(Article first appeared on WA Today on Wednesday, April 17)
The ongoing drugs in Australian sport “scandal” is a mammoth waste of everybody’s time.
Our time has not been wasted like this since 1999 and all those fears that Y2K would make the computers explode and turn us all into zombies.
In the AFL, it’s even more of a waste of time than Dane Swan’s ‘tell-all’ interview, any discussion about who to put in a Dream Team, and the recruiting department of the Melbourne Football Club.
How do you get that many high-draft picks and still be so terrible?
“Hey everyone, watch closely as we make all the most highly rated talent in the country… disappear!”
With the NRL drugs in sport even out rates the pointlessness of the upcoming City versus Country game, betting on anyone but the Melbourne Storm to win the whole thing, and following Sonny Bill Williams down the shops.
Hey, did you hear he went to the shops? Apparently he did some shopping. Groceries and stuff, including vegemite. Racist.
Drugs in cycling, now that was a scandal.
Lance Armstrong knew he was breaking the rules, and he did it for years. Whether or not he believes he was cheating is something else entirely, because he believes everyone was doing it, and he’s a self-obsessed egomaniac.
So is it really cheating? Well he did break the rules, so of course it is.
Compare drugs in cycling to what’s been happening in the AFL and NRL. Every week brings a new allegation of systematic and system wide wrongdoing.
So how many players have been banned so far? Zero.
In the AFL they’re so short of actual evidence that all attention has moved away from the players to a coach.
While there are no penalties for a coach who takes a banned substance, it wouldn’t look great, but I believe it’s highly unlikely that James Hird would be that dumb.
Still, let’s compare James to Lance. The most celebrated athlete in a sport who did it for years, in order to reach the top, against a coach who even if he did do it, still isn’t breaking the rules.
In the AFL and NRL, nobody is even sure that the drugs or supplements or vitamins or whatever that anybody took actually broke any rules. If they were sure, then we would’ve seen some penalties or at least some charges.
A major difference is that nobody in the AFL or NRL knowingly took a banned substance.
Then there’s the argument about whether or not that substance was performance enhancing. Well of course it was.
Otherwise, what’s the point of injecting it? If you’re consuming calves’ blood for any other reason, well then drugs in sport are the least of your problems.
Everything an athlete does is in order to enhance their performance, and if we’re going to outlaw that, does that mean we have to ban bananas, ice baths and training?
Compared to Australia, drug testing in North American sports has been labelled “inadequate” to “farcical”. Those who are caught are then given tiny penalties.
In the NBA penalties for steroid use start at five games. That’s in an 80 game season. Five games, for people who knowingly take steroids.
In the Victorian Football League a third player is now facing a two-year ban for consuming an energy drink containing traces of steroids, on the way to a party.
Another VFL player was banned for 18 months for importing a fat-burner from America that also contained traces of steroids. In these cases the players claim to have been completely unaware that what they were doing was against the rules.
It’s like getting done for drink driving, because you accidentally swallowed a bit of mouthwash, or being whacked with a parking ticket a minute after the meter expires.
Or arrested for playing two-up after midnight on Anzac Day.
Technically you’re doing the wrong thing, but to be busted for it would be a national disgrace.
When deciding any ban, surely intent must matter.
If you didn’t know what you were doing was illegal, and you weren’t even out to take steroids, do you really deserve two years out of the game?
After all this finally goes away, athletes will never again be able to claim ignorance as an excuse. Not that it’s worked this time around, but they will now have to become their own personal sports scientists.
Or at least learn to understand labels and what all those chemicals and numbers actually mean.
With the knock-on effect that a few of them might have to go back to school and pass year 10.
I suppose it is possible that some huge scandal will be uncovered, but it’s also possible that Melbourne could win the 2013 AFL Premiership.
Anyone with a brain knows that both these things won’t happen. The media has given up on the Demons, it’s time they gave up on this whole drugs in sport rubbish as well.
Also, I hear Sonny Bill’s cupboards are bare, and he’s due for another trip down the shops.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian currently touring the comedy walking tour, ‘2013 – When We Were Idiots’
- Melbourne International Comedy Festival (Mar 27-Apr 21)
- Sydney Comedy Festival (May 7-11)
- Brisbane Anywhere Theatre Festival (May 12-19)