The pool ripple that made waves

IT WOULD have been simpler for everyone if the Stilnox six had been made to write 100 lines – ”I must not be a naughty boy” – and told that they could not go to the pool again until they had handed it in, and that their parents would get a letter. It was that important, and that unimportant.
Nanjing Night Net

In Manchester for a training camp just before the Olympic Games, the relay team decided one night to ”bond”, as per ”tradition”. Repeated as often as they were yesterday – presumably on advice – these two words took on a sinister meaning, doubtlessly fuelling longstanding theories about the repressed homosexuality of sportsmen in teams.

In context, they amounted to no more than code for an episode of schoolboy high jinks. They went to dinner and a movie together. They did not drink alcohol. Five of them took one Stilnox tablet each, naughtily, knowing that it had recently been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Stilnox is not a half-brother to heroin, as implied by one ”j’accuse” after another in the media briefing. It is a prescription

sleeping medication, not on WADA’s outlaw list, but reflexively declared off limits by the AOC weeks before the Games because of Grant Hackett’s revelation he was addicted to it late in his career. One tablet is the prescribed adult dose. This was an Olympic athlete’s equivalent of a smoke behind the shelter shed.

Subsequently, the six made prank calls to teammates, knocked on doors, behaved ”childishly” and ”ridiculously”, each admitted in his turn, in a voice that made it sound as if he was owning up to child molestation. They were all in bed by 10.30pm.

This is to take them at their word, disputed by some teammates. But the six surely knew that however evasive they had been previously, however ”immature”, their every word this day would be tested, and if proved false would mean the end of their careers. As it is, there will be two inquiries, one by Swimming Australia’s integrity panel, one by the AOC. This has become a matter for the entire school board.

In the hazing from the floor on Friday, one question stood out: if the team had been even a little more successful, would this assembly have been called at all? Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold insisted it was one of many measures.

Plainly, as indicated by two reports this week, something went fundamentally awry with the Australian swimming team in England, something ”toxic”, something requiring root and branch surgery, but it would be too convenient to sheet it all home to one mazy night in Manchester more than a week before the Games. James Magnussen maintained the tomfoolery did not affect his performance. Others say they were affected. Who knows?

Friday’s briefing was as much a question as an answer. Perhaps the Stilnox six behaved like schoolboys because Olympic athletes tend to be treated like schoolkids, with privileges and protections, but also a requirement to work within rules, unquestioningly. Unsurprisingly, even among high-profile and highly paid sportspeople, a schoolkid culture develops, with its own code, for better and worse.

On Friday, they were naughty schoolboys, standing up at assembly, apologising in a pro forma way, taking their medicine, squirming. One reporter asked those who had admitted to Swimming Australia that they had taken Stilnox to put up their hands. Two did, sheepishly. The number was not so startling as the fact they so meekly complied.

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

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