My father came home the other night from a boozy dinner with some mates and regaled me with a reasonably interesting but somewhat spurious conversation he had with some bloke at the table.
This friend of his has had a long and distinguished career in the medical industry and has, he assured my dad, intricate and inside knowledge of what certain supplements and drugs can do to the human body. Thus, he felt equipped to make the following sweeping statement: “All elite athletes are on some form of performance enhancing drug, I guarantee it.”
The comments follow the public shaming of Olympic sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, who recently recorded positive drug tests. And this bloke, presumably rinsed after a bottle of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (2005) told my dad that “Usain Bolt will be next, you watch!”
Is it just a matter of time before drug authorities pick up their game and manage to stamp out all forms of doping, or will athletes continue to dodge their way to glory? Must we now take each world record with a pinch of salt, and hold off on the post-race medal ceremony until each still-sweating athlete has emptied their bladder into a vial and waited 1-2 weeks for the results to come in? Will Vincent Chase’s extreme efforts to beat a drug test catch on in the NRL, for example?
ASADA had the “audacity” to wake up Jonathan Thurston at 6am last week – and his freshly born baby, too, mind you – for a random drug test. We were all outraged at this invasion of privacy, but is this what it has come to? Instead of innocent until proven guilty, should we reverse this age-old adage entirely?
As sporting consumers, we’ve been burnt too many times before. We’ve celebrated the achievements of Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong, only to find out that they’d both been on the gear for years, lying their way into the hearts of millions and cashing in on their artificially aided success.
Even today, it has emerged that Australian cyclist Stuart O’Grady took EPO before the 1998 Tour de France, mere days after announcing his retirement to a groundswell of adulation. In his defence, I’m pretty sure every single cyclist from Lance Armstrong down to your uncle who rides to work was on a bit of performance enhancing gear in 1998. I mean, the first, second and third-placed finishers in the ’98 Tour were all found to have been on EPO.
Do we deserve better?
Following a recent ruling in the Senate, ASADA will be able to demand phone records, text messages, documents and medical prescriptions of players and others, regardless of whether those pieces of evidence are self-incriminatory. But besides all the big talk, ASADA has not given a timeframe for when its investigation into a number of NRL players and personnel will be completed.
Some people say that you should throw the book at drug cheats, others suggest that the book should be thrown out entirely and athletes should be given open slather. Former sprinter Ato Boldon has even called for stimulants to be legalised, which to be honest, would stop all this rubbish about “1-percenters.”
Until there’s a decision one way or the other, there remains a cloud over pretty much every professional sportsman in the country. What’s more, blokes pissed on a bottle of red will continue to shoot their mouths off at dinner parties regarding the ubiquity of drugs in sport – and they might be closer to the truth than we’d like them to be.
By Dave Edwards