Monthly Archives: September 2018

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Drug ban won’t work

SPORTS medicine pioneer and former Dragons club doctor Tony Millar warned federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy that codes such as the NRL and AFL will never be drug free.
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Millar, who was the St George doctor during the last eight of their record 11 consecutive premierships and founded the country’s first sports medicine clinic in Lewisham, has written to Lundy over the Australian Crime Commission report into doping and match-fixing.

He told Lundy there had always been rumours of drug-taking and he had witnessed players being handed tablets containing a ”useless substance” but he was not aware of any systematic doping program in the game.

Millar said ”innuendo” created by the ACC report had effected innocent players and he also questioned how anti-doping authorities determined which substances were on the banned list. ”Testing, banning and punishing have never solved any problem and will not settle this one,” said Millar, comparing attempts to ban drugs with the prohibition of alcohol in the US in the 1930s. ”There is evidence that cheating goes on in the highest levels in sport. [But] the whole emphasis in the banning program is on the sportsperson and there is no penalty on the coaches and club officials.

”My interest and concern is that the athlete will be forced on the blackmarket with the potential of permanent harm that can be caused by impurities, as happened in the prohibition era with alcohol.”

Millar, who admitted administering ”low-level performers” with steroids as a ”harm reduction” initiative rather than them buying drugs illegally, said a similar approach would ”protect the athletes and reduce the overall usage”.

”There is no evidence testing will eradicate this problem in top-level sport,” he said. ”The Police Minister admitted that only a few are caught and this costs us billions.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Pool’s blame and shame laid bare

Sorry sight … Cameron McEvoy, James Magnussen and Eamon Sullivan deliver their mea culpa on Friday.It is day one of the Games of the XXX Olympiad and in the poolside massage room, in the wash-up of the heats of the women’s 4×100 metre relay, golden girl Libby Trickett is screaming abuse. She has not been picked to swim in that night’s final and lets fly at the Australian swimming squad coaches in an expletive-laden tirade, according to an athlete in the room.
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The relay team of Cate Campbell, Alicia Coutts, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger goes on to win what will be the nation’s only gold medal in the pool at the London Olympics. But even that shining moment has been dulled by the turgid tales swamping Australian swimming: late-night benders on banned prescription drugs, a ”toxic” culture of bullying and intimidation, half-naked male swimmers allegedly trying to force their way into the beds of women team members and open hostility in the squad.

”There’s a really deep belief that ‘my loss is your gain’ and vice versa,” a member of the Australian team told Fairfax Media.

He compared Australia’s swimming stocks to crabs in a bucket.

”If one crab tries to get out the other crabs will try to pull them back. If they worked as a team they could get out of the tin, but the reality is different.”

The public shaming of the men’s 4×100 metre relay team on Friday was a clue to how deep the bucket drops. But for sheer symbolism it is hard to top the image of four-time gold medallist Trickett, who did not respond to calls, spitting obscenities at then women’s relay coach Shannon Rollason.

Trickett has previously acknowledged a ”conversation” with Rollason, while reports have intimated ”it was somewhat more than a conversation”.

For decades Australian swimming has basked in a golden glow.

Now it’s drowning, not waving.

”Swimming was like the short-back-and-sides, clean, healthy young person sport with a squeaky clean image,” said triple gold-medallist Shane Gould. ”It has certainly been tarnished.”

Revelations of the recreational use of prescription sedative Stilnox, banned by the Australian Olympic Committee before the Games, have particularly scoured the shine from our swimmers. ”There wasn’t enough control over the use of Stilnox, so the swimmers were abusing it, sometimes mixing it with alcohol,” Gould said.

”I think what’s happened is the athletes are no longer teenagers, as in my era, they are adults and doing adult things, so they have more challenges with drugs and relationships. I think that’s why we’re seeing not just a squeaky clean kid, because they’re no longer kids.”

On Friday, Swimming Australia sought to stop the rot by parading the disgraced men’s relay team before the press.

The public mea culpa came the same day as allegations by swimmer Jade Neilsen. She says that James Magnussen, James Roberts and Cameron McEvoy came to her room late one night at the team staging camp in Manchester and acted ”inappropriately”.

But no one’s climbing out of the crab bucket unscathed.

Australian swimming has been in gradual decline in world status since 2004. Two reviews into the team’s relatively poor performance in London this week exposed the depth of problems facing the sport, which has consistently underpinned Australia’s Olympic success.

That they followed allegations by the Australian Crime Commission of widespread use across sporting codes of performance-enhancing drugs and of links to organised crime, prompting the BBC to ask whether Australian sport was badly broken.

”On the field and off, Australian sport is arguably at its lowest ebb since the Montreal Olympics in 1976,” said the British broadcaster.

Feeding such schadenfreude were the findings of a review commissioned by Swimming Australia that our Olympic swimmers were embroiled within a ”toxic” team culture marred by bullying, misuse of prescription drugs and alcohol, breach of curfews and deceit.

Incidents of ”intimidation” were not addressed and a leadership vacuum left swimmers feeling ”undefended, alone, alienated”.

They spoke of an ”increasingly desperate” focus on winning gold. One swimmer described this as ”like looking at the sun – something you had to turn away from after a while”.

Review author Pippa Grange said: ”The team dynamic became like a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence.”

A separate report, commissioned by Swimming Australia and the Australian Sports Commission, traced such problems to the top, depicting a bloated administration that was out of touch with athletes.

A lack of leadership from coaches and team management had encouraged a ”culture of individualism” among swimmers, fed by a failure to penalise poor behaviour.

Some swimmers celebrated the under-performance of teammates.

Others were satisfied simply with selection in the team rather than trying to improve their performance on the Olympic stage.

An attitude of ”what’s in it for me?” prevailed.

”Every part of the team – athletes, coaches, management – must accept responsibility for the decline in behaviour and team culture,” said the review panel, led by former Australian Sports Commission chairman Warwick Smith.

One current Australian Olympic swimmer, who declined to be named, said findings such as these were long overdue.

Relations between the men’s and women’s squads are thought to be dire, with accusations some are feeding negative news stories to the media to discredit their peers.

”It is pretty divisive. There’s no common goal that everyone believes in. There’s the ‘we’re going to be the best team in the world’ hoorah statement. But it’s not really that strong.”

There is a sense that such problems would have remained unchecked by Swimming Australia if the team had enjoyed greater success in London.

”These reports wouldn’t have happened if our performance was good. I think they would rather the average punter open the newspaper and see a gold medallist than a happy loser.”

Swimming Australia’s problems go well beyond athlete misbehaviour. The independent review by Smith highlighted fundamental structural flaws, such as the lack of a national talent identification strategy and proper induction process. Coaching accreditation problems perpetuated ”a culture of athletes being ‘meal tickets”’.

The review suggested benchmarks for team selection were too low and that team trials were staged too far out from the Games.

Head coach Leigh Nugent, who this week admitted he failed to act on reports of misbehaviour by the men’s relay team, was spread too thinly and offered ”minimal oversight”, the review found.

The former swimming head coach Don Talbot said his successor had to bear much of the blame for the Olympic squad’s failings.

”Leigh Nugent is a friend of mine and he is a very good coach. Swimmers have always been outspoken and some of them have misbehaved, but if something is not going right the head coach has got to do something about it,” he said.

Current Australian athletes had failed to adapt their attitude and expectations to the increasingly competitive swimming world, he added. ”Australians are a bit like ‘I have made the team and just have to appear and everyone will lay down before us’, and they get a hell of a shock when that doesn’t happen.

”From what I can see, a loss of momentum happened.”

Former gold medallist Kieren Perkins, who was on the panel for the Warwick Smith review, blamed behavioural issues on the lack of accountable leadership within the sport. ”When you have an organisation that doesn’t have a clear direction or understanding of what everyone is trying to deliver, like any business, it becomes a complete rabble,” he said.

The high-performance focus on individual athletes had prompted problems within the team, he said. ”I believe when you get to an elite level in sport a very significant part of your responsibility is to lead, mentor and help develop those coming up through the ranks. But when you isolate out elite athletes they lose a sense of reality … they don’t have clear moral guideposts.”

He stressed that Swimming Australia had already taken steps to rectify its structure, including the appointment of president Barclay Nettlefold and the departure of chief executive Kevin Neil.

Neil, who resigned in November, declined to comment on the reviews in detail.

”To me, what it says basically is the team got beat by better swimmers – I don’t know what else to read into it.”

Australian swimming has been the victim of its own success, to some degree.

The sport has provided 59 of Australia’s 142 Olympic gold medals and enjoyed notable success since the 2000 Sydney Games. But past performance is not a determinant of future success, the Warwick Smith review notes.

A troubling sign for the sport is the increasing reliance on government grants amid a slide in sponsorship dollars by $2.5 million since 2007-08, to $1.9 million.

”We have been spoiled by success in swimming,” said Richard Cashman, director of the Australian centre for Olympic studies at the University of Technology Sydney.

But positioning Australian sport at its ”lowest ebb” was melodramatic, he said.

”I think the sport’s reputation has been dented but at the next Games Magnussen will be much more mature and we’ll get a couple of gold medals and forget about it all …

There is obviously some need for reform but I think with some tinkering rather than ostracising swimmers and kicking out the coach maybe we will improve, reform and regenerate the program.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

GALLERY: Jets draw with Brisbane Roar

WET WORK: Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich battles away in pouring rain at Hunter Stadium last night. Picture: Simone De Peak AT ARM’S LENGTH: Jets defenders Dominik Ritter and Taylor Regan keep Stefan Nijland in check at Hunter Stadium last night. Picture: Getty Images
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ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Getty Images

Missed the game live blog with David Lowe? Revisit the action here

THE Jets took another tentative step on the tightrope walk to the A-League finals with a nil-all draw against two-time champions Brisbane at Hunter Stadium on Fridaynight, but only after benefiting from a controversial no-goal ruling in their favour.

The Roar appeared to have drawn first blood in the 43rd minute when Socceroos defender Jade North, who famously skippered the Jets to their 2008 grand final triumph, stabbed the ball into the back of the net, only to be ruled offside.

Replays suggested the decision was line-ball, and Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey was left to rue a call that could prove extremely costly in the race for the play-offs.

‘‘Look, I haven’t seen it, but Corey Brown, we brought him as our 16th player, he was upstairs and he said it was definitely a goal,’’ Mulvey said.

‘‘So that’s disappointing. But that’s football and these things happen. We’re not going to dwell on it. We need to dwell on the positives.’’

Like Mulvey, Jets coach Gary van Egmond said he did not have a clear view of the incident.

‘‘I didn’t even see the replay, so I can’t comment on that, but I’m sure we’ve had a couple like that as well,’’ van Egmond said.

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ROUND 22: Action from the Jets v Brisbane Roar game at Hunter Stadium on Friday night. Picture: Simone De Peak

Newcastle entered the round-22 fixture sixth on 26 points, one point behind fifth-placed Sydney and two ahead of both Brisbane and Melbourne Heart.

A win would have given the home side a five-point buffer on seventh position, at least temporarily, and allowed them to breathe a little more easily.

Instead they moved level with Sydney, who remain fifth on goal difference, and both Brisbane and Heart remain in striking distance.

If the Heart beat Sydney at AAMI Park tomorrow, Newcastle will be left clinging to sixth place on goal difference.

Van Egmond admitted he had mixed emotions about the result.

He was satisfied with his team’s resolve in defence but would have preferred a win on home turf.

‘‘Look, we’re at home, if you get maximum points, you’re five points away from them and it really puts you in a good position for the run into the finals,’’ he said.

‘‘But I think we can take quite a bit out of that, with the performance and the opportunities we created.’’

The Jets face a battle of nerves in their five remaining games, the next three of which are in the space of nine days.

On Wednesday they face hoodoo team Wellington Phoenix in the New Zealand capital, followed by Melbourne Victory (away) on Sunday, Perth (home) on March8, Adelaide (away) on March15 and Western Sydney (home) on March29.

Last night was the fifth time Newcastle have kept a clean sheet this season and their second in as many games, after last week’s 2-0 win against the Heart.

But they were lucky to survive with their goal intact after a nerve-racking first half played in often torrential rain.

Striker Besart Berisha, in particular, was menacing and Newcastle keeper Mark Birighitti produced a string of brave saves to keep him at bay.

At the other end of the pitch, Newcastle’s only real chance came in the sixth minute when defender Josh Brillante produced a pinpoint cross for marquee striker Emile Heskey, whose diving shot hit the right-hand post.

Jets skipper Ruben Zadkovich prompted a diving save from Brisbane’s Michael Theo in the 52nd minute with a fierce left-foot shot.

The slippery conditions resulted in a string of dubious challenges, and referee Lucien Lavedure was regularly reaching for his pocket, handing out seven yellow cards.

Given the weather, the 8310 spectators who attended the match deserved credit for their dedication and resilience.

Van Egmond fielded an unchanged starting line-up, although he tinkered with his bench, adding youngster Andrew Hoole at the expense of Craig Goodwin.

AAP reports: Singapore police said the suspected boss of a major football match-fixing ring was ‘‘assisting’’ investigations after the head of Interpol urged his arrest and an alleged associate was held in Italy.

Tan Seet Eng, also known as Dan Tan, who has been named in several probes and is wanted in Italy, is ‘‘assisting Singapore authorities in their investigations’’, police said.

It is the first time police have indicated Tan has undergone questioning.

Singapore has come under growing pressure to act after Europol linked hundreds of suspicious games worldwide to a criminal syndicate in the city-state.

TAFE art students stay the course

HUNTER TAFE visual arts student Kelsey Fletcher could have decided to transfer to university when told of a tenfold increase in the cost of her TAFE diploma.
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‘‘But a few of my friends and I decided to stay at TAFE,’’ she said.

‘‘Having the support system I have here I wouldn’t think of doing it any other way – I want to stick it out.’’

The state government announced in September last year its decision to cut subsidies for visual art, sculpture and ceramic TAFE courses, citing low job prospects and poor course completion rates.

The price of one-year visual arts and advanced visual arts diplomas increased from $1300 to $12,500.

By comparison, the Australian student contribution for a three-year University of Newcastle fine arts degree is $5868 a year, or a total of $17,600.

Ms Fletcher, 19, decided to re-enrol at Hunter TAFE’s 120-year-old Newcastle Art School and took advantage of the new VET FEE-HELP scheme, that allows students to defer repayment until they earn more than $49,000 a year.

Hunter TAFE Teachers Federation Union representative and head teacher of fine arts Matthew Tome said the scheme had been the institution’s ‘‘saving grace’’.

He conceded enrolments had dropped, with the school losing about half the size of its cohort from last year, mostly from ‘‘around the edges’’.

Mr Tome said there were about 90 students in what was a two-year diploma last year.

A new one-year diploma introduced this year has 30 full-time students and 18 studying part-time.

The advanced diploma had 32 students last year and has 30 enrolled this year.

‘‘Things are generally better than we thought they would be and the sense of things is quite positive,’’ he said.

‘‘The students who have stayed feel it’s worth it.

‘‘They see value in the art school, they know they’re going to get great training in art …’’

Ms Fletcher said the most noticeable difference was in the departure of staff or reduction in their working hours.

‘‘The one-on-one we had with them in the classroom was always what we were drawn to rather than uni,’’ she said.

Ms Fletcher will complete her advanced diploma this year and one year of university next year before graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

WORTH IT: Hunter TAFE students Kelsey Fletcher, left, and Ashlee Bucholtz with their artworks. Picture: Simone De Peak

Royle shot at sprint crown

WORLD champion under-23 triathlete Aaron Royle plans to use the Oceania Sprint Championships in Devonport today as the launchpad for a breakout 2013 campaign.
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In his first serious event of the year, Royle will compete over a half-triathlon circuit comprising a 750-metre swim, 20-kilometre ride and 5km run. He won the corresponding competition last year in Kinloch, New Zealand, in 58 minutes, 24 seconds.

ALL SET: Triathlete Aaron Royle says he is ready to improve on last year.

Although he admits tendonitis in his foot disrupted his pre-season, the 23-year-old from Maryland believes he is ready to improve on his success of last year.

‘‘Comparing where I’m at to this time last year, I’m probably not quite as fit as I was then because I wasn’t able to run for a few weeks, but my training times have been right up there and even a bit better,’’ Royle told the Newcastle Herald .

‘‘So that’s pretty encouraging because I should be able to improve on those times once I run into peak fitness. Hopefully as the year goes on I’m racing at a whole new level.’’

Royle said the Oceania Sprint Championships, plus the full-course equivalent in Wellington, New Zealand, next month, would be the ideal lead-in to the eight-race International Triathlon Union world series, which starts in April.

He finished 46th in the ITU circuit last year against the world’s best triathletes but believes he has plenty of scope for improvement.

‘‘I was a bit too inconsistent,’’ he said. ‘‘I had some good results and some that were a bit disappointing.

‘‘This year I’ll be aiming to consistently finish in the top 15 and hopefully get a few top-10 results as well.

‘‘I’ve raced against the elite guys a fair bit now and I’m confident I can start to challenge them regularly.’’

Royle’s highlight last year was in the final event in the series, held in Auckland, when he opted not to enter the open-age category and instead contested the ITU under-23 world title race, which he won by beating Spaniard Fernando Alarza and Great Britain’s Thomas Bishop in a sprint finish.

After taking a month off at the end of last season, Royle has been training since late November.

Much of that time has been spent with the NSW Institute of Sport team in Falls Creek, where they are able to train at altitude.

‘‘Most of the training has been longer-distance, endurance work, so it’s going to be a bit of a change doing a sprint event on the weekend.’’

Royle will be joined in today’s field by fellow Maitland Triathlon club product and long-time training partner Brendan Sexton, who finished 35th at the London Olympics.

Sexton will be hoping to start the new year positively after finishing what he termed a ‘‘long, challenging and overly disappointing [2012] season’’ in 63rd place on the ITU rankings.