Why athletes must respect duty of role model status

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“With great power comes great responsibility” – very sage advice given by Uncle Ben to Spiderman.

Now while our sports stars may not have the ability to shoot webs or scale walls, they have an even greater power – the power to influence the youth of today, arguably the greatest power one can have without being bitten by a radioactive spider.

However, 2013 has shown us so far that many athletes around the world neglect the duty they have as a role model, as betrayal, disappointment and a total lack of inspiration have swallowed up the glory of sporting achievement.

Let us take a look at the year so far:

Lance Armstrong, after providing belief to millions with his heroic tale of victim to victor, shatters hope with a remorseless confession concerning his embellishing use of performance enhancing drugs

ASADA reveals that Australian sport has, in instances, heeded a few too many lessons from Lance and is potentially riddled with drug use.

Shane Watson, the vice-captain of the Australian cricket team, as well as Usman Khawaja, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson are all stood down from the third test against India due to failing to care for the team enough to complete the simplest task of handing in their homework on how they could improve after two embarrassing losses.

And perhaps the biggest disappointment of all: Oscar Pistorius’ arrest on suspicion of murdering his wife.

Oscar was the epitome of inspiration in sport. He began his life by having both legs amputated below the knee but refused to let that stop him from smashing down doors for less-abled athletes everywhere by succeeding in chasing his dream to race in the Olympics.

Inspirational, no?

Well what Oscar did on his legs was inspirational for athletes, kids, those confronted with a disability and many other sections of society.

However, each bullet fired by his hands has shattered the world of sport, and the ability to inspire children around the world.

What mother will want their kid to have a murderer as an inspiration, even if he was arguably the greatest Paralympian of all time?

What kid wants to cycle when he is told he has to turn to drugs to compete on an even playing field, as Lance declared as an attempt to justify his abhorrent actions? What kid is going to have pride in playing for Australia if its current players don’t?

The year is not even three months old yet but if this is anything to go by this year is looking ominously dark, which is an incredible shame as the vast majority of athletes out there are doing the right thing and setting an excellent example.

Unfortunately, the cloud created by the careless few mentioned relegates these highlights to the bench, and it is those athletes who need to wake up.

Whether they like it or not they are crucial role models in society. They can inspire kids to live a healthy life; inspire people to dream that they will win that gold medal or yellow jersey (or even both!).

They also have the unfortunate power to influence in negative ways, whether it be by firing a gun, taking drugs, drink driving, or whatever stupid behaviour may be the flavour of the day.

As a result, athletes need to be incredibly responsible about what they do and say, particularly today thanks to the juggernaut of social media making them so accessible.

So get yourselves into shape athletes, I don’t want to have to hash tag #disappointing again this year.

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