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Legal highs and sports celebrities
22 Feb 2013
Misbehaviour by sports celebrities, including legal and illegal drug taking, is part of a wider issue which links the many and frequent media stories about sport recently, says a Charles Sturt University (CSU) expert on sport media and law.
Professor Steve Redhead, adjunct professor of sport and media at the CSU School of Human Movement Studies in Bathurst, said, “The latest sports scandal to hit the airwaves is the revelation about the behaviour of some members of the Australian men’s swimming team at the 2012 London Olympics.
“A report has revealed a series of problems, including the misuse of prescription drugs by team members and inappropriate ‘laddish’ behaviour which have been linked to the poor performance of the swimming team compared with past Australian dominance in the pool.”
According to reports in the media, one of the aspects of team bonding gone wrong in a Manchester hotel just prior to the 2012 Olympics was the ‘legal highs’ indulged in by the members of the Australian male 4 x 100 metre swimming event. The allegations are that a potent mix of ‘pills to slow you down’ combined with energy drinks amounted to a lethal cocktail. All that the swimmers have so far admitted to is sharing the prescribed tablets (brand name Stilnox) which had been legally given to two of their number before the Australian Olympic Committee introduced a pre-Olympic Games ban. They have admitted doing so knowing the ban was in operation.
“These indulgences are frequently not accidental,” Professor Redhead said. “The effects of the various legal substances mixed together to produce dynamic effects more akin to those of illicit drugs are part of widespread knowledge and experience within the generational subculture.
“Legal highs are an integral part of international youth culture today, not just in Australia, and mark out a new terrain for the debates over regulation of drugs in sport and popular culture. Unlike what went on in the lives of previous generations, the practices are legal and do not involve contacting dealers and the drug underworld to get high.
“However, these legal mixes can be banned by governing bodies - something Australian swimming had already acted on before the Olympics - so team members could face disciplinary action for their hedonistic activities.
“In many ways we have compressed the career of sports stars, such that there is in evidence a hyper-desperation to make one’s mark in the limelight through individual or team-based sporting prowess as quickly as possible, often with a view to subsequent commercial gain; as swimming role models like Ian Thorpe have demonstrated, this can be extremely lucrative. But as the old adage goes, ‘be careful what you wish for’.
Media Note: Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Professor Steve Redhead or phone him directly on 0408 421 259.
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