Well here it is again back all over the media. Who would have thought after the last umpteen NRL stars ruined their careers over recreational drug use that we would see this back in the headlines?
The reality is it was only a matter of time and more NRL players are effectively ruining their careers. While there may be redemption for some of them, the question that I ask is, is redemption really required?
The NRL and, more importantly, the NRL’s clubs, just like any other employer has a right to ensure that players are drug-free in the workplace. In fact, I would go further and say that NRL clubs have a duty of care to ensure it.
While I haven’t checked each state’s workplace health and safety laws, I wouldn’t be surprised if it featured heavily in one paragraph or another.
The line I would like to draw, though, is what these players do in their own time. Before any of the do-gooders out there get their knickers in a twist, I am not referring to performance enhancing drugs of any kind and that, along with any sort of debate over recreational drugs being performance enhancing, can be left for another day.
I am talking about the time between being on-duty and the time they return to duty next time they are required. Just like it would be unprofessional to turn up to work drunk in any sort of physical work or work that required the operation of vehicles or machinery.
If a player can show up to training, take a drug and alcohol test and pass it, then in my honest opinion, it is none of the employer’s business as to what that employee does in their spare time. Not the club or the NRL’s.
This line becomes blurred when criminal charges are laid on players. The NRL and clubs have an image to uphold and sponsors to think about. But recreational drugs should be lumped in with any other criminal charges another person in society could be caught up in.
In saying that, criminal charges for recreational drug use, provided the offender wasn’t endangering the lives of others by doing something like driving a car, should be a long way down the list of punishments that the NRL hands out on top of what the law gives them.
NRL players see very significant, and what I would argue are over the top, double punishments for their crimes when they do things such as drink driving. But regardless, recreational drug use, if driving was not involved, should see a punishment of 1/10th of that of a drink driving charge and about 1/100th of that for domestic violence from the NRL.
While I am much more the preferred user of a cold beverage, those that wish to partake in recreational drug use, if they are harming no one but themselves, should be free to do so at their will without the sanction of their employer. Provided, of course, they are not showing up to work under the influence.
The NRL and clubs have a duty of care to all of their players to test for drugs and alcohol before training and game days for recreational drugs and alcohol. Those two and WADA have the responsibility to ensure performance-enhancing drugs are not in use at all times.
But please don’t give us this rubbish about a crackdown or cleaning up the sport or any other clichés that you will no doubt trot out over the next couple of weeks.
Because here is the thing that you need to understand, and probably more importantly, your sponsors need to understand. No one cares. The majority of NRL fans will still turn up next week regardless of whether their favourite sports star likes to have a snort or puff on their time off.
We care about what these blokes do on the field and as long as they aren’t cheating we don’t care. It’s just none of our business.
One thing before you start giving us the line about attracting the soccer mums to get their kids to play rugby league. Just like with the outlawing of the scrum, then the shoulder charge, then the punch, which caused the outlaw of the slap that we warned you would happen, to get these people into rugby league in the first place will require the sport to be watered down so far that you will alienate the core supporter base even further.
Rather than wasting your money on a crackdown that will achieve absolutely nothing but deprive possible funding to grassroots footy that you’ve been neglecting for decades, turn the other way and pretend it isn’t happening.
It is happening and it will always happen.
Concern yourself when players are turning up high to training or games, or less so when they find themselves carrying guilty verdicts. At the end of the day, you don’t own them 24/7 and as long as they turn up at work and perform, it is none of your business.