Drugs In Sport
Within hours of the drug scandal engulfing Essendon this week, I received an email with the subject heading: “Bomber’s new fitness coach.”
Attached was a photo of Lance Armstrong in an Essendon guernsey: a light-hearted, viral response to an increasingly dark national disgrace.
I’ve always had a pretty simplistic (some might say naive) view of sport’s role in shaping young lives: sport will teach them the value of teamwork and discipline; it will introduce them to new friends; and if they’re focussed on being fit, they’re less likely to get into drugs. Like many Aussie parents, I’ve also watched my boys and their mates as they’ve found their feet on the footy field, and wondered if any of them has what it takes to play AFL.
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“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” This win-at-all costs sports creed, adopted by the Americans, has now crept into the psyche of Australian sport.
Drugs in sport will continue to tarnish the reputation of sporting groups and their athletes – such is their desire to be the best. The Lance Armstrong scandal has been a classic case. The consequences are lethal to careers and reveal the human failings that reflect the deadly sins – greed and pride.
We’ve seen former Australian cyclists Matt White and Stephen Hodge dragged into the tour mess and they were promptly sacked. Are they scapegoats in an elaborate, complex plot that touched most riders of the cycling tour?
Something is rotten in the footy codes and this is a crisis.
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Why didn’t the Australian Crime Commission investigate doping in Olympic sports as well as “the big five”, rugby league, rugby union, AFL, cricket and soccer?
The Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport report released yesterday noted how professional Aussie sport was “highly vulnerable to organised crime infiltration through legitimate business relationships with sports franchises and other associations”.
But nowhere in the report were the Olympics even mentioned. The report examined case studies involving Rugby League and the AFL. And yesterday’s press conference extended to Rugby Union, league, AFL, cricket and soccer. The report mentioned how sport had become a highly profitable exercise at global and international levels. According to ABS statistics from 2006, sport generates $8.82 billion per year.
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This is just getting sad now. Defiant Lance has turned to Denial Lance, a man who oozes guilt like he used to ooze sweat while climbing Alpe d’Huez but who just won’t ’fess up and spit it all out.
To draw a parallel to a classic movie scene, Lance has become Monty Python’s Black Knight. He is on his knees, blood gushing from severed limbs with nothing left to fight with but his tongue. So he fights on with hollow words, even as the threat of perjury hangs over him.
If it wasn’t such a comical farce, it’d be downright pathetic. In fact, it is pathetic to see Lance now, each move now more aimless than the next. First he declines to fight USADA’s 1,000 pages worth of charges, yet still admits no guilt. Then he takes the title of Tour de France winner off his Twitter bio, yet still doesn’t ‘fess up to a thing.
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The noose has been tightening, tightening, then snap. Today, Lance Armstrong gave in. He didn’t admit he was guilty of systematic doping over the years, or any doping at all, but he’s had enough of the fight.
Some fights you can win, some you can’t. In a way it’s offensive to class any struggle with cancer as a battle, as it unfairly implies a certain weakness among those who die. That said, Lance won his battle with Testicular cancer, and he won it with honour.
No sooner had he hopped out of hospital for the umpteenth time than he started raising money to find a cure, then hopped on his bike and rode his international rivals into the ground. There’ll be some hard-bitten French sports journalists popping champagne corks tonight, while a few in the Australian press will uncork chardonnay. Let them gloat. Lance Armstrong is still a winner to me and to so many of us.
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The noose is tightening around a cycling legend. The US anti-doping agency, USADA, alleges it has collected blood samples from Lance Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 which were “fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions.”
You can almost hear Armstrong spitting on the floor with disgust in his official reply, which in part reads:
“These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.”
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