Suspicion now as mandatory as “drug tests” when assessing sports these days, and why that’s ok

Screw you Lance Armstrong and everyone like you.

You’ve led us to this point where every great sports moment has a “yeah, but..” attached to it. We can no longer afford to be so naive about the use of drugs in sport — and that includes rugby league, apparently.

The latest allegations against Essendon and Manly only help to ram this point home, and it’s a sad day when you realise you can look back at every great achievement with a subtle “hmmm.”

Paul Kent makes some valid points in this article in the Telegraph:

GREAT moments in bad timing: At 7.42am Manly issue a statement confirming the club did employ Stephen Dank, from 2006-10. He is the sports science guru at the centre of the doping allegations that have rocked Australian sport.

At 2.02pm former Manly skipper Matt Orford is quoted saying he had calf blood injected into his groin after the 2008 season, when the Sea Eagles finished premiers. The Sea Eagles have never publicly confirmed this.

At 4.47pm the Bulldogs issue a statement saying Orford had joined the Bulldogs coaching staff, under his former Manly coach Des Hasler. The problem for the Bulldogs, for Manly, for everybody, is that our goodwill has been used up. The benefit of the doubt is gone. Lance Armstrong, anyone?

I'd never heard of deer antler spray before this week. If asked to guess i would've said it helps erections, not the speedy recovery of a torn pectoral muscle. Image credit Men's Health.

I’d never heard of Deer Antler Spray before this week. If asked to guess i would’ve said it helps erections, not the speedy recovery of a torn pectoral muscle. Image credit Men’s Health.

The Armstrong case is yet to be closed and the two major football codes in Australia are in the foetal position.

In Madrid a trial is currently under way into a Spanish doctor charged with masterminding a doping ring in world cycling. Six hundred blood samples have been frozen.

In New Orleans, Ray Lewis just helped Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory, the same week Sports Illustrated revealed he used a deer antler spray to return from a complete triceps tear, 10 weeks after suffering the injury. By way of comparison, three other players with the same injury in recent times were sidelined six months.

Miracle recoveries, stunning form turnarounds, smoke and mirrors sports science … we now have a right to suspect if, for no other reason, nothing can ever be believed anymore.

Athletes continue to let us down.Our trust is misplaced.

Firstly, what the fuck is Deer Antler spray?

Second, this is far from a media beat-up and we have come to the point where it is actually imperative that the media ask these questions of any athlete that:

– recovers beyond scientific reason from an horrific injury to return to where they were pre-injury, or better;

Yeah, because that looks like a totally acceptable build for a female swimmer. part of the reason we are where we are now. Image credit Fairfax.

Yeah, because that looks like a totally acceptable build for a female swimmer. part of the reason we are where we are now. Image credit Fairfax.

– breaks — , nay, shatters — a world record;

– has a breakout season virtually from nowhere; and

– puts on a significant amount of muscle in a post season.

More than that, we are getting to the point where:

– every gold medal (even equestrian: horses can be doped too) will be questioned;

– every world record will have an asterisk against it; and

– every athlete will have a massive forehead as all compete on a “level playing field” by taking EPO, getting calf blood injected into God-knows-where, spinning blood platelets, or good ol’-fashioned steroids.

But is it reasonable for us to make assumptions like this? Has the era of taking things prima facie really gone by? Can we no longer applaud any great feat without raising an eyebrow?

I don’t know about you, but I’m firmly in that camp. And i’m not the only one. Here’s what Bill Simmons of ESPN affiliate Grantland reckons:

PED profiling.

Think about that phrase again. Hasn’t it become an essential part of following sports? Why won’t we admit it? When you add up the names of everyone who either (a) definitely cheated or (b) almost definitely cheated, it’s a “Who’s Who” of influential athletes. You could cram them into their own Hall of Fame. Because of that, there’s been residual damage … leading to PED profiling … leading to my aforementioned disconnect. When any athlete recovers from any injury well ahead of the expected time, deep down, we wonder. When any athlete defies the aging process in a seemingly supernatural way, deep down, we’re suspicious. When any superstar reaches a level that doesn’t seem athletically realistic, deep down, we’re hoping he didn’t cheat to get there.

I can look across all sports and see instances where something doesn’t add up. Injuries miraculously recovered from, athletes playing into their late 30s and sometimes 40s, records shattered regularly.

I’m skeptical of everything now.

This is not our fault, by putting so much pressure on athletes to win. Ricky Bobby’s dad once said “if you’re not first, you’re last” and I tend to think a lot of people believe it. But that’s not what caused these athletes to taint their sports.

Nor is it the media’s fault. This is not a media beat-up: In fact, the lack of inquisition in the past and the “take him at his word” decree for people like Lance Armstrong is the exact opposite of a beat-up.

No. The problem is more understandable. The problem is money.

Thanks for everything, Lance. Image credit

Thanks for everything, Lance. Image credit

Imagine you were Lance Armstrong prior to his career, and you had a devil and an angel on each shoulder.

The angel says:

“You will get cancer but you will make it back and become a well-respected rider for it, one that might win a Tour De France the right way. You will make enough money to live on, possibly.”

The devil says:

“If you dope, you will amass a personal wealth of $100 million. You will beat cancer and come back from it a better rider, and win seven Tours. Your wins will make you the most famous cyclist in the world, a platform that will allow you to build a cancer foundation that will raise another $100 million for research and advocacy.”

It’s a tough choice, especially if you are a deceptive, conniving prick who will throw people under the bus to protect himself. We don’t know how Lance’s career would’ve turned out if he hadn’t doped. But given the apparent level of doping on the Tour at the time, if Lance never doped I doubt we’d have ever heard of him.

Image credit the ABC

Image credit the ABC

And now Rugby League is entangled in all this. We don’t know what went on at Manly and it’s still early. They may very well be clean.

But if there is evidence of impropriety, we can effectively wipe the 2007 – 2011 era from the history books when Manly and the salary cap-cheating Storm dominated the league. And if they are true, it all comes back to money.

Players have short careers, and clubs have even shorter windows to win with a salary cap that ensures their club will be broken up when more money beckons.

If you have a nagging calf problem or a groin injury leading into the finals, why not try an injection of platelets from another part of the body?

If you have a career threatening injury, no real college education and Rugby League is all you know, wouldn’t you try something to keep that career and a six-figure salary a possibility?

It’s fucked up, deceitful and a fraud of the paying public who believe they are watching naturally talented players. But it’s now a reality.

And its for these reasons its perfectly OK for you, me or the media to speculate on whether there are athletes that are actively doping.

It is perfectly reasonable to assume that clubs will pressure players to dope.

It’s not our fault. We were brought to this point.


One response to “Suspicion now as mandatory as “drug tests” when assessing sports these days, and why that’s ok

  1. Pingback: Gould defends athletes following drugs report, while I wonder if the ACC have anything of substance | 26 Rounds·

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