2822963411_baf25e1da8_bI am taking part in a CSIRO Cafe Scientifique event on Canberra Day (11 March). I am delighted to be a panel member with David Rowe and Paul Fairweather. Stefan Hajkowicz is the facilitator.

The topic is What is shaping the future of Australian sport?


I have been thinking and writing about the future of sport of late. Recently, I have posted:
A year ago I wrote about Stefan Hajkowicz’s work on the Future of Australian Sport. I noted then that Stephen and his colleagues had identified six megatrends in sport in Australia. These were:
  1. From extreme to mainstream (the rise of lifestyle sports)
  2. New wealth, new talent (economic growth and sports development in Asia)
  3. Everybody’s game (demographic, generational and cultural change)
  4. More than sport (attainment of health, community and overseas aid objectives through sport)
  5. A perfect fit (personalised sport and tailored training systems)
  6. Tracksuits to business suits (market pressures and new business models)
2577007801_5756fdd242_bI have been thinking about these megatrends. I have been thinking about some earlier work undertaken by Stephen and his colleagues that looked at Megatrends and Megashocks. CSIRO published Our Future World: an analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios in April 2010. This report noted that a megatrend “is a collection of trends, patterns of economic, social or environmental activity that will change the way people live and the science and technology products they demand.” The report identifies five interrelated megatrends:
  • More from less. This relates to the world’s depleting natural resources and increasing demand for those resources through economic and population growth. Coming decades will see a focus on resource use efficiency.
  • A personal touch. Growth of the services sector of western economies is being followed by a second wave of innovation aimed at tailoring and targeting services.
  • Divergent demographics. The populations of OECD countries are ageing and experiencing lifestyle and diet related health problems. At the same time there are high fertility rates and problems of not enough food for millions in poor countries.
  • On the move. People are changing jobs and careers more often, moving house more often, commuting further to work and travelling around the world more often.
  • i World. Everything in the natural world will have a digital counterpart. Computing power and memory storage are improving rapidly. Many more devices are getting connected to the internet.

The Report identified eight megashocks relevant to Australia (a ‘megashock’ is “a significant and sudden event; the timing and magnitude of which are very hard to predict):

  • Asset price collapse
  • Slowing Chinese economy
  • Oil and gas price spikes
  • Extreme climate change related weather
  • Pandemic
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Terrorism
  • Nanotechnology risks
During this period I have followed discussions about the Crawford Report and the more recent discussions about the Winning Edge. I have been particularly interested in thinking about the ecology of Australian sport during this time. I found it fascinating to consider the synchronicity of the launch of The Winning Edge and the publication of Tim Flannery’s Quarterly essay, After the Future: Australia’s New Extinction Crisis.
I am following the Australian Academy of Science project “Australia 2050: Towards an environmentally and economically sustainable and socially equitable ways of living”. I think we can learn a great deal from deliberation about learning loops. This week Beth Fulton, Steven Cork and Nicky Grigg have shared some of the work of the 2050 Group.

Other Voices

3675431410_4f2a1d179d_oIn thinking about the future of Australian sport, I have been re-visiting a number of authors. These include:

George Orwell’s (1945) The Sporting Spirit.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. it is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused.

Johan Huizinga and his writings on Homo Ludens.

One of his five characteristics of play is “play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it”. He argues that “civilization is, in its earliest phases, played. It does not come from play…it arises in and as play, and never leaves it”.

Roger Caillois and his discussion of Man, Play and Games. Callois presents a taxonomy of play and games and proposes that there are four play forms and two types of play. The forms are: agon (competition); alea (chance); mimicry (role playing); and ilinx (pursuit of vertigo and altering perception).  A Wikipedia article on the 1961 translation of the 1958 French text points out that these four forms of play take place on a continuum of two types of play (ludus and paidia):

from ludus, structured activities with explicit rules (games), to paidia, unstructured and spontaneous activities (playfulness), although in human affairs the tendency is always to turn paidia into ludus, and that established rules are also subject to the pressures of paidia.

Caillois observes “It is this process of rule-forming and re-forming that may be used to account for the apparent instability of cultures”. He points out (in 1958) a tendency for a corruption of the values of play in everyday life.

John Hoberman‘s discussions of Sport and Political ideology (1984), Mortal Engines (1992) and Testosterone Dreams (2005). John Hoberan has had a significant impact on my thinking in the last thirty years. He prompted me to think deeply about sportive expressionism and dehumanisation at a time when I was actively involved in international sport, seeking to optimise performance through probabilistic models of success.

At times like this I return to Gregory Stone. Fifty-eight years ago, his paper, American sports: Play and display, was published in the Chicago Review (9: 83–100). In it he observes:

Play and dis-play are precariously balanced in sport, and, once that balance is upset, the whole character of sport in society may be affected. Furthermore, the spectacular element of sport may, as in the case of American professional wrestling, destroy the game. The rules cease to apply, and the “cheat” and the “spoilsport” replace the players.

A Future for Sport?

As my contribution to the discussions at the Cafe Scientifique, I will propose that for a sustainable future for Australian sport, we should:

  • De-emphasise the acquisition of nation state status through sporting achievement  and recognise the intrinsic value of play, games and sport.
  • Accept the 2000 Olympics as the high-water mark for Australian sport (other than the professional football codes).
  • Think very carefully about providing opportunities for late specialisation in sport.
  • Accept that the quest for television coverage has commodified sport and recognise that we are responsible for this.
  • Lament that despite all our efforts there is cheating in sport and we have hypokinetic diseases.
  • Re-calibrate our thresholds of repugnance.

I think we should celebrate:

… and listen to some of the least privileged children in our society:

AS0000154F06 Primary school children, sports day

In December 2012, the New Zealand Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty presented its Priorities and Recommendations. There were seventy-eight recommendations in total. I was particularly interested in Recommendation 72 from the children interviewed by the Advisory Group. They recommended that:

all local governments ensure that parks, playgrounds and public spaces are safe and welcoming for children, and free leisure and recreational activities are available, especially in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Photo Credits

Surf Life Saving (New South Wales Maritime, CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Rough Sea (Victoria Rachitzky, CC BY 2.0)

Geen hulp voor Giusto Cerutti (Natinaal Archief, No known copyright restrictions)

Primary school children, sports day (Anthea Sieveking, CC BY 2.0)

Two Men in a Square

This week I am discussing the 2008 Olympic Games in a Business, Politics and Sport unit at the University of Canberra.

I am keen to discuss the iconography of the Games as a way to explore Olympism.

I thought I would start with this image:

and then discuss this video:

as a way to explore what we understand about cultural contexts and ‘documentary reality’.

My own thinking about the connections between business, politics and sport started with a research project into apartheid in sport (1973), was refocussed by Garry Whannel’s Blowing the Whistle (1983) and extended by John Hoberman’s discussion of Mortal Engines (1992).

I have been involved in international sport since 1980 and so I have had some wonderful opportunities to reflect on politics in sport and to contemplate ‘selective indignation‘, ‘moral hazard‘ and ‘willful blindness‘.

My discussion of the 2008 Olympics is linked to a history of the Games that includes events of 1936, 1972, 1980 and 1984 (but not limited solely to these Games).

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport


On Monday 30 August I met Will Grant’s class at the ANU. My topic was Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sport. I wrote this blog post as a point of reference for discussion in the class. There is a Slideshare link too.


In 2007 the Select Committee on  Science and Technology of the UK Parliament reported on Human Enhancement Technologies.

In their discussion of drugs in sport they note that doping “refers to the use of performance-enhancing drugs which have been prohibited by sporting regulatory organisations.” The report observes that:

The prevalence of doping in sport has been attributed to a number of factors. Athletes are often under significant pressure to deliver medal-winning performances. They may also face team pressure where success is dependent on the performance of all. There are often significant financial gains to be made from success in many competitive sporting events. Other factors contributing to doping in sport might include a perception that other sportsmen and women are doping and getting away with it and that competition is imbalanced should an individual athlete choose not to go down the same route. Finally, the ease of availability of many prohibited substances may be an exacerbating factor.

Chapter 2 of the Committee’s report provides a detailed background to the regulation of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) promotes, co-ordinates, and monitors  anti-doping in sport in all its forms at the international level. WADA’s key activities include “scientific research, education, development of anti-doping capacities, and monitoring of the World Anti Doping Code – the document harmonizing anti-doping policies in all sports and all countries.”

WADA points out that:

The Code is the core document that provides the framework for harmonized anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sport organizations and among public authorities. It works in conjunction with five International Standards aimed at bringing harmonization among anti-doping organizations in various areas: testing, laboratories, Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods, and for the protection of privacy and personal information.

The current code in use took effect on 1 January 2009. WADA publishes a list of prohibited substances each year. WADA asserts that:

  • The List is a cornerstone of the Code and a key component of harmonization.
  • It is an International Standard identifying substances and methods prohibited in-competition, out-of-competition and in particular sports.
  • Substances and methods are classified by categories (e.g., steroids, stimulants, gene doping).
  • The use of any prohibited substance by an athlete for medical reasons is possible by virtue of a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

The 2010 List specifies the following prohibited substances:

  • Anabolic Agents
  • Peptide Hormones, Growth Factors and Related Substances
  • Beta-2 Antagonists
  • Hormone Antagonists and Modulators
  • Diuretics and Other Masking Agents
  • Stimulants
  • Narcotics
  • Cannabinoids
  • Glucocorticosteroids

The 2010 List specifies the following prohibited methods:

  • Enhancement of Oxygen Transfer
  • Chemical and Physical Manipulation
  • Gene Doping

An example of the detail of the Prohibited List can be found in the changes made to the 2010 List WADA_Summary_of_Modifications_2010_EN. For example:

The issue of growth factors enhancing certain functions was addressed in more detail. Additional examples of growth factors affecting muscle, tendon or ligament protein synthesis/degradation, vascularisation, energy utilization, regenerative capacity or fibre type switching [e.g. Platelet-derived Growth Factor (PDGF), Fibroblast Growth Factors (FGFs), Vascular-Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF)] were included.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) is “a government statutory authority that is Australia’s driving force for pure performance in sport. It is the organisation with prime responsibility for implementation of the World Anti-Doping Code (the Code) in Australia.”

Amongst other duties ASADA is responsible for Athlete Wherabouts AW Policy:

As a result, the Code, the ASADA Act 2006 and ASADA Regulations, which contain the National Anti-Doping (NAD) scheme, requires certain Athletes to provide current and accurate Whereabouts Filing to enable Athletes to be located for Out of Competition Sample collection.

ASADA’s mission is to ensure that:

  • every member of Australia’s sporting community has the opportunity to access quality anti-doping education
  • a blend of flexible teaching and learning approaches that cater to a diverse range of needs
  • efficient participant and program management, with meaningful and timely reporting to enable continuous monitoring, evaluation and accountability.

Ryan Napoleon

An Australian swimmer, Ryan Napoleon, provides a current example of the issues and responsibilities raised by WADA’s role in anti-doping and ASADA’s delivery of national anti-doping implementation practice.

The world governing body for swimming (FINA) announced that:

The Australian swimmer Ryan Napoleon was tested positive to the substance Formoterol (Class S.3 Beta-2 Agonists) on 16 November 2009. According to DC 10.4, during the hearing of the Doping Panel it has been sufficiently established how the substance Formoterol entered the body of the athlete due to the use of an inhaler wrongly labelled by a pharmacist. It is clear that the swimmer had no intention of enhancing his sports performances. The Doping Panel underlines the responsibility of the athlete to check his medicine (in this case for asthma). The Doping Panel took into consideration the degree of negligence and decided to apply a 3 months period of ineligibility starting from 20 august 2010.

This is a Swimming Times post on Ryan’s case. This is a post in Pharmacy News about the case.

The national body for swimming in Australia (Swimming Australia) stated that:

Swimming Australia has been informed by FINA’s anti-doping agency that Queenslander Ryan Napoleon has been suspended from swimming for three months. An asthmatic for 20 years, Napoleon took medication from an asthma inhaler which was incorrectly labelled and subsequently tested positive to Formoterol, a common asthma medication, which is also a banned substance on the WADA list. Napoleon has taken the asthma medication Pulmicort for the majority of his life, however on this occasion a Pulmicort inhaler was incorrectly labelled, and was actually Symbicort – which consists of the banned substance Formoterol. In the FINA hearing which was held via teleconference last Wednesday, the panel accepted that Napoleon was not at fault due to the mistake of the pharmacist incorrectly labelling the medication, and that there was no intent to use the banned substance, which he could have applied for a TUE for, if he knew he was actually taking it. FINA did however find that as an elite athlete Napoleon had a ‘reduced responsibility’ in this matter, and should have been fully aware of the medication he was taking, and subsequently applied the three month suspension.

The ban means that Ryan will not compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. In a very impressive statement about responsibility, Ryan observed that “A mistake was made, and the FINA panel accepted that a mistake was made in the hearing, but as an athlete I still understand that I have a responsibility to check all my medication thoroughly.” See my Postscript 2 below for an update.

I am interested to discuss with Will’s class what students the same age as Ryan think about the decision at a personal level and at a governance level.


An Australian Academy of  Science (2004) discussion of drugs in sport concludes that:

Historians point out that drugs have probably been used to enhance sporting performance for more than 2000 years, so it’s unlikely the problem will ever go away. Some commentators are even calling for the legalisation of such drugs so they can be dispensed, administered and monitored more closely. Others say the only way to ensure the health of our athletes is to stamp out drugs altogether. For now, performance-enhancing drugs are illegal, so athletes who use them are cheats. And, given the health risks associated with drug abuse, we can safely say that the race to beat the drug tests is a race nobody wins.

I think this quote contains the essence of the discussion for Monday.

  • Play and display
  • Regulation and deviance
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Governance

In a recent study (2010), Matthew Dunn et al report the findings of a study of 974 elite Australian athletes. They found that:

The athletes surveyed endorsed testing for banned substances as an effective way of deterring drug use; believed that the current punishments for being caught using a banned substance was of the appropriate severity; and indicated that there should be separate policies regarding illicit drug and performance-enhancing drug use.

James Connor and Jason Mazanov (2009) have explored some of the Faustian issues (taking a drug that guaranteed sporting success but would result in their death in 5 years’ time) for those who choose to take performance enhancing drugs. They note that “athletes differ markedly from the general population in response to the dilemma”.

Some Literature

In addition to the hyperlinks in this post, I think the following are interesting contributions to the discussion of performance enhancing drugs.

John Hoberman’s Testosterone Dreams (2006) and Mortal Engines (1992)

Andy Miah’s Website

Ivan Waddington and Andy Smith (2009) An Introduction to drugs in sport: addicted to winning? Abingdon: Routledge.

Postscript 1

Shortly after discussing performance enhancing drugs with Will and his group news broke about Travis Tuck and his appearance at the AFL Tribunal in relation to illicit drugs. Amongst other issues raised by Travis’s case is the role a sporting organisation plays in the sanctions against those who fail drug tests. The AFL policy has raised significant debate about duty of care in relation to players who are at risk.

Postscript 2

Lausanne, 14 September 2010 – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has issued its decision in the arbitration between the Australian swimmer Ryan Napoleon and the International Swimming Federation (FINA).
The decision reads as follows:
1.    The appeal filed by Ryan Napoleon on 2 September 2010 against the decision of the FINA Doping Panel of 20 August 2010, decision 03/10, is partially upheld.
2.    The decision of the FINA Doping Panel of 20 August 2010, decision 03/10, is partially set aside.
3.    Ryan Napoleon is sanctioned with a three-month period of ineligibility commencing on 15 June 2010.
4.    All competitive results obtained by Ryan Napoleon from 16 November 2009 up to and including 28 January 2010 shall be disqualified, with all of the resulting consequences including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.
On 2 September 2010, Ryan Napoleon filed an appeal with the CAS against the decision issued by the FINA Anti-doping Panel imposing a three-month period of ineligibility following a positive doping test for the substance Formoterol (Beta-2 agonist/specified substance) on 16 November 2009. The CAS conducted an expedited procedure in light of the fact that Ryan Napoleon was selected to represent Australia at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi/India. The parties were heard by a CAS Panel composed of Mr Stuart McInnes (United Kingdom), President, Mr Malcolm Holmes (Australia) and Mr Olivier Carrard (Switzerland) by video conference on 10 September 2010. The full award with the grounds will be issued at a later date.

Photo Credits

Olympic Spirit

Olympic Natatorium

Olympic Flame