Drugs in Organised Sport

 “Blood doping is a logical outcome of a sport where people push themselves to death for the enjoyment of fans and benefit of sponsors. Of the seventy top ten finishers in Armstrong’s seven Tour De France victories, forty-one have tested positive for PEDS. [Preformance Enhancing Drugs]”[1]

Joel Cosgrove

David Boon was reputed to have drunk 52 beers on the flight from Sydney to London in 1989

Within any discussion of modern day sport, the question of drugs comes up repeatedly. It is difficult to really get beyond the initial discussion: for, against, or on-the-fence, in regards to either the problem or the solution.
The reality is that since ancient times, strategies and theories have been developed in order to get an edge. While using magic mushrooms or whisky as performance enhancing aids might seem comical to the modern reader, they form part of a process that has led to academic Tony Schirato to describe as “…replacing this [pre-modern sport with] a level of professionalism, specialization, bureaucratization, and secularism never before seen in sport”.[2]Like every other part of human existence, capitalism has fundamentally changed the way we see organised sport.
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The Meaning of Sonny Bill Williams

The first international Rugby superstar with a wider appeal and awareness than rugby fans was Jonah Lomu. While terms such as ‘greatest player ever’ ‘living legend’ etc. can be bandied about easily enough, it is generally agreed that the power and influence of Lomu on the international rugby arena was immense. His sheer power, pace and image shocked and awed the international sporting world. Like with many sportspeople defined as ‘The Greatest’ it is not just the records that carry weight, it is the extraordinary effect of ‘the idea’ of the player on the wider viewing public that lifts someone above the shoulders of their fellow competitors.
Sonny Bill Williams (or SBW for the many readers, who I’m sure pay little or no attention to organised sport) is the second player following Lomu who most clearly fits the bill of ‘Superstar’. Yet this is a player who has played for the All Blacks rugby team for only two years, failing in his attempt to attain a starting spot in the team to Ma’a Nonu. Boxing aficionado and parasite capitalist Bob Jones has described SBW’s capabilities in his boxing side project as being “He can’t box. …but that’s hardly surprising given his novice status.”[1]. In his most recent fight against 43-year-old gospel singing, sickness beneficiary, Alipate Liava’a, he couldn’t even score a knockout, cue Jones’ negative reaction. However as spectacle SBW is a Superstar. With his boxing match raising over $350,000 for the Christchurch earthquake.[2] Alongside his boxing efforts, his every move is debated and discussed, in a manner far greater and wider than that of either Dan Carter and Richie McCaw, two All Blacks players, generally acknowledged as two of the greatest players to have played Rugby Union in any country in any time.[3][4]
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Melbourne Storm salary cap breach

Joel Cosgrove, June 2010

Much has been written about the Melbourne Storm and their repeated breaching of the salary cap. Although there has been much comment on the issue, the vast majority has been shallow and generally misses some pretty obvious points.
To recap. The Australian National Rugby League (NRL) has a salary cap, the cap for 2010 is AU$4.69 million for the 25 highest paid players at each club. The Storm from 2006-10 breached the cap by at least AU$1.85 million in a process that involved two sets of financial accounts, a calculated fraud. The scandal came out when an insider at the club notified the NRL who then acted on the systemic breach.
Newstalk ZB talkback host Murray Deaker, talking on his show, made the point that the Storm breaching the salary cap was not an oddity; it is a process at the centre of things. Since 1991 there have been at least 50 instances of clubs being fined for serious or minor breaches of the cap. Deaker raised the point further by saying that the salary cap scandal was comparable to the recent financial crisis, in that greed is at the centre of things and that when you commercialise something greed becomes a part of it.
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