OPINION: The extraordinary attack and condemnation of all Australian sports and sportspersons by the Australian Crime Commission this week was totally unnecessary.
It has left many wondering why they delivered this message with such ferocity and what motivated them to do so in such a manner.
By not identifying codes, organisations or giving us any reference at all as to how many people they are talking about, the ACC has effectively placed suspicion on all Australian athletes past and present.
Now, right off the top, let's get a few things absolutely clear. No one wants illegal drugs in sport. No one condones or wants illegal methods being used on athletes which could ultimately harm their long-term well-being. No one wants criminal elements influencing athletes or the results of sporting contests.
Now let me define the term ''no one''. ''No one'' refers to the 99.9 per cent of all people who participate in and/or who support the sports.
Whether your involvement in sport be for competition, employment, health and lifestyle, to be part of a team, to partner your friends, to test yourself against others or the elements, or simply for enjoyment, the vast majority of us desire fair play, equal chance and the keen, spirited contest. There is good and good intention in all people.
It is also a fact that we all know there are cheats in sport. Wherever winning is important or there is profit to be made, there will be cheats. There are cheats in any game or sport. People also cheat at cards, Monopoly, on their tax returns and even on each other.
Surprise, surprise, our world is not perfect! You know it, I know it, the world knows it; and if you for some reason didn't know it now - then I'm sorry for spoiling your delusion - but you probably would have found out later anyway.
Quite obviously the ACC has concerns about certain people or certain elements of Australian sport. We all do. We know they are there. They are not always visible and we can't always identify them, but we know they exist and we do our best to limit their involvement or influence. These people are undesirable; we don't want them, and our sports don't need them.
On occasion people will do the wrong thing simply through stupidity or naivety, inadvertently or because they were weak and easily led. These people we try to educate and rehabilitate. If they make the same mistakes again, well, then it's not a mistake, it's a choice and we remove them.
Like all parents we also educate our kids about recreational drugs and the undesirable characters they will meet through life's journey. Ultimately though, our kids get to an age where they make their own choices. We hope we have armed them with the knowledge and skills to make the right choices, but ... Basically we do the best that we can.
So the ACC obviously has its concerns. If it does, we expect it to act. After all, that's why this body is there. I just can't understand why the ACC felt the need to come storming into the bar like some sheriff's posse, with six guns blazing, shooting up the room making such a huge noise, telling everyone they are now under house arrest, when in actual fact all they really wanted to do was talk to the two shady-looking characters sitting over in the corner. It defies belief.
The ACC obviously has its concerns. It wouldn't act like this if it didn't have evidence. But was this the way to deliver its message? Right now, across the entire planet, this story is leading the news bulletins. That's the rest of the world, who previously identified Australians as the people from the lucky country; the sun-loving, always smiling, bronzed athletes who grit their teeth when the going gets tough, compete with all their hearts and never give up until the race was run; my God, the world now see us as cheats.
Any Australian athlete, abled or disabled, who has ever won anything, or who is likely to win anything during the next decade, is now a cheat. This simply isn't the case and it's a disgrace that this irresponsible announcement has now perpetrated this injustice on the many, many great Australians who have succeeded through their talent and hard work. I feel sick that our country has been tarnished in this reckless manner.
If the ACC has evidence of illegal wrongdoing, then tell the police and have the offenders face the courts.
From a personal point of view, my love, if you can assist the sport of rugby league and remove these undesirable elements and influences from our game, then tell us what you know and we will assist. Closer to home, if you can identify problems past or present in my club at the Panthers, let us know and we will help you deal with it.
We all welcome the information and any investigation you feel necessary. But did you really have to irreparably damage every sport and every sportsperson in our country to make your point?
Even if the ACC have suspicions or findings that prove to be correct, I would be absolutely gobsmacked if the result extends beyond a minute percentage of the total people who participate in these sports.
There will always be small pockets of illegality. We know that. We didn't need the grandstanding announcements to alert us to their existence.
I have been in professional rugby league for 37 years. I use the term ''professional'' lightly to describe the first 20 years, however, since coaches, staff and athletes have been given the opportunity to pursue their careers on a full-time basis, the improvements in all aspects of our game have improved immeasurably.
I would say that at this point in time, our code of rugby league is the cleanest and most responsible it has been in the entire history of the game. It will never be perfect. Never. Put that fact down to the frailty of human nature.
However, from an overall perspective, our game has never been more vigilant, more educated, more determined.
We didn't deserve this broad-brush condemnation.
I sincerely hope it is eventually proven that if there is an undesirable element to our game, it is limited to just a small percentage.
I'm sure all sports in Australia feel the same. I feel for all you great sportspeople who have made this country famous and proud through your courage and achievements.
I believe the ACC owes you people, and the whole country, an explanation as to why it chose to make this announcement in such a manner.
- Sydney Morning Herald