AOC swimming in hypocrisy

Dave Taylor Roar Rookie

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    A gold medal for the men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay team in London would have spared us from the current round of chest-beating and finger pointing surrounding their performance.

    Instead we have been treated to a farcical witch hunt.

    With the news emerging that the Australian Olympic Committee has engaged a Queen’s Counsel to investigate the use of banned sleeping pills by members of the relay team before the London Olympics, one must wonder what’s next in the soap opera that is Australian sport?

    Will John Coates and the AOC ever realise that there is no such thing as ‘Australian exceptionalism’? Or will we be treated to a show trial designed solely to protect the egos of those who maintain the status quo?

    Given the public shaming has already commenced, it’s not hard to see where this is likely to end.

    It’s worth noting that although these swimmers engaged in an immature and poorly timed act, they did not consume performance enhancing or illegal drugs.

    Although the AOC banned the use of Stilnox in the weeks prior to the Olympics, it has not been banned by the Australian sports anti-doping authority (ASADA).

    Yet, they are being hounded by the AOC as if they are Australia’s answer to Lance Armstrong.

    Prior to the Olympics, the Australian public were treated to predictions of a shower of gold medals in the pool. When the team failed to live up to our inflated expectations they were pilloried without mercy.

    All manner of excuses have been aired, from a lack of funding to the distractions of social media. It is less satisfying, but more accurate, to pin the blame for our performance on a law of statistics: regression to the mean.

    Deprived of the services of ‘once in a generation’ athletes like Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, we merely met expectations, rather than exceeded them.

    Against the protestations of John Coates, ploughing more money into sport will not translate into a corresponding surge up the medal table. Up to a point it certainly helps, but we’re beyond it now.

    Every additional dollar we spend chasing the next gold will yield a smaller return, particularly now that many of our rivals have replicated our high performance funding and training models.

    What we should be considering is how we can better spend our current budget in order to achieve the best return in results.

    Instead of acknowledging this unfashionable truth, Swimming Australia has presented us with the Bluestone Review.

    This report, which is more notable for its sound-bite qualities than substantive analysis, invites us to conclude that the swimming team’s less than expected performance had its roots in the culture of the team.

    Competitive environments with high-risks and high rewards attract people with curious psychological makeups.

    Compared to their contemporaries, elite sportspeople are sometimes immature, self-serving, self-absorbed and narcissistic — and that’s before we get to the fact that some are not very bright.

    The body of the Bluestone Review draws heavily on unattributed, unfiltered commentary from such individuals. Nowhere here has there been any recognition that swimming is essentially an individual sport.

    Misguided or not, the effort to generate some degree of esprit de corps amongst members of the relay team was understandable.

    The Bluestone Review also implied the relay team’s antics affected the performance of other athletes.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that these are young men and women who have been cosseted by their coaches, administrators and helicopter parents to a point where their day-to-day lives, both in and out of competition, can resemble that of an army recruit.

    It would be all too convenient for an out of touch governing body to place the blame for an underperforming team squarely at the feet of a select group of misbehaving athletes, and continue marching on with the inflated hype that keeps the money rolling in.

    Dawn Fraser said last week that she believes the relay team should be banned for life as a result of their behaviour. As the matriarch of this nation’s larrikin athletes, she appears to have swiftly rejected their application for membership.

    This is the same Dawn Fraser that supported Nick D’Arcy’s inclusion in the team for the Beijing games after his arrest for assault.

    How ironic would it be that members of the relay team could potentially be banned from representing Australia at the 2013 world championships, yet D’Arcy – a convicted criminal who declared bankruptcy to escape civil liabilities – has a green light to be there.

    John Coates and Dawn Fraser, how do you spell hypocrisy?

    Members of the relay squad are now staring down the barrel of a confrontation with the AOC’s QC. Discounting the fact our tax dollars are funding this exercise, what we really should be asking is whether this is a proportional response to a poor Olympic performance?

    This is a smokescreen designed by mediocre sports administrators desperate to control the fictitious narrative that they, and they alone, hold the keys to our on-going sporting success.

    In the meantime, it is not yet clear what the relay team members stand to lose. They could be stripped of any performance bonuses or perhaps even banned from competition, potentially ending careers.

    Whatever sanction they face, they are guaranteed plenty of sleepless nights in the interim. Surely they have been punished enough?

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • March 20th 2013 @ 7:52am
      Jason said | March 20th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report


      Ask Jarrod Poort what his thoughts of the review are. In fact, ask the entire swim team, excluding the ‘Stilnox Six’ and Nick D’Arcy, what their thoughts are……

    • March 20th 2013 @ 9:11am
      Pcg said | March 20th 2013 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      The reality is Australian swimming has been on the slide for some time. The author is right that the public expectations regarding the swim teams performance were well out of touch with reality. You only needed to look at the team results at the ’11 World Champs.

      Nugent is not responsible for the performance of Australian swim team. He does not coach a single athlete on the team. A point I think the media too often doesn’t understand. He is a glorified team manager and for that reason he is responsible for the culture and misbehaviour of athletes while in his control- that’s why he deserves to lose his job.

    • March 20th 2013 @ 9:47am
      Lachlan said | March 20th 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      “Dawn Fraser said last week that she believes the relay team should be banned for life as a result of their behaviour. As the matriarch of this nation’s larrikin athletes, she appears to have swiftly rejected their application for membership.”

      Bahahahah good call!!!!!

    • March 20th 2013 @ 10:38am
      Happy Hooker said | March 20th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      I am no apologist for Nick D’Arcy, but fair dinkum Dave, get off his case about going bankrupt.Assaulting someone is a crime, going bankrupt is not. How on earth would D’Arcy, with no prospect of being able to attract sponsors, be able to afford the judgement against him? Honestly, what assets would he have that could be realised to pay the debt?

      Don’t believe all you read from Peter FitzSimons and his ilk. Nearly 2,000 people are declared bankrupt every month in Australia. There is nothing wrong with it. I have no problem with Simon Cowley taking civil action against D’Arcy, and can fully understand reasons why he may have wanted to, but equally he would have been aware that as a member of Australia’s swim squad, D’Arcy would have been unlikely to have hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around to be able to satisfy any judgement. Going bankrupt is not something you do lightly given the ongoing ramifications it has for your ability to obtain credit.

      Faced with a debt of that magnitude and no prospect of being able to repay it, I would probably have gone into bankruptcy too. This notion that D’Arcy has engineered some sort of trickery to get out of paying it, or that there are two classes of debt (normal, and that incurred for being a bad boy) are just nonsense.

      There is no guarantee that Cowley wouldn’t have sought to bankrupt him anyway.

      Rookie mistake Dave.

    • March 21st 2013 @ 9:03am
      brad cooper said | March 21st 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      A good read. Thanks Dave.
      It is hard to know whether Coates’ proactive involvement in this issue is due to personal outrage or professional duty of care – or is tinged with politics of some sort. Yet I believe that experimenting with a proven behavioural modifier like Stilnox is worth alot of grief to the offendors. I also wonder if the doggedness with which they are being persued is simply because there has been a confession, which is about the only form of luck drugs-in-sport prosecutors enjoy these days. (Even the current ASADA footy investigation seems to be lurching toward a confession or testimony under escalating duress, rather than tangible evidence).
      Regarding the future prospects of Australian swimming, one simplistic approach might be to swap many of the burgeoning $100,000 funds- sucking admin jobs for even more performance rewards. And combine this big carrot with a monstrous stick. (Our top swimmers know that potential sponsors require them stratightlaced and wholesome).
      When parents consider sporting choices for their children these days, they look at potential earnings. If the future for swimmers is little more than subsistence grants and a sponsor killing climate of hyper scrutiny, I can see footy sports fishing kids out of the swimming pool by the hundreds.

    • March 21st 2013 @ 9:43am
      Facts said | March 21st 2013 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Dave, Our taxpayers $$$ won’t be funding the investigation. The money that the AOC receives from the IOC & their corporate partners will be funding this.

      All Government grants that goes into Olympic sports goes into exactly that, the sport.

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