Drugs in sport is the current hot topic around the world at the moment and that doesn’t look likely to change in the near future. The Athletics Diamond league started last week and British 800m runner Lynsey Sharp was quoted as saying it was ‘a huge problem’ in her sport. She added ‘There’s a lot of people being caught but its nothing compared to the amount of people getting away with it.’
Currently in Athletics there are 24o men and women banned from the sport from 52 countries. The latest facing a ban is Turkey’s Olympic 1500m Champion Asli Cakir Alptekin who was charged a fortnight ago and if found guilty faces a lifetime ban. She was previously banned in 2004 for failing a drugs test. Which has many asking the question, should athletes caught doping be allowed to compete again.
India currently leads the world in terms of the most athletes from one country being banned with 51 athletes on the current list. India is far from being a major nation when it comes to athletics, but their 4 x 400m relay team won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, subsequently three of the winning four runners have failed drugs tests. More concerning is the fact that 11 athletes were caught for doping at the National Schools Championships.
As a developing nation the authorities have stated that they believe that the number is so high as athletes had unknowingly taken banned substances often at the behest of their coaches. The reason these athletes eat what the coaches tell them to eat is the fear of being replaced on the team or in the program should they refuse, and to be thrown out would bring dishonour to their families and community. If that is so then the coaches are the ones who should face lifetime bans.
In second place is Russia with 38 athletes being blacklisted. This figure is believed to be so high as there has been a real clampdown in Russia as they are the host nation of the World Athletics Championships later this year.
The President of Russian Athletics, Valentin Balakhnichyov expects more suspensions to follow before the Championships. ‘Its simple arithmetic: the more you test, the more people are likely to get caught. Together with the Russian anti-doping agency, we do more drugs tests than any other country in the world. Last year we conducted 3,500 tests and this year we plan to do over 4,000 tests in and out of competition.’ He is quoted as saying.
Interestingly it is Kenya who come in third equal on the table of shame with 13 athletes banned, the same as the Ukraine and just one ahead of the USA. The issue here is there is no Kenyan anti doping agency and only one laboratory for testing in the whole of the African continent, and that is in South Africa, which has led John Fahey the President of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to describe Kenya as ‘a location of choice for dopers.’ The Kenyan authorities disagree and state that 90 per cent of the tests in which their athletes have tested positive, it has been because they have been taking medication which has contained banned drugs.
It was in fact the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) that collected some of these positive tests on the Kenyans after being asked to administer tests at the Olympic trials.
The USA tested 488 athletes last year and they were tested 1,542 times. Where a few eyebrows have been raised is in relation to the athletes who have been caught up in the testing and in some cases found guilty. Sixty four year old Masters runner Roger Wenzel being one to be suspended for taking a prohibited stimulant. Then there is the relatively unknown long distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein who was tested by USADA 21 times in 2012. There have been some high profile athletes snared in their net of testing, and that includes sprinter Shawn Crawford.
Despite athletes regularly being caught many question the uniformity of the testing and whether all nations are following the same guidelines. Will doping ever be stamped out completely that is unlikely, but hopefully progress is being made to limit it. One big positive from an Australian perspective is that there are currently no Australian athletes on the banned list for the sport of Athletics.
It is the way of the world today, that we pay more than a product is worth without complaining. In many of the places we visit the service is nothing short of dreadful, but rather than say anything about it, we simply no longer leave a tip.
It has long been said that money is the root of all evil, but is it just money. As many sports fans will state if someone is prepared to pay a player a certain amount of money for him to play for them, you can’t blame the player.
However what the club or sporting organisation can do is stipulate certain standards and expectations to be met in order for that money to be received.
It is a very sad state of affairs when you have professional clubs signing contracts with players where the player in question only has to do a very limited number of public appearances. Does that mean that once said player has played ‘x’ amount of games he has fulfilled his public appearance quota? There is another team playing in a national competition where all of the players collectively only have to make a predetermined number of media appearances and so many public appearances. This was part of their collective bargaining agreement. This beggars belief, and it is no surprise that the team’s profile is extremely low and many children would not even be able to name more than a handful of players.It would be interesting to know what the players sponsors felt about this agreement.
Being a professional athlete is a job of that there is no doubt, but it is also a privilege, and with it comes responsibilities, and many of those are to do with ensuring the future of the game and the team you play for.
We can take this a step further to sport at the semi professional level. Frequently in one particular sport players will tell you that they are good enough to take the step up to being a full time professional. On ability many of them are. On attitude many are not.
Those who listen t the show regularly will recall when we had Ian Thacker on as guest. Ian is the head of the Ace Cricket academy at the University of Western Australia, and has been running the academy for the past ten years. When asked what was the biggest change he had seen in that time, without pausing he said it was the level of fitness in the young players. The same is true in so many sports, the levels of fitness do not match the talent; few willing to put in extra sessions in their own time away from their club’s two sessions a week.
Just as there is a responsibility being a full time athlete so too are there expectations being a first team player in a semi-professional team. In Europe you would never find a player on a semi professional contract taking a holiday during the season. Once you sign that contract you have committed yourself to that club for the next six to eight months, to be at training on every possible occasion, and when not able to attend work in your own time. You have also made a commitment to be available for selection, barring injury, every week of the season.
If players no longer live up to these expectations, is it any wonder that those who pay to watch them bemoan the standards? Is it the players fault? Won’t a player always push to see what he can get away with? Why have clubs allowed the standards that served them so well for so many years to drop? Are the professional outfits the ones setting the guidelines and as they let their players get away with more so it filters down the chain?
The answers are not simple, but the issues need to be addressed. There is a feeling that the wheel of acceptance from fans is slowly beginning to turn. If that is indeed the case then it surely must benefit all involved in sport. Club performances will improve and players will in fact be more prepared to make that next step up to a higher level. In the end only time will tell if this is the case.
One thing that has baffled many people involved in football has been the rhetoric coming out of the FFA on youth development, with hereto little action. Sure they are picking the supposed cream of football talent, and placing them in High Performance Centres or National Training Centres, but what about improving the overall standards? The standards of those who are not fortunate to live near the areas where trials may be held, get missed by the coaches or mature late.
In his presentation on the NPL and the future of football in Australia National Technical Director Han Berger showed a slide that stated the following: “In youth development the interest of the player should come first, not the self interest of clubs; coaches; agents; private academies; (sports high) schools; etc.” We agree 100%, and would add that the enjoyment of the player is also a crucial factor. If they do not enjoy playing the game and the coaching, they will soon look elsewhere.
Berger then advised that the FFA had recently ‘rewritten and restructured’ all of its coaching courses; which to many cynics sounded like someone trying to justify their job, or in fact find something to do in head office. As Berger rightly states better coaches should mean better footballers and better football played.
The FFA have as part of this development stated that all semi professional clubs must have coaches with certain coaching badges to be a part of this new era. Again this makes sense, the better the standard of coaches the more likelihood the standard of football played will improve. Most people interested in coaching or improving the standards of football would willingly become a part of this, however this is where question marks suddenly start to pop up.
For the next two years coaches of juniors can coach with a junior, youth or senior licence. To obtain this qualification at its most basic level will cost $85. Each level will cost a further $85. By 2016 all of these junior coaches are expected to have achieved a C-Licence in order to coach under 12′s up to under 20′s. The cost of this qualification, apart from the time, is at the moment $1320 per person. If you have ambitions to be a first team coach or the unnecessary expense of a Technical Director at an NPL club you will be required to have a B Licence which will currently set you back a further $3190, at the present time.
What surprises many is the fact the FFA have on occasion stated that they will not acknowledge a European equivalent coaching licence. This seems totally bizarre as the standards of football and coaching in Europe one would think would be higher than in Australia, as the game is a way of life there. Another concern is the pressure being applied to have those in coaching achieve these standards in these time frames.
However the big question that has to be asked is why are most of these courses not free or at least heavily subsidised for the next two years? If the FFA is serious about improving the coaching standards across Australia, have those qualified to train coaches moving around the country doing just that. To some the current costs are highly prohibitive especially in these tough economic times and with no security in any coaching position the cost will prove hard to justify to their partners at home.
If the FFA is serious about improving coaching at all levels these courses need to be more readily affordable. At the current time from the outside looking in it appears that it is simply another form of revenue raising, and once again the financial burden is being put on the clubs to find the money to up-skill their coaching staff if they wish to keep them working at the club. Surely there are grants to cover such training if it is keeping people healthy. Surely there is a sponsor out there who would love access to such demographics?
The game cannot go on in this way with the game’s governing body continually putting out its hand for money, eventually something has to give. It would be a shame to see one generation of young footballers suffer simply because of money, it is after all supposed to be a game for all
Last week golfer Vijay Singh moved to sue the US PGA Tour claiming it had damaged his reputation with an “Unwarranted” pursuit of an anti-doping case against him that was dropped the week prior.
The lawsuit has charged the Tour with violating its duty of care and good faith in failing to determine that Singh had in fact not violated the Tour’s anti doping policy. He had used deer antler spray which he acknowledged using.
The spray contained the hormone IGF-1 a substance that was listed on the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and the PGA Tour’s list of prohibited substances. The PGA Tour had in fact warned against using such substances in 2011.
In his lawsuit Singh is claiming that hormone was inactive and could not have affected his performance. He also argues that the Tour should have ascertained that before proceeding with a ban against the three time major winning Champion. In court documents it has been found that other players who admitted using the spray were not sanctioned.
On April 30 WADA advised the tour that they no longer viewed the use of deer antler spray as prohibited unless it resulted in a positive drugs test. Vijay Singh never tested positive under such a test.
Singh’s reputation suffered great harm during this period and according to the lawsuit he suffered ‘humiliation and ridicule.’
This is another example of WADA appearing to jump before gathering all of the relevant information. It is rare for the Police to arrest and charge someone unless they are in possession of hard and fast evidence that the accused is in fact guilty. WADA needs to adopt a similar policy. By all means announce that an athlete is under investigation, without naming them, but do not charge them with such an accusation unless you have all the evidence.
This has brought embarrassment to Vijay Singh and tarnished his reputation, as some mud will aways stick. It has also put the US PGA Tour in an embarrassing situation and one in which they find themselves being sued. It would be interesting to see whether in the litigious USA they consider passing the blame down the line and sue WADA.
One thing is for sure WADA’s policies need to be seriously reviewed.
There is one code of football we rarely mention on this site, or on the show, but in light of the comments made by a man who is highly respected in Australian sport we felt we had to on this occasion.
There is no doubt that AFL coach Kevin Sheedy has opened a hornet’s nest with his comments over the weekend after Greater Western Sydney Giants could only attract 5,830 people to its home match against Adelaide Crows, an all time low crowd not seen in AFL since 1996.
For those who missed his poor attempt at an explanation for such a poor crowd he said that his club lacked ‘the recruiting officer called the immigration department recruiting fans for the West Sydney Wanderers’.
His comments apart from being highly offensive to the inhabitants of Western Sydney will have in fact done his future crowd projections even more harm, but they also say so much more.
Three sports went head to head in Western Sydney, Rugby League, Football and AFL. All three codes invested heavily in this market and it became like a race to the North pole, the code that could boast success first it was felt would hold the keys to being the number one sport in Australia in the next 5-10 years. Of the three codes Football and the AFL are believed to have invested the most, although neither code is willing to reveal exactly how much their push for ascendancy has cost.
One thing is for sure AFL never expected Western Sydney Wanderers to take off the way it did, and Sheedy’s comments reflect that. He would have been led to believe that his club and his code would be the number one sport in that region. It won’t be, it will most likely never rise higher than third in the pecking order between these three codes. Football’s success lies purely and simply in the fact that it is a world game, and no matter what country you come from this one or overseas you can relate to it; and are more likely to have played it at some stage in your life. Rugby League is second to none when it comes to involving the community and that is why they build loyalty. They will not splash the money the way AFL and Football have but rest assured with time they will grow a loyal supporter base.
For years AFL’s monitoring of its participation rates have been skewed, a result of not only counting regular registered participants in their participation numbers, as per Football and Rugby League. If all codes were forced to monitor participation figures the same way Sheedy’s angst may be better explained. One thing is for sure his comments show that in Western Sydney the battle of the codes is well and truly being lost, and we would hazard a guess outside of Victoria although not as apparent, at junior levels the same would be true.
You only have to stand outside of Subiaco oval on a match day to see the age of the supporters filing in and how large a percentage are female to know that the youth of Australia are focussed on other sports. The times are definitely changing and that realisation has finally hit Mr Sheedy, which may explain his ill advised comments.
There are plenty of people in Western Australia who will stand at the bar and tell you what is wrong with football in this state, many will tell you that no one wants to listen. It would appear that this is no longer the case with the Football Federation of Australia finally bringing their Fans Forum to Western Australia.
The event is to be held on Monday 20th of May at the Perth Soccer Club.
The choice of venue will not please many and shows a naivety on the part of those organising the event. Despite Perth having the best facilities this event should have been held at a neutral venue as it opens up Perth to the possibility of unfair criticism and accusations of favouritism.
On the panel will be CEO of the FFA David Gallop, Head of Hyundai A-League Damien de Bohun, Chairman of Perth Glory, Coach of Perth Glory Alistair Edwards and CEO of Football West Peter Hugg. It has not been revealed who will chair the meeting.
According to the FFA press release on the agenda are the following topics the Qantas Socceroos, Westfield Matildas, National Premier Leagues, FFA Cup, grassroots football and the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League and National Youth League competitions.
Not The Footy Show can’t help but question the timing of this Forum. First of all the announcement a week ago by Football West that they will push ahead with the National Premier League despite most clubs having grave concerns over the structure and who is going to finance it. Maybe this meeting has been timed to coincide with this move and therefore expect a great deal of ‘spin’ to support this decision. One question that may be worth tabling is what would happen if no clubs in Western Australia submitted for the NPL? Which when one considers how little information has been given on this radical new league would be a sensible development, yet sadly clubs currently feel they are being pressured to sign up in order to survive. Some we have been advised even being encouraged to submit an application!
As well as coming to support the NPL, don’t be surprised if with David Gallop in town an announcement is not made on Football being granted money by the Government for a new home. Something that the game has been crying out for ever since all segments united and they moved out of the old Perry Lakes offices, something that cost the game greatly; as had we stayed like basketball and Rugby we may well have already had a new home.
Quite what the Head of the Hyundai A League will have to share with those who attend is questionable, apart from crowds being up and viewing on Fox being up. Maybe he can explain why the W-League side which no longer receives any funding from the A league side should still have to operate under the same name?
It could be an interesting evening if similar events in other states are anything to go by. It will also be interesting to see what the main topics of conversation prove to be. One can’t help feeling that the NPL and youth development will in fact take priority over some of those topics listed.
Another that probably needs to be raised is where will funding come from should the Socceroos fail to qualify for the World Cup next year?
If you want to air your views on the game and the direction it is heading make sure you attend this meeting. Football needs your voice.