Wilko: Blame game begins in wake of revelations

OPINION

The revelation that six NRL clubs are under the microscope for matters raised in the Australian Crime Commission report is disconcerting and challenging.

 Disconcerting because we’re heading into a new season besieged by uncertainty due  to the  nature of the alleged breaches. 

The AFL yesterday put its hand up for a couple of cases and we’re seeing  drips of information. 

Yet do these cases – some, it appears, where players were unknowingly administered illegal products – constitute widespread corruption in Australian sport, as alleged in Thursday’s  unveiling? 

Why besmirch the whole reputation of Australian sport for the deeds of what percentage of people...0.2per cent, less than half a per cent?  

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What damage has the bombshell done to Australia’s international reputation and to what end? 

So  many questions. Really, how many players/sportspeople does it involve? Is it entire teams or just a few rogue elements? When will the naming begin?  How significant are the breaches and will there be proof  to back up the testimonies? 

And what of the other sports outside the two major football codes? Or are we talking about  gym junkies, body builders and ageing-shy narcissists who form a major part of this landscape  so forcefully presented by the ACC?

Sports science adviser Stephen Dank, one of the figures besmirched by the innuendo, will have his say today. On top of the aforementioned questions, the main one which presumably  Dank will answer  is...in the search for the edge in supplementary assistance, were/are they on the borderline of legality or  the wrong side of that line? 

In all the hysteria, let’s not forget the inescapable pressure on players to stay on the field in this highly charged professional era.  

There could be an argument that as so much investment is tied up in players, why should there not be some assistance  to get them back  on the field? Recovery methods that might be  illegal under the banned drugs list, but  necessary to speed up the process.

Most, in the normal course of life’s medical dilemmas, would go for the expedient option to good health. 

My 82-year-old mum is on performance-enhancing stuff after a fall, and I’m glad she is.  Is science in sport  being unrealistically shut out? I’m only raising this  to play devil’s advocate,  there are naturally many moral and scientific arguments against this stance.

 Yet another  of the ‘for’ arguments is the apparent ineptitude of the drug-testing agencies. They’re always front and centre in the hyperbole department but really, despite professing to be on top of it, they seem constantly off the pace. Why is the science of drug testing behind the science of cheating? It’s just a constant catch-up.

Thursday’s bombshell was  in some respects a Pyrrhic victory for cycling. That’s the sport that has worn the responsibility for drug cheating when their counter claim has been that many other sports haven’t been testing for drugs with the same voracity. 

Cycling believes it has done more in the last decade, with innovations such as the blood passport, to weed out the cheats, while other sports have been sitting on their hands. The ACC report gives that allegation some credence.

The ACC report was both shocking and flimsy on detail. It’s obvious that they hope a campaign of fear will drag out some more damaging testimonies to back up the ones they already have.

 They need a Lance Armstrong-type case as some of the peptides and other drugs allegedly rampant are only in the body for a couple of hours, metabolising quickly. That makes testing for such drugs nigh on impossible. 

Yesterday’s defence from the ACC that the report wasn’t grandstanding needs to be backed up post haste with some ‘outings’ to clear the cloud on the innocent.

 According to Justice Minister Jason Clare, some testimonies have emerged since the report’s publication and as he told ABC television yesterday, the ball is now in the court of the two major codes. They have the names and the clubs not furnished in the public report.

 We wait, not so patiently.

The links to organised crime and the laxity of the sporting bodies were easily the most shocking part of the ACC report. And the rising spectre of match fixing, even though there was more warning than evidence in the report. 

For those who’ve seen the rise of professional sport and clubs and players carefully manipulating the information stream through time, creating a barrier between the players and the public, all else was less surprising. Supplements have been around for years. Incremental ‘edge’ advantages can make a huge difference. The fact that players and clubs should bend the rules to the maximum when the rewards are so great is hardly surprising. Greed, self-interest, power and selfishness are the motivators for a morally bankrupt quadrant. Sport is a microcosm of life.

And at the risk of some repetition, the propagation of  gambling advertising and dollar drip-feed relationships  with the major sports is a cancerous development. Smoking and alcohol were major bedfellows  with sport before  they were adjudged a health hazard. Gambling is far more insidious, yet lazy sports organisations have gladly sucked on the teat of the gambling dollar to keep the rivers of gold coming in. It’s far more dangerous to  your health than  the first two vices.

The blame game is on. It took a combined effort to get Australian sport to this point, could everyone put  their hands up to contribute to the extrication.

Let’s start with education and a few reminders of the beauty of sport in its purest form.

xxx

Wanderers make their mark in the A-League

Another chapter was written in the A-League  at  the weekend with the Western Sydney Wanderers not only successful in an exploration to Campbelltown but making it five in a row to move to second on the table, a phenomenal achievement for a first-year club.

There’s a school of thought within FFA ranks that the success of the WSW operation has been due to clearly defined roles within the franchise and lack of interference from private owners.

That is both a huge plus and a minus for the Wanderers.

 The minus is ... where are the potential owners? The FFA is in a difficult situation as the chief funders alongside the government. It can’t go on, yet no-one is putting their hand up to buy the club. That is despite nearly the best support in the league – certainly outside Melbourne Victory.

Football is going gangbusters and if the economy was rolling then WSW would be a perfect investment.

As of last night when these words were tapped, nothing.

 The signs are so good for WSW it would seem a lay down misere investment in the current landscape of Australian football.

That it is not is just another sign that you need a lot of love to go into sporting franchises, and deep pockets.

xxx

Boxing fans cop blows

In the space of two weeks, boxing fans cop two large blows below the belt.

First, Anthony Mundine’s whingefest after being beaten fair and square by Daniel Geale. The statistical analysis midweek was a further indictment on Mundine’s credibility.

Then, in a twinkling, we have the debacle of the Sonny Bill Williams fight where most were gobsmacked when a 12-round bout, as stipulated for a title fight,  was reduced to 10 rounds, seemingly on a whim.

 The important people, officials and judges, were under the impression it was a 12-rounder. 

Is it any wonder boxing has never been less attractive.

xxx

Women's open to showcase talent

The Australian Women’s Open golf this week in Canberra will showcase some of the best talent in the sport.

Player of the year Stacy Lewis, Yani Tseng, Jiyai Shin, So-Yeon Ryu, our own Karrie Webb, rising star Stacey Keating, local hope Nikki Campbell and a host of teenage stars will grace the fairways of Royal Canberra.

If you can’t be there, please join us on ABC TV for sport in its purest form.

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