By Domenic Favata
We were naïve to think that Australian sport was squeaky clean following the Lance Armstrong saga, with I, like many a proud sports follower, blind to the realities of not just sport, but society.
Nowadays, society is full of vice, whether it is drugs, alcohol or gambling, all of which young Australian sportsman and women are vulnerable to, given their abundance of time and outrageous paychecks. However, the more damning factor why our sportsmen and women are becoming more and more susceptible to such practices is the state of society as a whole, a culture driven by money and success, where the failure to accomplish these feats sees one resort to these vices as the miracle cure.
Our sportsmen and women are resorting to these vices not out of desperation, but out of determination, a desire to win at all costs, even if that means cheating. The crime commission’s report followed the Essendon bombshell, which indicated that Australian sport in general is tainted with illegal practices. The schoolboy antics of the Australian relay team soon followed, with the abusing of stillnox again indicating that some Australian sportsmen and women have a problem with substance abuse, whether it be legal or illegal. NRL poster boy Ben Barba was then suspended indefinitely by the Bulldogs, due to possible alcohol abuse and a gambling addiction, and soccer has and will always be clouded by match-fixing. We must also not forget the Damien Oliver gambling drama last November, and not expect such behaviors to occur again from a jockey, given that the racing industry is a gambling industry, and anyone who says otherwise should merely ask themselves why we have a public holiday to place a bet. Some may argue that sports science is taking too much of stance in sport, that athletes are paid too highly or that betting agencies dominate the commercial aspect of sport. I say look to the realities of society, whether we like it or not our world is being overrun with drugs, gambling and the like, and this culture of success, money and perfection does not help to defend our athletes from such exploits.
This culture of winning at all costs was perhaps best described by Lance Armstrong, who suggested that one of the reasons why he doped was to ‘maintain a level playing field,’ an explanation that appeared fruitless to the cycling world. The AFL’s cut-throat competitiveness, the expectations of the swimmers and new-age of sports science are all factors contributing to this growing culture of ‘perfection,’ whereby the leading edge has become greater than the need for hard work. This is the concern that sport has, despite whether or not anyone or any sport has tested positive or been found guilty, good old fashioned hard work has been substituted by the debatable practices of sport scientists .
All sports in Australia are now either tainted, or are looking over their shoulders, as the last month has unraveled a ticking time-bomb in sport, with the possible ramifications not only to lower Australia’s sports appeal, but to possibly discourage the local fan from supporting their team or sport.