From the Blog
The IOC has proved itself to be a joke
Date: July 25, 2016 / Posted by control
The IOC is guilty of gross double standards and underlined its gutless and rudderless self. It has decided against imposing a blanket ban on Russia with respect to Rio 2016. The rationale behind the decision lacks coherence. It says that it has to be mindful of clean athletes within the Russian team and not to penalise them for no wrongdoing. That appears to be a clause that the IOC falls back on when it suits it. There is no consistency at all about this current decision. From 1964 to 1988 – a period spanning seven Summer Olympic Games – the IOC banned all South African athletes from the Games. Why? Hundreds of athletes over that period were denied their sporting dream because of no fault of their own. They were penalised because of the decisions made by their own government. There is no doubting that Apartheid was a despicable policy and it had no place in this world. But surely, what Russia has done to the integrity of sport deserves a similar blanket ban. When all said and done, the IOC is a sporting organisation, although the likes of its late President Juan Antonio Samaranch decreed that he should be referred to as His Excellency, see themselves as something far broader. Nonetheless, sport is the IOC’s primary bailiwick. And with respect to its core business it has let the sporting world down. Russia has bleated that what was uncovered by the McLaren report was not a state-sponsored doping regime. Really? So the FSB agents – the successor of the KGB – who were responsible for the swapping of tainted urine samples were merely operating off their own bat? Wow, is that a pig that just flew by! Even the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev has weighed into the debate, saying it would be grossly unfair to ban the Russian team as not all its athletes are doping. That is likely true. However, when you methodically destroy samples – as many as 8000 according to the McLaren document – it is hard to determine who the clean ones are. After an embarrassing performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Russia was determined that it would not suffer a similar fate when it hosted the Games at Sochi in 2014. Through a concerted effort it cheated its way to the top of the medal tally. Additionally, it has been found that nearly 30 sports in total had doping cover-ups. Yet the IOC has refused to ban Russia as a whole. Instead it has abrogated its responsibility and passed the final decision on the participation of Russian athletes to the individual sporting federations. They now have less than a fortnight to decide their stance. The IAAF has already acted having banned every Russian track and field athlete, a decision that has been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, highest court in International sport, In handpassing the decision to the IFs, the IOC has stated that “Federations should not consider the absence of a past positive test as evidence of a clean record and there should be no presumption of innocence”. In other words, feel free to ban athletes even though we won’t, whether they have tested positive or not. Bizarrely, the IOC has also stated that any Russian who has served a doping ban cannot be considered for selection. How the hell did they come at that decision? The United States have selected sprinters Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin who have both served doping suspensions. Where is the consistency in that decision and the rationale behind it? Then, to top it all off, one of the prime whistle-blowers who helped uncover the Russian doping apparatus, 800m runner Yulia Stepanova has been told that she cannot compete as a neutral athlete. It also said it did not permit the entry of neutrals. Really? Why the hell then did the IOC allow independent athletes to compete at the 1992 and 2000 Olympics. At Barcelona, as a result of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, athletes from Yugoslavia and Macedonia were allowed to compete as Independent Olympic Athletes. At Sydney, the IOC trumpeted its decision to allow four East Timorese athletes to compete as Individual Olympic Athletes during the nation’s transition to independence. But, in the case of a whistle-blower who helped blow the lid on a massive doping program within her own country she has been cast aside by the IOC. Well not entirely. In the ultimate insult, the IOC has invited Stepanova and her husband to attend the Rio Games. I kid you not. She is barred from competing yet the IOC has invited her to sit in the stands and watch athletes from her country compete in other sports who have most likely taken drugs. From what the IOC has said in the past 24 hours it would appear that had it uncovered the East German state-sanctioned doping regime prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall it would not have banned the country as a whole. It was learned post-1989 that as many as 10,000 East German athletes were doped. The IOC would know doubt have said “yes there were 10,000 athletes in the wrong with the state overseeing the program, but what about those who didn’t dope?” At which point does the IOC decide that a nation has sullied the integrity of sport to such an extent that it should be banned. Clearly, simply when its human rights are called into question. Oh hang on, didn’t China host the 2008 Olympics? First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 25 July 2016, soliciting 60 commentsRead More →
Is Rio 2016 about to descend into farce?
Date: July 22, 2016 / Posted by control
BREAKING NEWS: There will be myriad drug cheats competing at Rio 2016. Medals will be hung around the necks of doped athletes. Some will be found out, others will not. Some will retain those medals for all time. Others will be exposed in the ensuing years as having collected ill-gotten gains like Russian race walker Sergey Kirdyapkin who was forced to surrender his gold medal to Australia’s Jared Tallent nearly four years after he cheated at London 2012. There is no guarantee that Australia’s 400-plus athletes heading to Brazil will all be squeaky clean. Indeed, this week the Australian Olympic Committee trimmed its team by one with the removal of wrestler, Vinod Kumar who has recently returned a positive drug test. Since drug testing was introduced at Mexico City in 1968 the Games have been tainted by doping. The biggest scandal however was laid bare many years after the event and sadly it resulted in no penalties. It was not until after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 that the true extent of East Germany’s state-sanctioned and financed doping regime became known. It was discovered that the East German sports system took doping to a whole new level. Investigations post-1989 have spawned many books and documentaries outlining the lengths the country went to in its quest to triumph at various Olympics and world championships through the Cold War era. The Olympic records of that period are forever warped with clean athletes robbed of their moment in the sun. Australia’s Raelene Boyle is a case in point. She won silver medals behind East German Renate Stecher in the 100m and 200m at Munich in 1972. Documentation uncovered later revealed that Stecher chose to scale down her drug use post-Munich in order to reduce the risk of birth abnormalities when she started a family. However, when you peruse any Olympic records today Stecher is still accorded the honour of being triple Olympic champion. Boyle, meanwhile, has to content herself with the fact that she was robbed. There is still a more worrying aftermath of the East German era and that involves sprinter Marita Koch whose 1985 world record in the 400m – set at a World Cup meet in Canberra – still stands as the official benchmark for the women’s one lap event. That it does is a disgrace as there exists documented evidence that Koch was a drug cheat. Thirty-one years hence her ‘synthetic’ world record remains the target of all those who run the event. That day in Canberra she also anchored the East German 4 x 100m relay team that set a world record that lasted 27 years through until the London Olympics. The East German doping system was overseen by the Stasi, the country’s secret police. Their files, liberated for the world to see post-1989, indicated that as many as 10,000 athletes were chemically enhanced. Many of them, in their early to mid-teens, were both doped and duped as they were fed the line that what they were being given were vitamin pills. In recent years, successful class actions have been brought against the German government by female athletes who delivered children with birth deformities as a result of the drugs they were given. While many of them were merely pawns used ruthlessly by the communist regime, many others like Koch, did so knowing full well they were cheating. And now, here we are in 2016, and world sport is facing a similar situation. The issue of doping surrounding Russian sport has been bubbling along for a few years but this week the lid was blown off. A report penned by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, concluded that “Russia's Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete's analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB [Russia’s federal security service], and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories." The report identified that over 8000 samples had been destroyed from athletes across two dozen sports. It was the kind of stuff that corrupted international sport during the East German period. McLaren says given that he had 57 days to compile the report it may only be the tip of the iceberg. Upon the report’s release, IOC President Thomas Bach labelled its findings, “shocking and unprecedented”. No Thomas, it is not unprecedented. It happened similarly decades ago and clean athletes were cheated out of medals. The same will happen again if Russia is allowed to take part in Rio 2016. The IOC is currently assessing its legal options before making an announcement on Russia’s Olympic future later in the week. The time has come to take tough action. If the IOC baulks at blacklisting Russia, the Rio Games will descend into farce with every Russian medal a dagger in the heart of international sport and those who wish to see and believe in clean competition. There is no way that Russia’s appalling doping record should be rewarded with Olympic participation. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 21 July 2016, soliciting 31 commentsRead More →
Ricky Ponting is spot on regarding smaller bats
Date: July 08, 2016 / Posted by control
Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting is correct in wanting restrictions placed on cricket bats. No sport has been immune to an arms race when it comes to both the changes to, and adoption of, new technology. However, the changes in cricket have been entirely one-sided and slanted completely towards batsmen. Other sports have dovetailed into advances in technology but in almost all cases they have not been too the detriment of certain participants within the sport. Golf, for example, has undergone equipment changes like few other sports in the past few decades. Today’s drivers with their graphite shafts and mostly hollow titanium or composite maxi-heads are a quantum leap when compared with the old steel shafted woods of 40 years ago. Likewise, modern-day milled faces on wedges create vastly more backspin than their predecessors. These enhancements, and others, have had a dramatic impact on the sport but in the process no one was penalised, save those who did not upgrade their equipment. The technological advances were there for everyone’s benefit, just as it has been in a sport like tennis. Alas, in cricket that has not been the case. The batsmen’s armoury has changed incredibly in recent times while the poor old bowler is left to combat it with the same familiar old 156g (5.5 ounce) cricket ball – the only change has been the move beyond the traditional red colour. While the bowlers have had to develop things like reverse swing to try and outwit the batsman the willow wielders have seen constant changes to their weapon of choice. While the MCC has steadfastly guarded the sanctity of the ball it has shown no such restraint with respect to the bat. The modern blades dwarf their predecessors as they have morphed into bazookas. David Warner’s bat – aptly marketed under the name ‘Kaboom’ – looks like a log compared to the bats of 20 years ago. While the linear dimensions have not changed – under Appendix E of the Laws of Cricket, a bat can be no longer than 38 inches (965mm) in length and 4.25 inches (108mm) in width – there is no restriction on weight or thickness, and therein lies the problem. In February last year, the ICC said it had concerns about the impact the change in bat sizes was having on the game. ICC chief executive Dave Richardson conceded that modern bats had “shifted the balance” towards batsmen, a fact that Ponting has reiterated this week. A report commissioned by the MCC found that while the length and width had remained constant, the thickness of the blade and the associated sweet spot had grown significantly over the past 20 years. The report identified that the thickness of bats had increased by 22mm over the last 100 years and the area of the ‘sweet spot’ had blown out by about 250 percent while the edges of some of the modern-day bats had increased by a whopping 300 per cent. All this has resulted in infinitely more power to the point that mishits that would have seen players caught 25 years ago are now sailing into the stands for six. Allied to the advantages gained by these new bats, batsmen have also been aided by the significant reduction in the size of grounds with some being roped off up to 15m short of the perimeter fence which used to form the boundary. Bowlers have also been limited to the number of short, intimidatory deliveries they can send down each over. In limited overs matches pitches are also frequently deadened to maximise the runs which is seen by administrators as the major selling point in enticing crowds and TV viewers. Scoring rates have risen as a result at a rapid rate to the point that Indian Rohit Sharma’s world record ODI score of 264 would have been seen as a large team total going back 20-odd years. Major League Baseball decided to standardise the bat by codifying it as having to be one piece of solid wood not more than 2.61 inches at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. For a period, metal bats were in use but the authorities decided to outlaw them at professional level as a result of safety concerns for the pitcher who stand at best 18.5m away. The velocity that a ball came off a metal bat was deemed to be too dangerous for the pitcher. In recent times, we have seen cricket umpires adopt helmets and armguards as a way of protection against balls flying off the modern bat. Cricket at its best is a relatively even contest between bat and ball. Presently the authorities have allowed through either inaction or deliberate decisions to too often remove that balance. It is high time that the sport’s governors did something about it , and as Ponting asserts, the dimensions of the bat is a fine place to start. Fist published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 7 July 2016, soliciting 39 commentsRead More →
Melbourne is rightly the sports capital of the world
Date: July 01, 2016 / Posted by control
In the words of Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come”. In the case of Melbourne nothing could be more accurate. Last weekend I took my ten-year-old sports mad son to the Victorian capital. It was a first for both us – he had never been there before and neither had I in a non-working capacity. For over two decades I travelled regularly from Perth to Melbourne as a broadcaster and commentator. Last weekend I went simply as a punter. And it was in that capacity that I really came to understand just how well Melbourne caters for the sports fan. For a city that has not staged an Olympic Games in recent times its facilities and the grouping of them is something that exceeds almost all other cities around the world. The main sports precinct, and its proximity to the CBD, provides the city with a cluster of venues that are the envy of every other city. Whilst Sydney, post the 2000 Games, has the legacy of Homebush it is totally disconnected from the heart of the city. One of the great selling points of Melbourne’s major sports venues is the proximity to the city, and by extension, all the benefits that provides by way of ancillary entertainment and facilities. Nowadays, for many attending a sporting event is more of a full-day experience. The trend is for patrons to often bookend the main event by calling into restaurants, cafes and bars. Melbourne, in that regard, provides the perfect experience. The walkway from the MCG into the Southbank entertainment precinct – built in 2006 for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games – allows ready access to and from the ground and provides the ability to move tens of thousands of people in a smooth and timely manner. It also deposits fans at Flinders Street Station for ease of egress from the city. Likewise, Etihad Stadium provides easy pedestrian access to the heart of the CBD. As for the venues themselves it is hard to fault them. Few stadia in the world can match the MCG as a sporting amphitheatre. Thanks to constant, high-cost upgrades it has kept up with the times with respect to what the 21st century fan wants. In its shadows is Melbourne Park, which once again, is being continually upgraded through a multi-year $700m investment. Most years the world’s tennis elite list the Australian Open as their preferred major tournament when it comes to amenities, transport and accessibility. Within the complex is three indoor arenas headlined by the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena which doubles as a concert and major event venue for other indoor sports. Hisense Arena can be easily converted into a world-class velodrome as it was for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. In the same precinct is AAMI Park, a purpose-built 30,000-seat rectangular sports stadium which hosts both domestic and international events. Having so many first-class venues clustered in one area less than a kilometre from the CBD is unlike any other city. On top of all that there is the Formula I street circuit and the Spring Racing Carnival which is held across three top-flight venues. The thing about Melbourne, and what sets it apart from not only other Australian capitals but also myriad other international cities, is the fact that it has had for many decades a coherent and well thought out facilities development and upgrade program. Currently, there is debate over two separate plans to further enhance the major sporting amenities within the city. Collingwood FC president Eddie McGuire has publicly floated a $1bn plan that involves demolishing Etihad Stadium and building a new 60,000-seat, retractable-roofed stadium alongside the MCG. The AFL meanwhile has proffered its own plan for a $300m revamp of Etihad Stadium which would include open-air bars, restaurants and parkland around the ground. If neither of these proposals get up, you can be rest assured that one will emerge that will be accepted and implemented. In Perth, a 60,000-seat stadium is currently under construction and from March 2018 will be the home ground for the Eagles and the Dockers as well as selected international cricket fixtures and the BBL and other sports events on a needs basis. The new Perth Stadium is long overdue with areas of Subiaco Oval affected by concrete cancer while some of the seating comprises the old wooden bench style that went out of vogue at most venues decades ago. For over 25 years, successive governments and sporting bodies have tried to reach agreement on the future stadia requirements for the city while over that period band-aid measures have been undertaken at both Subiaco Oval and the WACA Ground. The result has been a sub-standard experience for the city’s sports fans. While the likes of Perth have trod water and argued back and forth about what is required, Melbourne has continued to push forward systematically and created world-class facilities. Forward thinking, effective planning and the ability to bring competing groups together has helped maintain Melbourne’s status as a city which sees sport at its core. Globally, few can match what Melbourne has achieved. The venues are up there with the best in the world and that is evidenced by the throngs that turn out every week to utilise them. If any city deserved to host a future Olympics it is Melbourne. The bulk of the infrastructure is already there including most of the transport requirements. That can be said about few cities in the world. By head of population it is questionable as to whether any other city has the multi-sport passion that Melbourne has. In terms of facilities, events and bums on seats Melbourne is, in essence, the sporting capital of the world. Nobody does it better and it is doubtful Melbourne will take its eye off the ball anytime soon, making the fans the big winners. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 30 June 2016, soliciting 71 commentsRead More →
The AFL has dropped the ball
Date: June 24, 2016 / Posted by control
It has been an interesting week for North Melbourne – the coach fined, the club fined and the president hit with a wet lettuce. Brad Scott’s ill-conceived attack on the umpires last Friday resulted in the coach being fined $30,000. The club was hit with an additional $50,000 penalty as a result of his indiscretion. While, for his part in the verbal attack on Triple M of The Age’s football journalist, Caroline Wilson, Kangaroos president James Brayshaw received nothing more than being admonished in a media conference held by AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan. The chief provocateur in the Wilson affair, Collingwood president, Eddie McGuire and former St Kilda captain and current All-Australian selector, Danny Frawley, also felt the ‘wrath’ of the AFL in the same media conference. The contrasting responses by the AFL to both incidents is incongruous especially given the timing of other events. The AFL, along with several other peak sporting bodies around the country, have all sung from the same hymn book in recent years by unifying behind the fight to reduce domestic violence, and in particular, bullying and violence that is directed towards women. Just days before the comments directed at Wilson were aired McLachlan stood beside his counterparts from the NRL, Netball Australia and the ARU to publicly acknowledge their collective support of ‘Our Watch’. One of the underpinning aims of the program is ‘respect on and off the field’. There was no respect shown to Wilson by Messrs McGuire, Brayshaw and Frawley. The AFL landscape is changing. In recent years the faces on both the Commission and club boards has changed with an increasing number of females being represented. Sam Mostyn and Major-General Simone Wilkie are two of the nine AFL Commissioners. The Richmond Football Club has a female president in Peggy O’Neal. Interestingly, the Tigers players have taken a stance by refusing to make themselves available for interview during Triple M’s broadcast of their game at the MCG against Brisbane this Saturday. The club is yet to confirm whether the ban will be extended beyond this weekend. Hats off to the Richmond players for taking the stance they have. Sadly, the AFL has not deemed it necessary to take such meaningful action itself. Yes, match day officials no matter the sporting code, must be respected. Just last weekend we saw the disgusting occurrence of a parent, who was doubling up as a trainer at a junior rugby league match in Sydney, knocking out a 16-year-old referee after his son had been sin-binned. Protecting umpires and referees from verbal and physical abuse is paramount if we wish to have sport continue as it simply cannot if people fail to take up those roles. Scott deserved his whack from the AFL, as evidenced by his club’s rapid public back pedal when it realised his comments were lacking in substance. Likewise, the AFL should have taken against the Triple M trio. At the very least the AFL should have revoked the trio’s media accreditations for a period, thus preventing them from being public voices of the game. On top of the AFL’s inaction, Triple M has done nothing either except to say that the trio has been spoken to with respect to their on-air comments. So, in the end, the three amigos have received no penalty whatsoever. The AFL had an opportunity to put its actions where its mouth is with respect to the issue of respect to women and it has chosen to do nothing. In essence, they dropped the ball … big time. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 23 June 2016, soliciting 145 commentsRead More →
The Sydney Swans are primed for the flag
Date: June 17, 2016 / Posted by control
Once again many pundits in the pre-season were writing the Sydney Swans’ obituary. Once again, they have been proved wrong. With the mid-season bye approaching the Swans find themselves third on the ladder with the second-best percentage in the competition. Had it not been for the stumble last weekend against GWS the club would be atop the ladder. Since 2003, the Swans have missed the finals just once – in 2009 when they finished 12th. In that time, Sydney has won two flags, contested a further two grand finals and been eliminated at the preliminary final stage twice. Whilst the red and whites have not had the premiership success of the likes of Hawthorn (four flags) and Geelong (three) since 2003, Sydney’s 12 finals campaigns in the past 13 seasons betters all other clubs – Geelong has contested September action ten times and Hawthorn and West Coast on eight occasions. Year after year the Swans fly under the radar. Like those to their north, they play in a market where Australian Football is very much a second-tier sport in the eyes of the media and while the southern states report on the code fiercely Sydney is seldom mentioned. This season, with the rise of GWS, the club is even taking somewhat of a backseat in the Sydney press. For coach John Longmire, it is a perfect situation. The talk nationally has mainly surrounded GWS’s looming maiden finals series; Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield-led charge; speculation of whether or not Hawthorn can claim four in a row; the implosion of Fremantle; and the continued trials at both Collingwood and Richmond. Meanwhile, the Swans just keep purring along. Another finals campaign appears a formality and another flag a very real possibility. One of the strengths of Sydney over the past dozen years has been its ability to replenish its stocks despite the luxury of top-end draft picks. The club secured the services of the likes of Craig Bolton, Kieran Jack, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Tom Mitchell, Sam Reid and Kurt Tippett through various drafts while also proving highly successful during the annual trade period. While Lance Franklin’s stellar ten-year, $10m to whip him away from Hawthorn under free agency remains one of the biggest coups of recent times, Sydney also traded successfully for the services of Josh Kennedy, Ted Richards, Rhyce Shaw, Craig Bird, Martin Mattner, Darren Jolly and Ben McGlynn. Whilst many clubs bemoan the performance of their recruiting department, Sydney has deftly been able to maintain a high-quality, highly competitive list for over 12 years. The current squad has plenty of class. One of the hallmarks of the Swans’ recent success is its midfield. For both class and depth few in the competition can compete. The club is blessed with the perfect blend of in-and-under on-ballers and outside runners who rack up heavy possessions. So far this season, Hannebery averages 31 disposals, with Kennedy (30), Mitchell (28), Parker (27) and Jack (23) all rolling through the midfield and wreaking havoc at various times. On the end of much of the midfield’s enterprise is Franklin. To date, the proven match-winner has kicked 43 goals to lead the charge for the Coleman Medal. While ‘Buddy’ is a handful inside 50, he has also run amok up the ground. On Sunday, against GWS, he lined up on a wing early in the game. His ability to run and carry the ball and then kick it forward 50-60m when playing up the ground puts enormous pressure on opposition defences. Finding a suitable opponent for him is a major challenge. While Franklin more often than not is the go-to-man inside 50, the Swans have found numerous avenues to goal. Their midfielders are renowned for hitting the scoreboard, and likes of McGlynn, Isaac Heaney and elevated rookie Tom Papley have also regularly bobbed up. Down back, Sydney has plenty of steel and rebounding ability. Richards and Heath Shaw fill the primary key defender’s role while skipper Jarrad McVeigh Dane Rampe, Nick Smith and Jeremy Laidler provide plenty of run. With the retirement of Mike Pyke, Kurt Tippett has been used more on the ball this season. Coming off a 44-goal season last year – his best return since 2010 – he has carried the bulk of the ruck work this season while also managing to kick 15 goals. The club was struck a blow on Sunday when Tippett succumbed to a hamstring tendon injury which is expected to sideline him for up to six weeks. Callum Sinclair, who was traded to Sydney last year from West Coast in return for Lewis Jetta, will now shoulder the rucking duties with his sidekick, should one be deemed necessary from week-to-week, a choice between Sam Naismith, Toby Nankervis and Tom Derickx who have each been playing in the NEAFL in recent times. The loss of Tippett will hurt the Swans. Either side of the bye, over the next six weeks Sydney meets Melbourne (H), Western Bulldogs (H), Geelong (A), Hawthorn (H), Carlton (H) and Fremantle (A). Sinclair will be an able replacement for Tippett but the lack of a genuine two-prong ruck combination will put real pressure on the midfield against the classier opponents. It appears that the competition at the top of the ladder will be tight come season’s end. The period sans Tippett will be challenging but a positive win-loss ratio through that period will place the club well in contention for a one-two finish at the end of the home-and-away series. Come September, and deep into it, the Sydney Swans will likely find themselves front and centre in the AFL media. For now, Longmire and his charges will simply continue to do what they do best – play tough and uncompromising football – and hope the other clubs continue to dominate the AFL discussion. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 16 June 2016, soliciting 46 commentsRead More →
The day I ‘met’ Ali
Date: June 06, 2016 / Posted by control
There are seminal moments in one’s life where you always remember where you were when you received news of great import. The death of the great Muhammad Ali will remain as one for me. Bizarrely, but somewhat fittingly, as I pen this I am sitting beside a waterhole in Africa having just been floored by the news of his passing. It was on the African continent that Ali fought what was perhaps his most famous bout, the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, against the formidable George Foreman. In the total tranquillity of the African bush it is not difficult to feel a sense of loss. For me Ali, like for so many, was a somewhat mythical figure. In his prime he was reputedly the most famous face on the planet. On his various trips to Africa people lined the streets, at time five deep, to get a glimpse of the man who rose above his sport. I never met Ali, but I was luckily enough to be touched by the power of his aura. It happened one day in September 2000 while I was covering the Sydney Olympics for the ABC. I was in the International Broadcast Centre at the time when a colleague burst through the door to inform several of us that Ali was in the building. Myself and my ABC colleagues hastily went out into the main corridor of the thralling building that was home to the world’s electronic media for the duration of the Games. Ali was being driven down the broad corridor on a golf cart, destined for the master control area that was responsible for co-ordinating the various video feeds from the myriad sporting venues around Sydney. Ali, as an ambassador for the Games, was on his way to personally thank the staff for their efforts. As he made his way through the building various doors along the way opened, pouring out representatives from media outlets from around the globe. Ali bore the mask of those significantly afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease – expressionless and deadpan. Yet there was an unmistakeable glint in his eyes, one that both betrayed a mischievous side and the sheer joy of being the centre of attention as he was throughout his adult life. As he passed by he was shadow boxing with his imposing fists, throwing gentle left and rights with hands that clearly trembled with the affliction he had been cruelly dealt. He drove past a veritable United Nations of world media, passing people of all colours and creeds. Some were clapping, others chanting “The Greatest’, while some just stood there with mouth agape as if witnessing something beyond normal comprehension. I reflected later that day as to whether any other person could have had such an impact on seasoned sports journalists. It is doubtful that anyone else could have mobilized such a frenzy. It was simply a sign of the standing in which Ali was held. Like no man before or him, or dare I say, after him he transcended the sporting firmament. He was a man of his era – an era that abounded in civil rights; the rise of the black man; and the nascence of the live televising of international sporting events. His bouts against the likes of Foreman and his trilogy against ‘Smoking’ Joe Frazier were beamed free into households around the world. It was an era when heavyweight boxing captured the minds of hundreds of millions. Ali was often a polarizing figure, particularly in the early years of his career. His conversion to Islam and his stance on the Vietnam War did not sit well with many. However, over time, he outgrew those issues and became embraced as a larger than life individual. He was as famous for his poetry and one-liners as he was for his flailing fists. Many will debate where he stands in the pantheon of his sport with respect to his ring craft and successes. One thing I unquestionable – no heavyweight ever moved with the grace and speed of Ali. By sheer personality, he was simply head and shoulders above them all. Whereas today elite sportspeople are insulated within carefully crafted bubbles, Ali was a man of the people. As he prepared to take on some of the most fearsome men his sport has witnessed his training camp at Deer Lake was open to one and all. You could simply walk in and watch Ali spar, pound the heavy bag or hone his innate skills on the speed ball. You would often be an audience for his ever busy mouth and mind. Following his retirement, he lived in Berrien Springs, a small town not far from Notre Dame University in Michigan. His home, often to the chagrin of his wife Lonnie, had an open door policy. Uni students would drive to see him and be welcomed with opened arms. He was known for performing magic tricks in his lounge room for his myriad uninvited guests. He lived a life that would be foreign to any other sportsperson of today, many of whom carry reputations that are mere footnotes compared to the man who proclaimed himself, ‘The Greatest’. With the passing of Ali the world has lost a behemoth. We will never see the likes of him again. First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 5 June 2016Read More →
Russia needs to be banned from Rio
Date: May 27, 2016 / Posted by control
Russia is making a mockery of international sport. Consider what would happen to an Australian coach if his charges returned nearly 30 positive drug tests over a period of a few years. Chances are such a thing would never get to that stage as Athletics Australia would step in and remove his accreditation before the numbers surged to that ridiculous level. Remarkably, in Russia that was not the case. The penny eventually dropped for the country’s athletics officials in March last year when they finally handed the national race walking coach, Viktor Chegin a lifetime ban from the sport. Unfortunately, by that stage he had produced several world and Olympic champions and sundry minor medallists. Among Chegin’s squad of drug tainted walkers was Sergey Kiryapkin, who ‘won’ the 50km event in London and two world championships. Australia’s Jared Tallent, who crossed the line second behind Kiryapkin four years ago at the London Olympics, has been rightly upgraded to the gold medal. Tallent’s story of initial denial on the world’s biggest sporting stage is just one of many as a result of wholesale Russian cheating. In August 2013, Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko trumpeted the opening of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Anti-Doping Centre in Moscow. It was intended to be the cornerstone of Russia’s bid for clean sport. The reality has proven be starkly at odds with that claim. In November last year WADA announced that the facility had been responsible for a concerted and deliberate cover-up of positive tests along with the destruction of around 1400 samples. As a result, its track and field athletes are currently under an international ban. The WADA report recommended that five athletes be given life bans. Amongst them was the 2012 Olympic 800m champion, Mariya Savinova. Earlier this month, whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the now unaccredited Moscow laboratory, made stunning allegations about how the lab operated during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He spoke of a separate room within the drug testing facility in which tainted urine samples were exchanged with clean urine. He alleged that steroids were dissolved in whisky for the male athletes and martinis for the females as a way of accelerating the absorption rate and thus reducing the prospects of detection through testing. Rodchenkov asserted that at least 15 Russian medal winners at Sochi were given banned performance enhancing substances. In the end the host nation topped the medal tally with a total of 33 medals, 13 of which were gold. Yesterday, news emerged that 14 of the 31 positive results returned from the retested samples from the Beijing Olympics involved Russians. The IOC says the 454 retested samples were focused on athletes who were potentially in the mix for selection at this year’s Olympics. While Russia comprised 14 of the 31 positives, the remaining 17 are spread across 11 nations. Whilst the Russian Olympic Committee says it will not name the 14 athletes until their B-samples have been tested, Moscow-based Match TV has revealed the names of the alleged culprits which include ten medallists. Among them is Yulia Chermoshenskaya who won gold in the 4 x 100m relay; javelin silver medallist Maria Abakumova; and high jump bronze medallist Anna Chicherova, who went on to claim the gold medal at the 2012 London Games. The IOC has announced that it will be retesting random samples from the London and Sochi Olympics ahead of August’s Rio Games. The IOC has also promised “swift and decisive action” into the allegations that have been raised about the possible corruption at Sochi. If the investigation and retesting of the Sochi samples can be completed ahead of the opening ceremony at Rio, and should they indicate widespread drug use, there would be a strong case to ban the entire Russian Olympic team from the Games. Currently there is irrefutable evidence, from November last year, of the broad use of performance enhancing drugs in Russian athletics, hence the current ban. As of yesterday there is a strong indication that it has spanned back as far as the Beijing Olympics eight years ago. Aside from track and field, two other sports involving Russian athletes have been responsible for positive tests from Beijing. Should the Sochi retests indicate widespread drug use among Russian Winter Olympians it will provide clear evidence of a systematic doping program across much of Russian sport. There is every indication that the current practices within Russian elite level sport are on a par with the dark days of the old Eastern Bloc. That era was a total blight on the Olympic Games and myriad other major international competitions with many worthy athletes denied their rightful place in the sun. On 17 June when the IAAF makes its determination on the immediate future of Russia’s track and field athletes it must uphold the current ban and refuse entry to the squad at the Rio Olympics. Should the forthcoming follow-up testing of more recent Olympics turn-up widespread doping across other sports, the entire Russian Olympic team should be removed from the Rio Games. Such a stance by the IOC and its constituent sports federations would result in extreme bleating from Vladimir Putin down. But it is a move that would has to be taken if it can be found that sport in Russia is being systematically manipulated. We hear ad nauseum from the world’s leading sports officials how they are vehemently opposed to drug use and cheating. It is incumbent they act in accordance with their trumpeted beliefs and not cower to those who are laughing in their face as they stockpile their ill-gotten gains First published on The Roar - theroar.com.au - on 26 May 2016, soliciting 19 commentsRead More →
In the media
Reliving Eden Gardens 2001 through the voice of Australian radio
By Sandeep Dwivedi, ‘The Indian Express’, 14 March 2015 – Sitting on a wooden bench at King’s Park at Perth, you are at a height, the vantage point providing an enchanting view of the serene city and the sparkling river Swan. Sitting on that same wooden chair, facing Glenn Mitchell, sipping coffee and feeding on […]read more →
FIFO induction must contain mental health advice: Mitchell
By Michael Washbourne, December 2014 edition of Australia’s Paydirt – Renowned broadcaster and mental health advocate Glenn Mitchell has called for a greater emphasis on suicide prevention and mental wellbeing during the induction process for FIFO workers. Mitchell’s plea comes in the wake of a parliamentary inquiry into the mental health impacts of FIFO work […]read more →
Back from the brink
As part of Mental Health Week in 2014 I did a video interview with Marnie McKimmie from ‘The West Australian’. In the interview, I discussed the journey that I have been on and what I have learned as a result of being sufferer of mental illness. Click on the link below to view it. http://bcove.me/acr130arread more →
"Many thanks for the fantastic job you did as MC for our Jumper Presentation Evening. The success of the night can be largely attributed to the insightful and informative style of your presentation, and we thank you for making our event a night to remember for all involved."
Scott Ballem, W.A. Football Development Trust.
"We appreciated Glenn's professional approach as MC for our Emerging Leaders Program Launch, and his prior preparation. We were very pleased with the outcome of the launch. Excellent MC".
Kim Ellwood, Department of Sport & Recreation
"Glenn spoke superbly about the relationship between Australian society and cricket. The audience was hugely impressed by his knowledge and humor"
Cricket Club of India
"Glenn's presentation was great using his experience and knowledge of sport mixed with humour. Importantly he was able to engage the whole audience from all parts of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Rating: Excellent"
Lisa Lynch. Capricorn Society Limited.
"Glenn had our audience captivated. His presentation 'What We Can All Learn from Sport' was excellent."
Stacey Martin, 2006 Ausnet Real Estate Services Conference
"Glenn was the perfect guest speaker for our Sports Star of the Year Awards. His speech was engaging and most appropriate for the intergenerational audience in attendance. Overall excellent presentation."
Chris Thompson, Manager Great Southern, Department of Sport & Recreation. Albany
"Glenn is a thoroughly entertaining speaker who can highlight the serious side of sport whilst simultaneously having the audience in stitches. A most enjoyable speaker who can clearly tailor a speech to suit a variety of audiences. Excellent presentation."
Ben Williams. Ravensdown 2009 Agents Conference
"Excellent presentation which provided our audience with an entertaining and informative insight into the world of elite sport. We've had much positive comment and feedback from our members and guests."
CPA Australia State Congress
"Excellent speaker. Glenn was exactly what we wanted and participated really well."
Clare Thompson, IWIRC Network (W.A.Branch)
"Glenn Mitchell is a man with a powerful personal story to tell. He is an accomplished sports broadcaster who has walked the path from despair and illness to hopefulness and well-being.
As a story-teller, Glenn's ability to openly "speak his truth" is inspiring many people who are in a dark place to reach out to find and accept the support they need and deserve.
As a host and presenter, Glenn's professional approach and capacity to engage an audience with his unique blend of humour and whit, are exceptional.
Amanda Wheeler. CEO Lifeline WA