Sunday Territorian 1 Mar 2015
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.
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Nationwide News Pty. Limited
12 OPINION SUNDAY MARCH 1 2015 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 If Australian footy has a drug problem, its certainly far from alone An overdose of hypocrisy Karmichael Hunt is at the centre of the cocaine scandal that has engulfed several sport stars on the Gold Coast Picture: CHRIS HYDE THE widening drug scan-dal involving Karmich-ael Hunt and a swag of leading Australian footballers raises many questions. The biggest of these to my mind is, who cares? It is one hell of a story for sure. Unputdownable, as they say. And there is no doubt that the possibility of criminal convictions means that these players, and the clubs that employ them, are at the centre of a genuine crisis. But there are two aspects of this story which to my mind do not stack up. The first is the absurd suggestion that the Gold Coast Titans scandal exposes a problem which is somehow particularly acute in sport. Its a hypocritical assertion, too, when broadcast by people who go to media award nights and industry parties where you cant use the toilet cubicles for people snorting cocaine. The second is the tired old nonsense about overpaid sports stars being role models who have some unique behavioural obligation to the rest of us, particularly the young. Its been a big week for role models. Glenn McGraths actions might have been disappointing but its hard to see how he set a bad example, as some have suggested, unless youre worried about the prospect of your kids coming home from school with a dead elephant. Ditto for Hunt and the other players at the centre of the drugs scandal, whose alleged actions have inspired a yawn-inducing bout of tut-tutting about their flawed role model status, complete with the lazy and snobbish observation that its somehow rugby league which has a monopoly on bad behaviour. If you want to read some top-shelf motherly whining about this issue, I would direct you to one article on a womens website this week which set a new high, or low, for this effeminate sanctimony about the unproven and imagined link between offfield player conduct and child behaviour. The role-model issue is valid insofar as the manner in which players conduct themselves on-field is mimicked by kids. Go to any school footy game on a Saturday morning, and when you see your kid or another arguing with the ump or ref, you can thank the histrionics of our sports stars for that (and probably yourself as a parent if youre one of the many people who shouts at bad calls on the TV). When rugby leagues Paul Gallen belted Nate Myles in the head, Myles might not have felt it but some kids copied it, including the little lad on the NSW north coast who decked his opponent the following weekend and, when pulled up, said quite understandably: But thats what Gal did. Dave Warners dumb speak English remark, players using obscenities all these things have an effect on the young. But I didnt start smoking because of Doug Walters. I already liked beer when Boony drank 52 cans. The kiddies didnt feel the urge to rush out and buy a sex toy on account of Brendan Fevolas Mad Monday antics, Warney hasnt turned us all into root rats, and there isnt a single kid in Australia who will end up with a coke habit because Karmichael Hunt is, allegedly, the bloke to talk to if you fancy a line. In the past, sports stars whohave spectacularly fallen from grace have actually done us parents a favour. They provide a tragic yet stellar exam ple of how talented people can piss their lives away through drugs. Same went for Aussie rules star Ben Cousins. That pitiable footage of him in rehab, scratching his arms and dozing off while coming down, should be shown to every high school kid. Theres no causal link between these blokes screwing up their lives and others following in their footsteps. If you have outsourced your responsibility for providing and dis cussing real role models to your kids by using men who are simply particularly good at kicking or throwing a footy as an example, maybe youve abrogated your duties as a parent. As for any drug-taking itself, what does this story tell us about sport? It tells us that sport is afflicted by drugs in the same way that journalism, banking, advertising, labouring and possibly even flower-arranging are afflicted by drugs. It might not even tell us that, actually. I would still suspect that drug abuse is less prevalent in sport than in other fields of human endeavour because professional athletes are so fixated on staying in shape. There should be completely different discussions within sport about the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as peptides and the recreational use of the illegal and non-performance-enhancing ones. To my mind, it is still the weirdest aspect of that silly press conference about drugs in sport a few years ago when Labor was in power, when the two issues were being canvassed concurrently. If youre taking performance-enhancing drugs, you are a cheat and should be banned for life. Again, I am not arguing for an instant that it isnt a story. As I said up top, its a cracking yarn, and theyre all public figures so they have to cop it sweet. But its a story which just oozes hypocrisy. Merely because these men are in the public eye, and earning good dough, theyre in the frame for all sorts of flak from those of us who know plenty of people who start their Friday night in the dunny with a rolled-up $50 bill in their nose.