Sport’s parallel universe emerges again after Damien Oliver case

Date: November 22, 2012 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

At times it appears that sport exists in a parallel universe, detached in its own little realm where reality seems to no longer exist.

Once again this strange phenomenon materialized yesterday in the wake of Damien Oliver’s suspension.

Following the announcement of Oliver’s ten-month ban, Victorian Jockeys Association general manager, Des O’Keeffe addressed the media in Melbourne.

What he had to say was somewhat gob smacking.

“They [jockeys] cannot bet under the rules … The industry now has to embark on an extensive education program to reinforce to jockeys why the rules are as they are and why they cannot bet under the rules of racing.”

I’m sorry, but what the hell is going on?

If you need to embark on an education program to reinforce to jockeys the rules of the industry with regard to them placing wagers the better course of action might just be to shut up shop and sell the country’s racecourses to property developers.

There surely cannot be anyone remotely involved in the industry – jockeys, trainers, owners, punters, janitors at Flemington – who are not aware of the iron clad rule preventing jockeys from placing bets.

While they are having one of the most basic tenets of the sport reinforced to them it may well be worthwhile if they were also reminded that they need to stop at red traffic lights and pulling out a gun and shooting someone just isn’t the done thing in society.

If jockeys need to be reminded of the fact that betting in their occupation is completely and utterly illegal they perhaps don’t have the where with all to be employed – anywhere.

And, even if that fact had slipped from their memory banks post-apprenticeship, in recent times you would hope that the Oliver case may have served as a way of reminding them of one of the most basic fundamentals of their sport.

Yes, Oliver is one of the most high profile and successful jockeys in the country.

And yes, what Oliver did was just plain stupid, regardless of the mitigating circumstances he put forward to the tribunal.

But for his brain snap to now require an education program to be rolled out is simply preposterous.

It is mind-blowing that such programs have to be initiated in 21st century Australia.

Whenever a sportsperson falls foul of the law – sporting or otherwise – the public fall-out is substantial.

Such episodes are reported in depth, and at times, ad nauseum.

The Oliver case is a prime example.

If the coverage of his misdemeanours has not been enough to reinforce to jockeys the rules of gambling within their sport, I am afraid they are never going to get the message no matter how many times you tell them.

Debate over whether a total of ten months on the sidelines is sufficient for betting on a horse in a race in which he was participating and doing so by way of a mobile phone from the jockey’s room will remain for some time.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 10 November