Onside or Offside you be the judge


Onside or Offside you be the judge

by Smithy

As I have mentioned previously I really enjoy Offsiders on ABC on Sunday mornings. Their latest offering focussed hard on the drugs in sport topic. Whilst very interesting and illuminating I also found it confusing and challenging.

The quality of the commentary and the questions asked particularly by the Melbourne based trio of Gerard Whateley, Caroline Wilson and Barry Cassidy focussed hard on Essendon. They sound as if they are expecting massive penalties for the famous AFL club – eventually at season’s end so as not to disrupt the comp! Richard Hinds too raised some specifically awkward questions of how the NRL and Sharks have dealt with the issues of co-operation with the drug agency versus what is best for their players and their club.

All agreed that the Bombers decision to co-operate “fully” was a better method of doing business in this terrible situation for any sporting club. Hinds’ said that the NRL were saying they were co-operating but had not done enough to force players speak openly and honestly about what had taken place. The entire panel scoffed when Hinds spoke of the NRL’s belief that the situation was different to the AFL because of contracts inclusions in their case.

How would you react to this situation if an authority sought highly sensitive information of your private conduct which may or may not have contravened rules and regs in your work place? Would you be ok with disclosing info on your awareness of other work colleagues’ conduct in relation to these matters? Give it all up to them or use the old movie line “if you got something on me charge me otherwise let me go cos I am saying nothing”

More seriously I wonder where media people get on and off the train of disclosure. Revelation of sources in way bigger moments in human history on legal matters has seen media people desperately defend their rights to non-disclosure. Perhaps there is a difference here that as a team sports person I am unaware of media ethics. Does the reverse apply to journalists? And who plays God on these matters?

These are really tough ethical and moral questions of disclosure especially for team athletes. But they are also tough questions for people involved in sports currently who hold responsibility not only for the present conduct but also the future of those sports.

In footy terms I have previously mentioned my own examples of practical applications (read my thoughts here). During our time at the mighty Eels I used as the “new yardstick”, a player who had made incredible improvements in his game for a rival club. His subsequent positive test brought some leveling up of my judgement from one of our senior players. The hatred towards the drug cheats from the senior and clean guys in our club was fierce. I know how those senior guys would have reacted to any young guy they knew of even thinking about such a course.

It taught me a first hand lessons of what can be achieved by those who want to test the scientific boundaries of physical performance enhancement. When you witness the incredible work for years of these dedicated guys you understand why anyone who knowingly chooses a different illegal pathway should be dealt with harshly. Striving to make the best of what they have been given naturally and making all sorts of sacrifices in an effort to crack the big time, and stay there, is what deserves reward not the achievement of gaining more muscle and power and speed. In today’s world it’s also about illegally gaining quicker recovery to get back into training again while the clean guys are sometimes still nursing pain and fatigue.

What has happened in other sports and the decisions of those involved to not disclose seems to me why those sports are now riddled with doubt. How sad it must be for Chris Froomes, Tour de France winner, to not enjoy every sports lover’s total admiration for a magnificent victory after years of dedication. Instead we are at least slightly wondering if Lance Armstrong was right in suggesting that you can’t win it without drug cheating.

I met an athletics guy in 1988 that had recently achieved a great Olympic Games result and naively asked of him “so what’s the go with drugs in athletics?” His response whilst obviously honest floored me; “Well put it this way Smithy. There are those who don’t use them and then there are those who win medals”. The procession of famed and lauded who have been outed ever since has ensured the doubt over almost all athletes who win.

In the end for me, as tough as it might be to “dob in your mate” or yourself, the thought of allowing footy to slip into that state of doubt where every good young player who worked hard and legitimately is thought of as a possible cheat would be too much.

I have no idea of what has gone on at those clubs under scrutiny at present but I sure hope the truth is found soon. And if it takes longer rather than sooner for reasons we don’t understand who cares. The right result is the only importance.

We can all argue over whose job it is to find and punish the drug cheats but, in my opinion, it is the responsibility of everyone involved in a sport to not allow such doubt to spread through it. To ruin the fabric of admiration for hard earned achievement by everyone of the guys who participate in it by not aiming up is not my idea of being a good team mate.