What do I tell my kids about drugs in sport?

It’s been called the blackest day in Australian sporting history. Some have even called it the blackest day in Australia’s history.

A report from the Australian Crime Commission found illegal substances were being supplied to Australian sportsmen by organised crime figures who have made themselves part of every level of Australian sport.

Players have been fed quick metabolising drugs, matches have been fixed, doctors are writing false scripts and athletes are supplying illicit drugs. Organised crime has clearly shown a firm foothold in sport.

When my husband and I were discussing the news yesterday evening my son was all ears. He’s very keen on all sport talk and he’s well aware that his mother is seldom included in any conversation on the subject. It’s just not my thing – happy to take my child to swimming, tae kwondo, soccer coaching and even watch his matches – but any one over 12 playing sport is just not my thing.

But my son is passionate about sport. In fact we have had many the conversation about drawing the balance between school and sport – I firmly believe that while he is good at the sports he’s chosen, he’s not going to make a career of it. Very few kids are. It’s great to be involved in a sport but it’s even better to get the most you can out of your education so that you can choose a career in your later life that doesn’t end at 30 for the vast majority.

We’ve spoken about the time and commitment that being “best” in your sport involves. 10 000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers who says that  we need 10 000 hours of practice to really excel at anything – be it soccer, hula hopping or computer programming . What we have never discussed before is drugs and how some people use substances to enhance their performance.

But now, thanks to the Australian Crime Commission report, that’s a discussion we need to have. I have to tell my child that it’s not skill or expertise, commitment or dedication that have got some of the sports people he looks up to, to where they are. Granted they had to have skill to get to the level where players are being fed growth hormones and peptides but we no longer see what they are capable of, instead we see what drugs can do and the difference they can make.

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It’s a sad day for Australian sport indeed, it’s even sadder to have to tell our children that the people they look up to are just the kind of people we warn them against.

How are YOU talking to your kids about drugs in sport?

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