The battle between image and integrity

The TMF Roar Rookie

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    Thursday’s revelations regarding the extent of doping and fixing in Australian sport has left even the most cynical among us sick to the stomach.

    Right or wrong, the Australian sporting public have always believed that our sporting culture has been built on an underlying sense of fair play.

    The win-at-all-costs attitude that has caused amateur and professional sport in other countries to be riddled with cheats has long been attributed to the political situations or socio-economic status of different countries.

    None of these reasons makes doping or fixing right, but it helped us understand where it was coming from and how to combat it. What we have missed is that the world has continued to change, yet our perceptions of it have lagged behind.

    The advances in global communication have changed the landscape for criminals to be able to organise match fixing and spot fixing. This we have known for over a decade. The Cronje match fixing scandal showed us what was possible.

    The misconception taken from that scandal was that Indian bookmakers were trying to fix cricket matches because of their interest in cricket.

    Many sports governing bodies have allowed such lax assumptions to excuse their approach to the level of monitoring they have employed into the integrity of their respective sports.

    This can’t be said regarding the issue of drugs in sport however. Particularly in regards to the NRL.

    The game has had numerous incidents of players being caught taking both PEDS and recreational drugs, dating back to Scott Wilson in the early 1990s.

    Again around the turn of the century a number of NRL players were caught doping and handed suspensions.

    Through the next decade, there was barely a blip. A couple of players were suspended for PEDS, but nothing that would indicate a problem and the NRL were testing more.

    Yet somehow they managed to miss a string of players who were abusing recreational drugs.

    The Australian public became aware of Andrew Johns’ drug habit in 2007, when after being caught in possession he eventually came clean on national television.

    The Australian sporting public however, greeted this news with the same apathy as Lance Armstrong’s confession. As simply a mea culpa of one of the worst kept secrets in sport.

    I was in England when I first heard the rumours, which dates them as far back as early 2003 or prior. By 2004 enough credible sources had confirmed these rumours.

    The ARU have revealed that they were aware of the issue when negotiating with Johns in 2004. In the years after that and prior to the 2007 incident, the fact would pop up randomly in emails and on posting boards to be greeted with an avalanche of “old news” responses.

    Yet somehow we are led to believe that this information was not enough for the NRL administration to escalate the issue past the Knights’ standard drug testing.

    No interviews or questioning, no increased testing. If the NRL did know, is it possible that they were not willing to investigate due to Johns’ status as one of the game’s brightest stars?

    It is a bizarre example of the haphazard management of the game through that decade that gave us the Bulldogs being stripped of 37 competition points in 2002 for salary cap rorts. Yet, in the same year the Roosters were given no punishment for the same offence when it was exposed at the start of the finals series. Image over integrity.

    The list could go on for the NRL, and I am sure you readers will have many of your own examples, from Brett Stewart being hung out to dry to banning players charged with drink driving for only two matches.

    A stronger message was needed. If you drink and drive you will miss two footy games? How about fines, jail, loss of license, loss of job, injury, death, injuring and finally killing others.

    The risk we are now facing is that given how widespread across all codes of sport the current scandal is, that the administrators will all to soon lose their stomach for a hard line on integrity.

    Once they start seeing the effect that this has on their image and the subsequent effect on their code’s revenue, we will inevitably start to hear the softening spin that this is not a problem with their code, it is a problem in society and that they are just the innocent victims.

    But this is not the case. We are all to blame.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • February 10th 2013 @ 8:49am
      DeanP said | February 10th 2013 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      ” We are all to blame. ”

      sorry, I don’t want to seem offensive, but we are reaching new heights of pomposity here. I don’t really care that Johns popped a few ecstasy tabs after a game. Should I? Perhaps I am missing something here.

      • February 10th 2013 @ 10:26am
        Anon said | February 10th 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

        regarding Johns – the ‘integrity’ and ‘image tie in surely comes with the fact that just 5 years on he was elevated to ‘Immortal’ status.

        That surely is a fail of a massive degree.

        Whether any of what Johns took would ever fall under PEDS categories if detected on match day – I’m not sure – and we know that prior to the NRL code wide illicit drug code introduced in too late to ‘out’ Johns – that Newcastle as a club had at best a very dubious reputation around turning a blind eye to drugs (Mitchell Sargent as a prime example to add to Johns). The obvious point being that WADA/ASADA testing alone was going to portray a clean image.

        But – what integrity really is there left in WADA test results? Not much. Only a rank amateur would now test positive. And we know the AFL (in Australia) and FIFA (abroad) were anti the WADA code for reasons that now look far more valid than people perhaps were willing to portray at the time.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 10th 2013 @ 11:38am
        The TMF said | February 10th 2013 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        Seems editing has messed up my last statement.

        I did not write “But this is not the case.”

        “But this is not the case.” should be after “We are to blame” or removed.

    • February 10th 2013 @ 9:18am
      TC said | February 10th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      We are all to blame.

      When should I start my course of self-flagellation?

    • February 10th 2013 @ 10:45am
      nickoldschool said | February 10th 2013 @ 10:45am | ! Report

      “If you drink and drive you will miss two footy games? How about fines, jail, loss of license, loss of job, injury, death, injuring and finally killing others.”

      tmf, drink driving is a civil matter. The player involved should face the same penalties than you and me, no more no less. To put him in jail just because he is a sportsman is ludicrous IMO. What’s next? Cut his hand if he is caught stealing? Then it’s up to each club to have an internal policy setting rules.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 10th 2013 @ 11:44am
        The TMF said | February 10th 2013 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        nickoldschool you are correct. drink drving is a civil matter. My point was that the NRL believes it is their job to be handling it rather than the courts. This left us and the impressionable teenagers that see the players as their heroes, that mising two games of footy is what they can expect as punishment.

        The real punishment is fines, jail, loss of license, loss of job, injury, death, injuring and finally killing others. These need to be dealt with by the courts, not the NRL

    • February 12th 2013 @ 10:15am
      Professor Rosseforp said | February 12th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      “Thursday’s revelations regarding the extent of doping and fixing in Australian sport has left even the most cynical among us sick to the stomach” — I think you have underestimated the level of cynicism amongst sports fans. I don’t know anybody who found it “sickening”, but a lot of people shrugged their shoulders and said, “This is not news”.
      We watch the cricket and see unusual results, and we know that cricketers have given inside information to bookies, and we know that some cricketers have been banned for drug use.
      We have seen orchestrated results in Shield cricket, and although these are not likely to be corrupt, they certainly show that it is possible to manipulate results. We know that individuals have no-balled at set times to facilitate bets. We know that some players bet against their own teams.
      We know that some players went into hiding, and we know that one whistleblower died in an aeroplane crash.
      And cricket is peanuts compared to horse-racing, boxing, baseball and soccer.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 8th 2013 @ 11:59am
        The TMF said | March 8th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        All those are examples in cricket which I addressed as a reason why other codes had been lax.

        The belief that Indian bookmakers targeted cricket because it is the most popular sport in their country.

        These bookmakers fixing sport are criminals. Criminals like money not sport and don’t care where they get it from.

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