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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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When sporting role models slip off the pedestal

Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey has been a journalist for more than 45 years and is the executive officer to the vicar general and the chancellor of the archdiocese of Sydney.
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Life’s extremes impact most strongly on younger people and some among their number work hard at testing both the ups and the downs that affect them.

The joys that come from special relationships are celebrated, while the breakdowns of these involvements can stir feelings that those good times will never return; achieving positive results in examinations can be treasured as the ultimate in seeking success, while poor marks may engender fears that the future holds
absolutely no promise.

This list could extend across a range of other issues, including sport – which is an area where some young people excel at testing the extremes.

Recent publicity, arguably far too much of it, was given to actions of a professional Rugby League player who demonstrated unfortunate antics while under the influence of alcohol during an Australia Day party in Sydney’s east.

Mitchell Pearce added further to the shortcomings of sports people who’ve been guilty of behaviour unbecoming.

Observers of other unsavoury incidents across the broader sporting community say the influence of alcohol or possibly other drugs usually sets the scene.

Yet sports people spend much more of their time at the other end of the health spectrum, well removed from such apparently mischief-stimulating ingredients when undertaking strict routines to ensure that their physical fitness is at peak levels.

Along with many questions posed by the Pearce incident and others arising from parties held by these people or by those seeking to know them, it’s worth questioning why youthful members of society want to test themselves with drugs but also often carefully work on their physical fitness.

It’s not unusual to find even children spending time studying lists of ingredients contained in food products to ensure that they meet satisfactory dietary
requirements and issues of body shape and attractiveness also are considered important, but can be put on hold when drugs take over.

While seeking excuse poor behaviour, elite sports stars may speak of what they consider to be a need to “wind down” after some of their very exhaustive training sessions.

But for other people the lure is simply a desire to test or to return to drugs in search of certain kicks from life, despite those substances sometimes contributing to an early end to human lives.

A Cancer Council and Health Department survey recently revealed that smoking rates among people aged 18 to 24 had decreased by more than 50 per cent over the past 20 years, which is a good result given the problems that result from smoking both for the individual and more generally across society through costly impacts on health budgets.

However, that study failed to examine the overall consumption of drugs among young people, who have been found by other reports to indulge too frequently in binge drinking or to seek much harder and mostly illegal drugs.

Evidence of this is found regularly in our cities, and has provoked outspoken comment from the Senior Australian of the Year Associate Professor Gordian Fulde, head of the Emergency Department at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital.

He was a force behind the introduction of NSW government licensing lockout laws which restricted sales of liquor and reduced consumption in the Kings Cross area after teenager Daniel Christie died just over two years ago following what was called a single “coward’s punch”.

Despite that loss and the maiming of many other lives, drugs of many types continue to affect our society, indicating another of those extremes: young minds can be considered the brightest and potentially the most ready to learn, yet they can so easily ignore very powerful messages.

Sports people like Mitchell Pearce carry the weight of being examples for others.

Too many of them fail in this area and perhaps his escape overseas for treatment, no doubt to try to elude the media, also may carry the wrong message – suggesting that such an escape may result from abusing young bodies.

As with many situations that affect our lives, Christian scripture provides welcome food for thought on addressing physical well-being: “Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God” (1 Corinthians 6: 19).

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