Shane Shackleton, former Roosters, Eels and Panthers first-grader, weighs the dubious benefits of drug use at the top level.
If I, an elite athlete, could break the law by taking drugs but not get caught, would I?
If I were told that I could easily get bigger, stronger, faster, fitter with less risk of injury, look younger, feel a million dollars and become the footballer I always dreamed of, all by taking some “substances”… would I?
Personally, no. But after 10-plus years of training my arse off to reach the level I have, through sessions where the words “gruelling” and “intense” would be a gross understatement, I can easily see how drug abuse could be enticing.
When I first heard about the latest allegations that drugs have been used by the most respected, highest profile and highest paid players in the NRL my first reaction was “where was I when the memo was handed out?” My second reaction was to ask, “Could I look at myself in the mirror knowing I was a cheat?” And the answer to that is no.
I, like every NRL player, have always searched for the new training method or superfood or supplement that could possibly give me the edge and keep me ahead of the pack. If I worked hard and stuck at it I usually had good results.
But now, to think that while I was working my butt off in search of that edge others were simply injecting some peptide or hormone to get all the things I was sweating and bleeding for … that hurts.
I have no doubt illegal performance enhancement has been around in some form since the beginning in sport. But I’d always been taught that if you want something badly enough then you must work harder than your competitor to get it, and until now I believed that attitude drove every one of my peers within the game.
We all busted our arses and when we finally made it and all of our hard work had paid off, the euphoria we experienced could be paralleled by nothing else. In essence, that’s why we played and loved rugby league.
So when I think about the allegations and the thought that even some of my own teammates may have been using drugs right under my nose, do I feel cheated?
Well I can confidently say that the so-called “cheaters”, even those who may have received the highest of accolades, could never have felt as good about their achievements – knowing in the back of their minds that they cheated to get there – as I did in mine.
So, do I feel cheated? No. I’ve had my successes and still held on to my integrity.
If anything the cheaters are the ones who missed out.
Thumbnail photo at top from Johnysweb on Flicker