Athlete: Desire to win, they'll use any means

Last updated 08:44 08/02/2013

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I was a professional footballer for more than a decade and I can tell you there are ways and means of getting around drug testing and manipulating the rules.

When I was injured, I would get ''needled up'' so I could get on the field and keep playing, meaning I got a local [anaesthetic] or painkillers injected in the joints, fingers or ribs.

Nowadays, in some codes that's a no-no. If a player has an injury, they're not allowed to needle them to get them on the field.

That would be easy to get around, though. If a player who has had a needle was tapped on the shoulder for random drug testing at the end of a game, he could easily evade detection.

He could claim to have a nick on his head that he needs to get stitched up before peeing in the bottle. A medico could put a few stitches in and give the player another needle in that spot. Then when the reading came up that there was something in his system, it would look as though it had been administered after the game.

I never did that but it's been done many times overseas and I'm sure it's happened here. People have a desire to win and they'll use any means to get there. It comes down to big business.

Most of the time if a player has used a banned substance, it's going to be about recovery. From injuries and in the course of a season, between hard training sessions or heavy games, anything that will help you recover quicker gives you the edge over the other blokes.

I came close once. I  had a long-term injury that never got better. I'd done all my rehab and physio and there was no resolution.

I remember talking to the doc and saying, ''I just want to get better. Is there a shortcut?'', meaning what kind of steroid or something could I take to make this go away.

Luckily, the doctor said I should give it more thought and I never went down that path but it came down to a moral choice.

At the time I was playing, a lot of prescription medications were on the banned list but later came off the list. Things like pseudoephedrine and even caffeine.

As soon as they were OK, it was a free-for-all because they gave you an edge before a game. I absolutely used them. It was as simple as having a bad night's sleep. You got yourself up for a game in whatever way possible.  
Quite a few guys got caught while they were banned but you're taking something the doctor or the coach gives you and you know you should have looked it up first but you hadn't.

That's where it gets blurry. As a player all you want to do is play - if you don't play you don't get paid - and so you get guided and directed by those who can influence you, whether it be the coach, physio or doctor. If those guys are swayed in any way, you can get persuaded to help yourself along the way.

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That's the most difficult part as a sportsperson, making your own decisions and standing up for yourself. Because if you see teammates on the bandwagon, you are under pressure to toe the line.

I don't want to cast aspersions on every single player - 99 per cent of the players just work bloody hard.
To say that everybody is involved is an overstatement but there are blokes who might read the report  and be offended by what's been said because they know they've got there by their own means and talent.
But the extent of the behaviour that's alleged in the report is shocking.

The sad part about it is that we thought we were all above it in Australia but now it looks like we're in the thick of it as well. 

As told to the SMH

- Sydney Morning Herald

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