On Drug Use & Sport

Ben Cousins is one of many who have had the finger pointed at them for bringing drugs into the AFL. Image by Brad. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Social and illicit drug use has continued to be a major topic in the AFL despite the practice becoming increasingly popular amongst 18-30 year olds.

After this year’s football season ended and Dane Swan announced his retirement from sport, and then eventually announced his autobiography a couple of weeks later, it became clear from the headlines that the sporting media have not got to grips with the realities of being a sports person in the AFL.

Dane Swan, for what it’s worth, made the simple admission that he had taken drugs casually while engaging in professional sport

As many have already made clear, sporting professionals are both expected to maintain a high standard of diet as well as a strong behavioural code; in short, it’s a little difficult for sporting athletes to regularly imbibe alcohol on a weekend.

Subsequently, in looking to get loose like other young people their age, athletes have increasingly turned to ecstasy and speed as well as (devastatingly) in some cases crystal methamphetamine.

I don’t wish to make a moral case for these things being necessarily acceptable, or write as a moral reactionary. As a young person who works in professions (Writing and visual art) that profess to be more socially progressive I do acknowledge that drug use is common place and not really a remarkable thing at all at least in the communities I inhabit so I acknowledge that perhaps my worldview may be different to other standards in the community.

The AFL’s drug-testing system has worked on a three strike policy for ages to acknowledge this reality and give athletes time to put their lives back together. However, when athletes like Lachie Whitfield are avoiding performance enhancing drug testing regimes out of fear illicit substances may have been spiked with an insignificantly performance enhancing drug, this idea of chemical purity seems a little naive, especially given the drug testing regimes athletes have to face.

It is this naivety that seems to consistently fall into the media’s reporting of this issue, with even more well credentialed reporters like Rohan Connolly talking about drugs with little to no confidence as to how they effect athlete’s performance.

That’s not to speak of The Herald Sun, who continually spoke moral outrage by speaking on behalf of an imagined audience who do not actually know the behavioural standards of young professionals who are flush with cash in a city where drugs are widely and readily available without having to go to a bikie’s house (Despite what some media officials would have believe).

This moral outrage does nothing to actually identify or analyse the problems associated with drug use, and were I writing a longer article I’d be happy to accuse said media organisations of irresponsible reporting.

With that said, I don’t think they are setting out to be irresponsible, I would just instead argue that they are ignorant of the casualisation of drug use within the Australian community – Young executives do it, young artists do it so it is no stretch of the imagination to imagine young athletes doing it as well.

This isn’t an argument about rationalising “everyone else is doing drugs” ergo it’s acceptable for this group of people (young sports people) to do it.

What it is, is just a simple plea to try and understand the greater social change that is going on in Australia, and maybe report the professional scandal of a sports person using drugs as someone being unprofessional rather than violating some moral code that turns them into a dangerous person.

It might make for less exciting headlines but it would make for more thoughtful journalism.


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