Drugs in sport – Did Channel 9 teach us anything?

Last night’s Channel 9 drugs in sport “analysis” told us very little in the scheme of things. But that’s what rugby league loves – talking and navel gazing without coming up with a sensible solution. It’s an awful lot of fun, and a tremendous way to spend the day. The Dr engages patients on the couch with just this sort of banter and, before they know it, time’s up, the pressure on the chest is alleviated, and I’m off to Catalina for lunch in my newly purchased pair of Ballys.

Before commenting on the actual content though, let’s pause to reflect on the panel’s performance. Gus Gould gave us measured doses of calm reason and intelligent responses. It was a pleasure to watch. Had David Gallop been in David Smith’s seat, however, I venture to guess he might have been screeching like a gibbon monkey. His demeanour throughout has been exemplary.

As for Karl (not to be confused with Dr Karl) and Ray Hadley, I think the following charts tell the whole story without need for further comment:

I particularly liked Paul Kent’s drugs sidebar. It reminded me of an Ali G skit, but his table was chock-a-block full of contraband and replete with stories about how his mate Steve could get the stuff cheaper. Paul’s table was pretty bare, but it did its job – the Persians are pretty easy to Chart1Chart2get. I even think the guy selling The Big Issue on the corner near my place throws in a few growth hormones with every purhase.

I’m pretty sure David Smith would have appreciated an easier entry to the greatest game of all. Having just learned what NRL stood for and who Cameron Smith was, this must have come as quite some surprise. He has used the word proactive about 450,000 times in the last week, but it would have been preferable to name the clubs once it was clear there were 6 of them. How can there be a legal issue in doing so when, in a mad rush to deny a call had been received by the ACC, the 6 were named within hours on Twitter. It’s just maddening, and the NRL needs to learn what proactive means. Having punted David Gallop and highlighting the NRL’s reactive posture, it only seems to get worse.

Despite what the clubs have been saying, there is an important set of points to be understood in all of this.

First, while the press conference announcement has had the effect of tarnishing Australian sportspeople globally which is regrettable, the announcement was still very unlike the ACC as Alan Sullivan QC noted. The implication is that there is far more to this than meets the eye.

Graham Annesley said as much when he referred to the information presented to him in a briefing last night as serious, even quite scary, and that the ACC was very confident of prosecutions. It seemed to give Alan Sullivan pause. So it would be a good idea for those saying “show me the evidence” to chill unless you want to be grouped into Chart 1 above. That is not how law enforcement works.

One gets the sense that NRL and AFL involvement is the tip of the iceberg, and that the ACC’s field of vision is far larger, extending into distribution and trafficking. Therefore, expect the newsfeed to reflect this over time (in the same way the Dr’s rules changes recommendations have!). Don’t forget that the investigation has been operating for quite some time, so the idea that guilty parties will be able to “go to ground”is a bit like locking the gate after the horse steroid has bolted.

Second, do not underestimate the powerful force exerted by those who are hingeing their careers on breaking the sports-drugs-organised crime nexus. It is highly doubtful this has been brought about by a flight of fancy.

In the wash up, it looks like Channel 9 was trying to keep the fire of outrage burning with very little to back it up. Where’s John Pilger when you need him? Let’s take a step back and make comment when we know more.

As for players with this “hanging over their heads” as the saying goes, get a grip. If you’re not guilty of anyting except a bad tattoo, then relax and play some footy.

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6 thoughts on “Drugs in sport – Did Channel 9 teach us anything?

  1. Top review. I still find these shenanigans unsurprising apart from these softies now coming out saying they saw this or they experienced that. It’s too easy to stand behind a big bloke yelling ‘yeh’ ‘I knew it was them’ ‘yo mamma has peptides in her vodka’ then speaking out when you are aware of such things. But that leads to the next question. What are the mechanisms established to dob in a doper or dealer or supplier? How do we protect the dobee? And the $67 question? Why do we care?

  2. You’re making me think of the jail scene inTrading Places with your quip about “Yeh!” That aside, the lack of formal structure surrounding protection for people coming clean is just the kind of gap that is being exploited by dealers/suppliers more effectively than a Jonathan Thurston short ball. Perhaps part of the problem for whistleblowers is that there are fewer degerees of separation in working out their identity, hence their reluctance to come forward.

    I think this whole thing has more to do with trafficking and distribution of meth, speed and drugs of that nature than “the gear”. I could be wrong.

    And why care? Maybe we could just implicity give up (which is my opinion of American sports … and men who grow beards), but the angst felt by Aussie sportspeople is palpable and has become an issue of dented pride. The sooner they’re cleared, the better.

  3. The bigger issue is why come out at all. Doesn’t then go underground. The mere fact two labour ministers announced it and the way it was announced was disgraceful. They hijacked it during a very bad week for labour.

    I have no doubt that there is a problem with drugs etc etc but gather then name. The new nrl CEO is in a very precarious position. It’s very hard for him to comment due to legal ramifications and hence is taking cautious approach to information.

    • Hi John, there will be definitely be an element of going into hiding. My hypothesis is that they would likely have what they need already, and that the announcement would have instigated a lot of immediate phone contact 9that was tapped). We’ll see.

      The politics of the announcement intrigue me I have to say. If it was supposed to be a smokescreen then it has blown up in their face royally. You can’t mess with Australian sport, and if I were advising them (knowing what the announcement was going to be), I would have counselled and cajoled against it. It’s all very odd in that respect.

      The CEO is in a difficult position, I agree. I was initially writing a blog on this subject generally when this one intruded, so I’d better finish that. Briefly, it concerns the way David Gallop was punted, the way they went about choosing the CEO, their ultimate choice, and who is really in charge (I’ll give you one guess … he’s been extremely scarce since the ACC news surfaced).

      • No, I haven’t read your blog. I’ve hardly had time for my own unfortunately, but that will have to change as footy season begins.

        I’ll take a look at yours now 🙂

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