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Drug revelations could mean unwelcome surprises for us all

Roar Guru
11th January, 2012
16

Think for a moment how the Australian media would react if one of the biggest names in Australian sport tested positive to a banned substance. One of the pin-up boys, the sort of guy that kids look up to, a face of a franchise.

Imagine the athlete had previously stated that he or she would never be dumb enough to drug cheat, and that others who even consider going down that path should come out and admit it.

This is a stance that Australian sporting fans are going to be used to. Performance enhancing drugs are not on many of our radars – we believe our athletes are clean.

Ian Thorpe is an athlete who was alleged to have used different substances by external parties, but none of the claims were backed up with evidence and none eventuated in bans. Collectively, Australians are prepared to denounce these claims, as drugs are not something that we consider part of our sporting landscape.

The reaction to drugs in sports are different depending on the perspective of the sporting landscape. Major League Baseball had an era where drug use seen as normal by players and seemingly officials alike.

Star player from 1985-2001 Jose Canseco conceded that he relied on steroid use during his MLB career, and has since stated that 80 percent of MLB players had used steroids at some time. What has to be remembered is that the MLB at this stage had no mandatory drug testing policy. Players continue to come out and state that they used drugs while they were playing, including MVP winners Ken Caminiti and Alex Rodriguez.

The MLB had little choice but to react in some way to stem the use of banned substances in their league. After a scandal involving Barry Bonds, the world record holder for home-runs hit in a career, the MLB initiated bans for people who test positive for banned substances.

These rules have developed over the past few years and in 2006 the current drugs policy was adopted. The punishments handed down for testing positive to banned substances are almost laughable and there is actually no testing carried out for steroid use during spring training and the regular season.

However, while the punishments are limited, the MLB has taken measured steps to lower the amount of drugs being used within the sport. Accordingly, it has been revealed that National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive to a banned substance during the play-offs of the 2011 season.

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Ryan Braun is the pin-up boy of the MLB, or was at least. While there are going to be some big questions asked about confidentiality and how ESPN was able to report this before there was even mention about the issue on the MLB and Milwaukee Brewers websites, many more questions are going to be asked about how another big star has tested positive to a banned substance in the MLB.

As Australians we have no comparable experience. Our sporting landscape has always been relatively clean. There has been the odd case of illegal drug use but nothing of the magnitude of fellow sporting competitions around the world and their experiences.

I am not so naive as to suggest that drugs do not exist in Australian sport, as I’m sure we are all aware this could not be true. But there is hopefully never going to be a massive drug scandal involving not just one or two players but an entire generation of sporting greats.

Because this is reality for the MLB. An entire generation of sporting heroes are being hung out to dry because of the continued admissions of players to using steroids and other banned substances.

Imagine if we had to forget the stars of the 1990s in NRL or AFL. Again, not just a handful of these players, but the entire generation, because the stark reality is that the best of the best were most likely on some sort of performance enhancing drugs.

Fingers crossed this is something that never becomes of Australian sport. Realistically, wide-spread drug use is something Australian sporting fans are not going to have to witnessed. But it always an element of sport that has to be kept in the back of the mind, just in case we all get the shock of our lives in the future.