It has been the Australian way to give everyone a fair go.
Sport has driven that policy in this country for more than 150 years.
When athletes have entered a court, oval, pool or pitch we have been confident that, skills aside, they have been competing on a level playing field.
Not any more. The revelations from home and abroad over the past month have sports fans feeling cheated. Maybe even dirty because we have participated, even enjoyed, something that is wrong.
According to the Australian Crime Commission there is wide-spread use of banned drugs in our local codes. Some champions have unhealthy links to gangsters. A few others are alleged to have fixed outcomes of events.
The big losers from these findings are the fans.
Sure, we had our suspicions that some things weren’t right. Several athletes have already been caught with their hands on a syringe full of illegal substances. There are others who have paid a penalty for betting on their results.
But the crime commission report, the scandal engulfing Essendon and the AFL, concerns over the NRL’s integrity, fears from Europe that Australian sportsmen are being groomed for match fixing and the spectre that Lance Armstrong, who recently rode before joyous supporters in Adelaide, was the biggest villain in athletic history have those that part with their hard-earned cash wondering about what they are really watching.
Those at the Sydney Olympics could only marvel at Marion Jones. Her feats were remarkable and left those lucky enough to witness her five-medal winning performances with such exaltation.
The problem was that it was Jones that was on the high. What should have been indelible memories of human achievement will now be remembered as a freak show by a junkie dosed up on drugs.
Now those same feelings can be applied to certain events involving our own achievers. No longer can Australia take the high moral ground and declare the lack of integrity in sport as an overseas problem. There must be a lot of Chinese athletes wearing wry smiles today.
As the crime commission report stated, “the concept of fair play is a key foundation for amateur and professional sport in Australia”.
What we now understand is that in certain cases the local sports fan hasn’t been treated fairly.
And that is why we have all been cheated.
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