Should We Really Be So Surprised About Cocaine Use In The NRL?

In the wake of charges being levelled against current and former squad members of the Gold Coast Titans, and Queensland Red Karmichael Hunt, the media has thrown around words such as “shocking” and “uncharacteristic” and likened it to the ASADA revelations of 2013, but is this accurate? Is it really that absurd that professional sportsmen are using cocaine?

Looking at the situation, they are young men, with lots of money. There is no way they want to sit at home and not enjoy the fruits of their sporting abilities. When you drink alcohol, it is very easy to put on weight. For professional sportsmen, every kilogram is analysed and tested. So if you don’t want to fail your skin fold test, alcohol cannot be a viable option to enjoy consistently on nights out. In a recent Daily Telegraph article, Robert Craddock told the story of a senior Brisbane coach who said to an evening gathering, “If you were a player why wouldn’t you take them [drugs]? Unlike beer, you don’t put on weight and fail a pinch test. They are not that expensive. They get out of your system quickly. You don’t get a hangover. You don’t get photographed at a venue with a beer in your hand.”

Looking at two of the best players in the AFL and NRL in recent times, Ben Cousins and Andrew Johns, this is a convincing argument. Both have admitted to heavy and consistent drug use during their careers (Andrew Johns for his 12 year career, never failing one of his 17 NRL drugs tests), and have also been at the top of their profession. Even in the wake of these startling admissions, neither code has really done too much to tackle the scourge of recreational drug use. The  AFL has a 3 strikes policy, but to get your third strike you must be dumb enough to rack a line of coke and then walk into the testing room. People just aren’t caught. Where are the anti-drug campaigns from any code? Only then would it have been shocking to see the front pages as we saw when the Police issued charges.

I am not condoning the use of recreational drugs by professional sportsmen; all I am saying is that we should not be so surprised by their use. What I don’t understand is why these players, some with young families as is the case of Karmichael Hunt, jeopardise their careers for a little bit of fun? Retire and go do as you please (G’day Mr. and Mrs. Geoff Huegill). But think of your position as a role model and responsibility to your employer and put in a few hard years to reap the rewards. Then go put whatever you want up your nose – it’s your business. Just remember that while you’re wearing the jersey, there are 100 youngsters wearing the exact same jersey with the exact same name on the back.