reported that drug use in Australian sport was allegedly rife, I wasn’t overly shocked, even if I was disappointed.
I think it’s arrogance or being naive – or a combination of both – to believe that Australia would be free 100% from drug cheats.
While as a country we love to believe that all Australians compete ‘hard but fair’ in the true Anzac spirit, you surely must have your head firmly in the sand if you think that some professional athletes in this country wouldn’t do anything they could to perform at the highest level.
Let’s just pause there for a second and analyse what a professional athlete is: someone who gets paid based on his or her athletic performance.
Is it really any wonder that some athletes will try to gain an unfair advantage in order to succeed at the highest level?
Think about what happens when you perform at the highest level. You win.
You’re rewarded with a larger contract. You receive more media coverage. You become desirable to sponsors.
You’re more attractive to the opposite (or same) sex. You become a celebrity. Kids ask for your autograph. You get the VIP treatment everywhere you go.
You’re revered and respected throughout the nation, and perhaps even internationally.
Being great at sport, particularly in this country, is certainly not a bad thing.
Considering all that, is it really any surprise that some individuals adopt a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality?
Not for one minute am I condoning drug cheating. But I certainly understand the motivation behind doing it.
Nor am I pardoning those that do cheat. I’d be more than happy to see cheats receive life bans, and if appropriate, face legal action and jail time.
However, I’m a realist. I know, deep down, that a percentage of elite level athletes will have done something illegal in order to be where they are.
And that’s why I wasn’t overly surprised by last week’s announcement, because my head is not in the sand.
Yet here is the delicious irony – when it comes to drugs in sport, I don’t put my head in the sand, and yet I most certainly do.
Whilst I don’t pretend that every Australian athlete is clean, I simply don’t think about it either.
I watch sport believing that everyone is clean. Why? Because ignorance is bliss, and I don’t want the knowledge that some athletes aren’t clean ruining sport for me.
I don’t want the big moments diminished by a nagging doubt. I don’t want feats of athletic brilliance tainted by suspicion. I want to watch and enjoy the spectacle that only sport can provide.
If it’s proven later that someone cheated, I’ll deal with it then. But I don’t want a moment of pure joy ruined by the suspicion of guilt, especially if said athlete is actually found to be innocent.
And that’s why I don’t care about the ACC’s report.
Especially until any individuals are actually named, along with exactly what they have allegedly done. Until then, it’s just a tabloid journalists’ dream, and athletes and a fans’ nightmare.
I love sport.
But if I’ve been cheated on, I’ll worry about it when I actually know.
After all, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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