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Illicit drugs and McCarthyism in Australian sport

Colin Stuart Roar Rookie

By Colin Stuart, Colin Stuart is a Roar Rookie

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    “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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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • February 9th 2013 @ 9:03am
      MV Dave said | February 9th 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Legalisation of substances/drugs that cause harm ain’t gonna happen and neither should it…look at the mistakes made in history regarding harmful substances being made legal eg tobacco.
      So players may well need to mix with ‘underworld’ types to get their hits and we all know where that can lead don’t we…
      How about professional players stay off the drugs at least whilst their playing…what a novel suggestion!

    • February 9th 2013 @ 11:52am
      Symbolsoup said | February 9th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

      Colin, a well written article that makes me contemplate my own stance without adding to a polarising debate. I don’t agree with all of it but but I don’t necessarily disagree – thanks for reintroducing the grey area again as this where the best discussion will take place. You have really made me realise how easy it is to forego rational thought and to simply adopt a team (ie Black/white in terms of thinking). Maybe the only point that lets the article down is the ignorance of illicit drugs and connections to underworld figures that may cause damage to sports. I don’t really care if a player smokes a joint or pops a pill, especially if they were legalised/decriminalised. What I do care about though is the integrity of players. The Joey Johns saga did inspire a very constructive conversation with my footy obsessed son a few years ago. I remember he asked me, “Dad, are people that do drugs bad people?”. Whoa, what a responsibility I felt in answering that one. It was a great inspiration to have such a talk – to this day I still think about that conversation and hope my answer was in his best interest. I tried to explain that, no, people who do drugs are not bad, but they may harm their body, mind, motives, relationships and reputation. But at the same time there are many, many very respected people in society that manage their recreational activities without such harm whilst drawing parallels to alcohol and prescription medicine.

      I’m not sure I want to get into the whole decriminalisation/legalisation debate but if I were in the mood I would bring up Portugal as an example of how such a process worked brilliantly for their society. Wrong forum for such a debate which I know is exactly what your article is about, but grey area discussion is a great thing, which is also what your article is about. Again, I believe your article is relatively successful in promoting such discussion so, thankyou.

      I’m not sure I have made a lot of sense here, apologies. It was a late night after contemplating whether my love of sport is waning after watching the SBW vs Botha fight, but that’s a whole other story. I just want to get back to enjoying fair contests again.

      Puff puff pass (…to the left-hand side…)

    • February 9th 2013 @ 12:10pm
      BigAl said | February 9th 2013 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

      Excellent article Colin, and one that deserves exposure well beyond the confines of this forum

    • February 9th 2013 @ 3:31pm
      matt said | February 9th 2013 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

      yeah great article, well put. Not sure what makes sport so special, as you say, same applies every where, I mean match fixing vs awarding highly lucrative multi million dollar government contracts to connections in return for a healthy kick back. The 3 pillars must love that the attention now turns to sport, freeing them up all the more for dodgy dealings

      drugs of any kind and corruption at all levels made no diff to the consumer at the time of consumption, be it lance, joey johns, melb storm and so on. On the other hand all these dodgy dealings from the big 3 hit you, me and all us average tax payers right where it hurts, at the hip pocket

      even this report, which pretty much contained nothing too surprising, and all of the ridiculous expenditure that is sure to follow, is something my tax dollars will now be diverted to

      ah stuff it, who needs roads/schools/hospitals anyway, pass me that joint!

    • Roar Guru

      February 10th 2013 @ 11:51am
      code 13 said | February 10th 2013 @ 11:51am | ! Report

      Have to agree with everyone else here. I’m sure there are people out there that are cheating the system but this guilty-till-proven-innocent approach is just shameful. Even some of Kate Lundy’s fellow ministers told her she was releasing the report too soon. They’ve been calling it a Lundy ‘Special’, designed purely for political purposes.

      Meanwhile innocent people are going to burn in this witch hunt. There will be people jumping at jam jar shadows and we’ll see images of players testifying to “Are you or have you ever been a drug cheat” whilst being forced to name names, any names, names of anybody anywhere at any place who may have, possibly, maybe, could have, might have known someone who knew someone else who knew a guy who knew another guy who heard a rumour about a drug cheat.

      Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?!?!?!?!?

    • February 10th 2013 @ 1:08pm
      TC said | February 10th 2013 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

      Agree Colin.

      You are right that when the report is distilled, you are left with precious little.

      You identify one muddying of the waters (the use of recreational drugs), which is a completely different issue to the use of PEDs, the other muddying of the waters is the inclusion in the report of bodybuilding, amateur sportsmen and anti-aging clinics.

      It’s a very big jump from that to “widespread” use of PEDs in professional sport.

      In fact, the ACC doesn’t even run with the well known acronym PED, they have added Image enhancing drugs in there as well, further muddying the waters.

      If there’s a big problem with PEDs in professional sport – let’s talk about that, but if the problem is actually with body building and anti-aging clinics – then let’s make that crystal clear.

      On top of all that, the Minister for Justice this morning admitted the report was all about putting the “frightners” through everyone.

      Ok – thank you – all is confirmed.

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