Wendell’s bum rap

 

Wendell. No, it’s not a mug shot though it might as well be

Yes, I know Wendell Sailor is a brainless  dickhead, having apparently  been caught with coke in his bloodstream after previously running foul of ARU rules on more than one occasion for alcohol-related behavioural infractions.

However, as far as I know Sailor  hasn’t been accused this time of public conduct liable to bring the game into disrepute.    I can’t help wondering why rugby union and other sporting codes bother to test for non performance-enhancing recreational drugs anyway?   As this article explains, cocaine certainly doesn’t enhance athletic performance:

The few studies that exist suggest that little to no performance gains are incurred from cocaine and its amphetamine-like properties. Cocaine is notable for distorting the user’s perception of reality; for example, an athlete may perceive increased performance and decreased fatigue in the face of actual decreased performance in both strength and endurance activities.

Accordingly it doesn’t give users an unfair advantage, unlike steroids or human growth hormone.   The same is true of cannabis.   It’s unlikely that a sudden attack of the munchies or an overwhelming desire to lie down and listen to loud  blues or Pink Floyd  would be a plus in most sports.

On the other hand, there are clear potential  health risks for athletes who use coke:

An increase in heat production combined with a decrease in heat loss associated with cocaine abuse impairs the body’s ability to regulate its temperature during physical activity.

“Competitive athletics increases the potential of cocaine’s powerful adverse cardiovascular stimulating effects,” according to Wadler, “namely, life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks, particularly in cigarette smokers.”

The list of adverse health effects of cocaine is long and affects many organ systems of the body. These effects include:

  • Strokes
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Chronic headaches
  • Tremulousness and twitching
  • Spontaneous abortions
  • Chronic irritation of nasal membranes including perforation of the nasal septum
  • Abnormal vision including blindness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Elevated blood pressure and pulse
  • Hepatitis and AIDS in intravenous cocaine abusers
  • Sudden death    

With large amounts of cocaine or with repeated administration over time, cocaine users often exhibit bizarre, erratic or violent behavior. Euphoric effects are often displaced by restlessness, extreme excitability, insomnia, paranoia and the unmasking of underlying psychiatric disorders.

So maybe sporting bodies have some sort of quasi-parental obligation to deter their athletes from unnecessary risk-taking behaviour.   But aren’t sportspeople legal adults capable of making up their own minds whether and to what extent they should ingest recreational drugs including alcohol?   The nanny state is surely intrusive enough without having nanny sports administrators as well.   If their habit impaired their sporting performance to a significant extent, no doubt they’d be dropped for poor form.   But otherwise  I fail to see why it’s any of their club or peak sporting body’s business.

Nor  am I impressed by  the argument that allowing professional sportspeople to take drugs gives a bad example to young fans.   If they didn’t test for coke and cannabis, the young fans wouldn’t even know that some of their heroes have a propensity for chemical recreation.   What is there about being a professional sportsperson that requires them to be moral paragons of wowserish behaviour?   As long as they practise their chosen habits privately,  I fail to see how it’s anyone else’s business at all.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

I might be wrong but I thought all organisational recipients of federal sports development grants/funds were required to test – via ASDA protocols – for all banned substances as a matter of course. ASDA in turn is a signatory to the World Sports anti-doping code which lists narcotics and psychostimulants as banned substances.

I think the codes themselves would probably
be less enthusiastic if it were up to them alone.

Rafe Champion
15 years ago

With good reason. I am with CS on this (again) I thought we were moving away from the situation where the State and other regulatory bodies concern themselves with the behaviour of consenting adults in private.

Wowserism!

Behaviour in public is a little bit different but I am not sure how much. I am all in favour of good manners and civility but to stand over adults to enforce standards BEYOND A CERTAIN POINT is not really the way to go. Problem, where is that point? Still that is not the issue in this case.

Go brumbies
Go brumbies
15 years ago

Geoff’s right. AFL tried to resist but caved when threatened with withdrawal of government funding. Anyone who saw Dell play that night knows that performance wasn’t enhanced by anything. He was the worst player on the field.

Rafe Champion
15 years ago

Actually I am with KP. Why did I think it was cs? Who cares.

Lin
Lin
15 years ago

Jeez, guys! Anybody stupid enough to take recreational drugs when part of a drug-testing program has to be stupid! This is much like fans who promote teams regardless of the chances of them winning. Anyone who thinks that Sailor is worth any more words has to be a bit crazy too. Kick the bum out!

Gaby
Gaby
15 years ago

Vociferously agree.

And this stupidity robbed us of the joy of watching Diego, the greatest footballer ever, for 2 years in the early ’90’s. And I watched him in Serie A at the time and he was still a force despite being severely addled by coke.

Not to mention that the policy’s application to the runaway has done much damage to the longevity of the career of that star mannequin and photogenic marvel, Kate Moss.

liam
15 years ago

I’m going to go further, cs, and say that the ARU’s insistence, along with the NRL and especially the AFL, of testing for non-performance enhancing ‘party’ drugs is taking away from the fight against actual sports doping.
The ‘harm to the athlete’ argument doesn’t hold up unless they’re breathalysed every six hours to test for alcohol abuse, or somehow prevented from smoking tobacco.
If every dollar spent on testing out-of-season AFL and club Rugby players for pills and funny cigarettes were spent on (say) more comprehensive steroids testing in the semi-professional State leagues, all of the sports would be that much cleaner.

cs
cs
15 years ago

I think I’ll agree with cs too. Heh. Sorry KP.

But of course, once the authorities are not testing for performance enhancement drugs, they are grossly invading privacy. If ordinary sportspeople, even less than ordinary ones like dear ol’ dumb ol’ ‘dell, are to be subject to these sorts of random invasions, why not the CEOs of the leading companies and politicians, who theoretically have serious responsibilities in the real world?

Amanda
15 years ago

The 2nd link is broken I think.

I agree with Ken too. Its also remarkable how these things never seem to result in police investigations or action, the NSWRU/ARU last I heard were even denying it was a police matter. Well, yeah it is actually — IF you’re fair dinkum about the noble “won’t somebody think of the children” sentiments. Way to send a positive message to the kiddies, we dont want you getting our game bad headlines but the actual law? Whatevs.

observa
observa
15 years ago

It seems like you can lose your job even if you don’t actually take the damned drugs http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19127949-1246,00.html?from=rss

david tiley
15 years ago

That was a dumb political moment – not the defence of ecstacy but bringing bushfire victims into it.

Aside from the points bove, to me the drug testing business reflects the notion that young athletes are somehow owned by the team, when this is actually an agreement between workers and management. No employer should have the right to intrude on the private life of an employee.

Robert Merkel
15 years ago

Frankly, if I were a senior player in one of our football codes I would be very tempted to refuse all drug testing until testing for recreational drugs was halted. Bugger WADA and its American-inspired hang-em-high policy on recreational drugs. Drug testing for athletes was supposed to be about catching cheats, not making them into moral exemplars off the field.

Does John Howard get randomly tested for cocaine after Question Time? How about some random drug testing the day after the Logies – amongst a group of people who are very much inspirations to young people (God help us, but it doesn’t make it any less true)?

david tiley
15 years ago

Robert – YES!

At the very least, we should test sports commentators.

OBSCURE BUT PLEASURABLE FACT:

At the end of WW2 in Britain, when the first Ascot was held, the police put a huge cordon round the course and tested every single vehicle they could stop, to find out if they had a legitimate reason for owning a car, and where they got the petrol.

Just imagine this for the Brownlow, for drugs.

Tony.T
15 years ago

Is there a sportsman here in Australia, Frank Sinatra, The World, who has a longer rap sheet than Wendell?

cs
cs
15 years ago

Huh? What the hell is on ‘dell’s wrap-sheet, apart from endless playing errors on the field?

As far as I know, before this incident, ‘dell once stayed up too late at night, and another time he had a spew in the street – the first Australian male to ever do so, apparently.

What else has he done Tony? Tell a fib? Steal milk money? Have dirty thoughts? Fail to polish his boots? Bribe Saddam to buy wheat?

Tony.T
15 years ago

August 1997: Charged with assaulting a man in Brisbane’s City Rowers nightclub. Acquitted in Sept 1999 after it was accepted he didn’t throw the first punch.

October 2000: Arrested in a Townsville Street for being drunk in a public place.

May 2001: Fines $400 and ordered to pay $500 compensation for spitting in a woman’s face on the same night as the Townsville arrest.

May 2002: Smashes a truck window and admits to being the aggressor in a road rage incident in Brisbane. Pays for damages.

January 2003: Fined for talking on a mobile phone while driving. His lisence had already been cancelled because he hadn’t payed an earlier speeding fine. (The charges were later dropped as he was on tour at the time he was supposed to pay the fine.)

July 2005: One of three Wallabies reprimanded over Cape Town incident which led to Matt Henjak being sent home. Fined $500 for breaching team standards.

February 2006: Sent home from NSW tour of South Africa for the spewing incident.

May 2006: Stood down indefinitely – white line fever.

cs
cs
15 years ago

Ok, Tony. Fair enough, I suppose he has a record of being a bit of a lout. I’d never heard of his earlier infractions. Spitting in a woman’s face and smashing truck windows are not a good look.

All up, however, I end in the usual quandry. Might we assume these are the tips of a loutish iceberg; or might sportstars be subject to far higher public scrutiny than other folk, creating a magnified effect?

Boiled down, in the last 10 years: he was picked into a fight; was so drunk one night in Townsville he spat on a woman’s face; smashed a window in road rage; talked on his mobile while driving; stayed up late before a game; and had a spew on a street.

If that’s something like the full story, I guess I’d only really pay the spit (was it a big deliberate goobly, or an accidental spray from being up too close?); and the window (with his fist?) as seriously regrettable, when you come down to it. Generally, it’s the kinda thing you expect to run into with musclebound sportsdudes. They’re rarely exposed to, say, allegations of having read top secret official cables about funding the nation’s enemies, and not doing anything about it.

Of course, Sailor’s unforgiveable crime is that he was a lousy rugby player.

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

Most of the good points have been made: (1) coke is not performance enhancing (2) sportsmen need not be role models in their personal life (3) the journos who whinge about the bad example are the same ones who write about and publicise the bad behaviour for money (4) Wendel is a yob.

The only thing I do not quite understand is..why the hell do elite sportsmen allow their employers to dictate their personal life style to them? (RM:- I think acceptance of recreational drug testing is in their contract). If they are stupid enough to allow such an intrusion then I reckon we should be pretty sanguine about it – but not about the silly moralism that accompanies the process.

patrick
patrick
15 years ago

why the hell do elite sportsmen allow their employers to dictate their personal life style to them?’

– the same reason most people let themselves be dictated to – somewhere along the line there’s a gun pointing, and in this case it is in ASDA’s hands, see the first comment on this thread (which is also my understanding).

Chris Lloyd
Chris Lloyd
15 years ago

If Federal Government money was a large component of AFL revenue then that would explain it. Does anyone know how much money this is compared to say TV rights? You would think that at some stage the players would just say: “Stuff it. We’ll do without Federal funding and make them look like the bad guys who won’t support the Victorian religion.”

Interesting that the government allows themselves to be dictated to by an international convention, namely the World Doping Code. Not quite consistent with their stand on other issues…

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“Interesting that the government allows themselves to be dictated to by an international convention, namely the World Doping Code. Not quite consistent with their stand on other issues”

cs
cs
15 years ago

Tough on drugs is a Howardian fundamental, surely.

If only. Like so many other things, Howard just employs drugs as a political symbol. If he was really ‘tough’ on drugs, he would have policies that deal with causes and effects, not just be ‘against’ them.

… you’re going to look like a total dickhead if you’re the ARU and you’re asking for a coke exemption. You really aren’t going to go there, are you?

No, the ARU isn’t. Still, you’re not going to ask for a ‘coke exemption’ either, are you? Surely you’d stand on the general privacy principle and insist on testing for performance enhancement only … unless, of course, whole populations are going to be tested for everything (*sees day coming*).

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
15 years ago

“Surely you’d stand on the general privacy principle and insist on testing for performance enhancement only’

The moment for doing that was lost 15 years ago when the whole international anti-doping ball began to roll and the only marching powder that rugby players were known to be doing was wintergreen linement. Seeking exemption now would surely be a tacit acknowledgement that [gasp] players do drugs.
Rock. Hard place.

Patrick
Patrick
15 years ago

And I don’t think it is the ARU’s place – I think the IRB might have a policy on it.

KP, as I understood it the money that made the AFL cave in was nothing as direct as all that – rather it was funding and accreditation for the ‘auskick’ programs, the affiliated country leagues and other development programs, particularly rural.

They could have gone it alone, but it would have been the hard road indeed.