Coach Toni Minichiello

If you could take drugs to help you win, would you?

“There’s one thing talking tough about drugs. It’s another thing all together acting tough on drugs”.

Toni is in the media again for holding to his views that the world’s approach to drug testing in sport needs to change. Radically.

It may not be the last time we talk about the drugs issue but Toni is placing his cards firmly on the table. He is getting tired of being, if not a lone, then a lonely voice on the topic. Here’s his stance; Test all sports people every month, in and out of competition,

“Test all sports people every month, in and out of competition…”

“We’re talking athletes from all sports; cycling, football, American football, tennis, basketball, athletics, darts…. OK, maybe not darts but you get the point”.

“Isn’t it inevitable though? All that money and fame. Maybe it’s not about sportspeople. Maybe it’s just people”.

“Then you change the system. And believe me the system needs changing. Too many of the people complaining are those who have the power to make the changes that are required”.

“Isn’t cost always raised as a challenge?”

I worry at this comment that I might have accidentally pressed the nuclear launch button,

“Money? Money? That’s a joke. It’s rubbish. If the authorities were serious about cleaning things up then they’d find the money. Top slice sponsorship deals, take a small percentage from prize funds, add a few pence to tickets. Money is not the issue. Lack of courage is the issue”.

I’m following the reasoning, “And if everyone; the public, sponsors, other athletes are confident that sports are clean then it’s going to be easier to promote the sport and the athletes?”

“Exactly. And guess what happens. You make more money. First you make it almost impossible to cheat and if someone is found cheating then no second chances”.

I’m shifting along to the end of a very thin branch, “Isn’t that a bit harsh?”

“Just because you’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Lance Armstrong?”

lance-armstrong

It’s true. I do. Sort of. Toni, continues,

“ My position is that if you say ‘I’m doing it because everyone else is doing it’, is a very lame reason. I have no sympathy for him. Also people will have known and turned a blind eye or protected him. Both of which are as bad as each other. But they too should carry the burden of punishment. Turning a blind eye is not an act of doing nothing it’s a specific act and choice. Therefore you did do something”.

“Here’s the bottom line. People that supply or take drugs are not just cheats, they’re thieves. They steal medals from clean competitors, they steal money from sponsors and they steal the dreams of kids and fans everywhere. Kids that believe in heroes, kids that are looking for role models”.

Role Models

Toni is now on a roll,

“Here’s the bottom line. People that supply or take drugs are not just cheats, they’re thieves. They steal medals from clean competitors, they steal money from sponsors and they steal the dreams of kids and fans everywhere. Kids that believe in heroes, kids that are looking for role models”.

“So do you think despite all the pressures for a modern sports star to win, apparently at any cost, that they should be a role model?”

“Not ‘should be’. They are role models, whether they like it or not. And no, winning should not be at all costs”.

“What does that mean though? Role model?”

” Role models must succeed and behave within the rules of sport and laws of the land. That’s what we demand of role models. And you get paid in money and adulation in return”.

‘So why do so many get it wrong?”

“You’d have to ask them. Pressure to win? Money? Stupidity? Bad coaching”.

“So it’s a coaching issue too?”

“I have a duty of care to all my athletes beyond helping them perform to their full potential”.

“Of course it is. I have a duty of care to all my athletes beyond helping them perform to their full potential. By definition most athletes are kids. They themselves need support and direction. Pulling into line if necessary”.

“So they need a role model too? You?”

The smile returns,

“God forbid”.