WITH THE ever-increasing number of negative stories surrounding our sports stars being found in both the front and back pages of leading newspapers across the globe, it’s prompted the question whether our athletes have taken their eye off the ball to dabble in other pleasures, writes Iain Green.
Though many high-profile cases have arisen in recent times, we need to look no further back than last week, when Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds was sent home from the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, following ‘a series of incidents, the latest being alcohol-related.’
It was not the first time Symonds has had his knuckles wrapped over a misdemeanour involving a breach of disciplinary procedures, with the 34-year-old right-hander having a well-documented problem with alcohol, after being cited three times inside a year for offences with both Australia and his state, Queensland.
It has been alleged by many critics that since ‘central contracts’ have crept in to the majority of popular Australian sports such as cricket, rugby union, rugby league and Aussie Rules, the younger-generation of players have grown into a changing-room drug-culture, where the stupendous amount of spare time they receive following training, is being used to partake in sometimes illegal activity.
Debbie Simms, manager of the Australian Sports Commission’s Sports and Ethics Unit, admits both drugs and alcohol abuse are rife within professional Australian sport, but feels sport is suffering from a number of societal and cultural issues, rather than athletes developing habits once they make it into the big time.
“In Australia, I think it’s fair to say sport is like a microcosm of society, and drugs and alcohol are a problem throughout both,” said Simms. “We have a lot more cases of inappropriate behaviour and the abusing of alcohol and drugs especially within our more high-profile sports such as our football codes, and cricket too. This is because these people are paid so highly, and because they have so much time to kill. Also, the public adoration they receive is huge, which perpetuates the belief they can do no wrong.”
However, Simms believes the authorities have now recognised the problem, and have begun to implement programmes designed to educate the younger generation of starlets.
She added: “Our government has decided to put in place programmes around alcohol abuse, and the threats we as a nation face from drugs and alcohol. We are trying to devise a situation where we use sport as a means of forcing societal change, where cleaning up sport will be the first step towards cleaning up our society.”