You will select a crisis situation or public issue within Australian sport. This can be pertaining to a sport, athlete or organisation but must be relevant to the last 9 months (since June 2016). Using relevant theory, analyse the situation and the way the organisation responded/reacted or should have responded/reacted. Your task is to provide a critical review and recommendations, aligned with theoretical bases or frameworks that use and extend those presented in the unit.
The crisis is a concept used to refer to stressful occurrences or moments. The crisis is a situation that is complex that results from the poor functioning of a system. There is need to take immediate action to prevent further effects on the system. Like in other field crisis in sports are common and affect individual players, organization or a specific sport. Australian sports have not been spared from the crisis over the years with many situations facing various sports organizations and athletes. One the problems facing sports in Australia is doping.
Doping in rugby
Doping is defined as the use of prohibited drugs or methods with the aim of improving the performance of an athlete in the sport. According to Rourke (2013), it has been reported that doping and use of illicit Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) is growing in Australia at all levels in sports including professional, sub-elite and grassroots levels. Doping in sporting is considered as cheating and unfair. According to Curtis (2015), most of the sportsmen use PEDs to have better looks, enhance their performance, quick recovery for injuries and to cope with training. Others especially the young athletes are possessed with the desire to succeed, therefore; they risk sanctions and personal health by taking PDEs. According to ASADA (2017), Doping also has a negative impact on the athlete’s health and reputation thus weakening the community’s faith and belief in sports. This essay will present the crisis of doping facing Rugby in Australia specifically in the National Rugby League (NRL)
Setting the scene
Use of drugs is a threat to sport as it ruins the reputation of sports in the community (Solberg et al. 2010, Engelberg et al. 2012). Sportsmen act as role models in the society and thus are responsibility in shaping the society. Involvement in doping practices not only ruins their reputation in public but also make people doubt their success. Fans may lose interest in given game if it is faced with many cases of doping (Dimant and Deutscher 2015). According to Buechel et al. (2014), the media also tends to decline from covering events that have been involved in doping, and it also makes it hard for sponsors to get involved in such events. Doping weakens sports institutions and makes them lose their trustworthiness.
Doping by the young players mainly come as a result of envying the established stars whom they desire to emulate. To attain a high -level performance these players opt to take performance enhancing drugs. They may also be getting pressure from peers who are already using the drugs or even their coaches who may be more interested in results rather than the wellbeing of the players. This problem can be solved by introducing the Adolescent Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) program. This will help players in high schools learning that they do have to use steroids to make their muscle lean to improve their performance in the field. This programs also allows young players to understand the harmful effects of steroid to their health. ATLAS program educates young players on to take alternative nutrition programs that will help them gain the right weight without risking their health or their career (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017). According to Jay (2013), Coaches should take the initiative to teach young players about the harm effect of steroids. They should also teach them on how they can abstain from taking drugs and refuse drug offers. Research on ATLAS have shown that it has the following impact on young players:
- It lowers the incidences of new abuse of steroid by 50% and also lowers the intentions of taking the drugs in the future.
- The program results to decline in drug and substance abuse and alcoholism.
- The decline in abuse of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
- It also lowers the possibility of trained youths to engage in dangerous drug taking behaviors such as starting chaos when drunk and driving while drunk among others.
- It helps in prevention of steroid and substance use. This because trained youths develop less interest in using illicit drugs and substances but instead they use nutritional diets.
By training youths to stop using drugs a good culture can be built of responsible sportsmanship.
Another program that should be introduced in Australia NRL is the Athletes Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives (ATHENA). Though designed for young adolescent would be a good solution to the current issues of taking drugs to enhance one shape. ATHENA pills contain nutrition values that enable athletes that help one become healthier and experience fewer injuries while in the field (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017).
Punishment for doping cases should go beyond the player. Coaches, trainers, manufacturers, distributors and leagues officials should also be subjected to tough doping penalties to end this problem completely.
Application of cutting edge technology should also be sued to detect sports personnel involved in doping.
The media should also take the initiative to teach the public about the dangers that face athletes who use the drug to gain a competitive advantage over their competitor or teammates. This should be done through effective educational programs various media platforms. Education institutions should also take the responsibility to train student about the severe consequences of abusing drugs.
Scholars should also take the initiative to carry out more researches on the psychological and physiological impacts of doping. This will issue more warning to those with the intention of using the drugs.
Programs to assist those involved in doping should also be established to ensure that they can get back to their normal and possibly continue with their careers in sports.
Awarding those who do not get involved in doping practices should also be done to inspire others and show them the importance of maintaining discipline in the sports industry. They should also be used as role models to inspire their peers as well as an upcoming talent by letting them believe that they can achieve high -performance level without depending on performance-enhancing drugs.
Efforts in all social arenas should be taken to sensitize the public on the importance of maintaining integrity and decency in all aspects of life including sports, business, and in the society. Multidisciplinary professionals including teachers, Politicians, sociologists, and religious leaders should ensure that they play their role well and responsibly.
According to Jamie (2017), clubs should introduce psychological training programs to their players. This will help them learn how they can effectively deal with pressures they face in their careers. They should help them get alternatives that will help them not to choose drugs to ease the pressure. Psychological training will also help players to realize how they can utilize their mental ability to perform to their full potential.
Clubs and the involved organizations should accept that doping has become a serious problem NRL instead of defending and trying to hide the severity of the issue. They should plan on effective strategies that will help reduce the vice in the game. Each club should take the responsibility of monitoring and train their players on doping. They should ensure that players involved in doping face strict penalties that will inhibit them from using the drugs again.
According to Hume (2017), doping has strong impacts on various stakeholders in the sports industry including the players, sports organizations, sponsors, and fans among others. Anti-doping rules were introduced to reduce unfairness in sports as well as reduce health risks for the athletes. The following are the negative impacts of doping in sports.
According to Cisyk and Courty (2015) performance enhancers brings about unfairness and corruption in the sports industry. PEDs makes the users perform at a higher level than the non-user which may pressure the no users to start using drugs to keep up with others. Not only does PEDs cause unfairness in sports but also they have negative impacts on the health of the users. The abuse of drugs makes players prone to injuries, and also they harm body organs. According to Baron et al. (2016), athletes using stimulants to enhance their performance are open to many health risks which include cardiovascular and psychological problems. Use PDEs may also make athletes dependent on these drugs such that they cannot perform without them and also they may become addicted to the drugs. Other effects may include, dehydration, irregular heartbeats not forgetting that are also putting their careers at risk since they can be banned from participating in sports for a lifetime.
Fans, coaches, and team owners are interested in the best performances of the players. They may be impressed by the athlete’s high performance while on PED’s even without their knowledge. In cases where the player is affected by the drugs and cannot participate in the game, these stakeholders are the most affected because some of the players have a big influence on the performance of their teams. Therefore, when they are out of the team, the team fails to perform well. Teams may also lose their sponsorships if they get involved in doping practices.
Doping also affects players who relied on their natural abilities or inborn talents. To get the best out inborn talent requires hard work in preparation and training. However, by using doping, one gets an advantage over the others because he or she perform at a higher level without necessarily having to work so hard. Doping, therefore, ends up discouraging those who depend on their natural abilities to perform or make them opt to start using PDEs to enhance their performance and achieve the desired success.
According to Thomas (2017), positive results on doping tests can have detrimental repercussions on a professional athlete. One of the consequences that an athlete can face due to doping include bans which can be for a given period or a lifetime, revoking of results, financial penalties, and reputational damage. Several Rugby clubs in Australia have been affected by the issue of doping. One of the recent cases of doping involves Barba who is a former player of National Rugby League (NRL) Premiership side Cornulla-Sutherland Sharks. Barba tested for positive for cocaine in October 2016 and received a mandatory 12 months ban with NRL confirming that this was the second time that Barba had tested positive for cocaine. NRL released the following statement that confirmed the ban: “Given Barba has been released from his current contract, the suspension will apply if he returns to the NRL in the future.” Barba’s case attracted various reactions from the clubs management, fellow players, NRL management and the media.
According to a report by Griffits (2016), Lyall Gorman Sharks Chief Executive Barba said that Barba and his management had approached the club and advised the club that he was seeking a release from his contract taking a break from the game. Gorman further stated that the player was undergoing an intensive program that would help him address his personal issues which were relevant to him and his future. Gorman confirmed that the club was in full support of the player for the welfare of the player and his family.
Following this incident Sharks club released a statement which confirmed that Barba was no longer in contract with the club: “The club wishes to advise that it has agreed to provide Ben Barba an immediate release from his playing contract for him to address some significant personal issues. While this decision has not been easy for either party, there is full agreement that it is one made in the best interests of Ben, his young family and our club.”
Nick Weeks Head of NRL integrity confirmed that NRL was working closely with Sharks in supporting Barba, but the ban should serve as a warning on the consequences of doping to other players in the league.
Concerning the incident, Barba said, “I am aware and accept that I need a break from the game to deal with some personal issues. I have to take the responsibility for my actions for if I don’t address them now they will ruin my career as well as my life and that of my family” he further stated that footballers find it hard to voice their problems but his decision to speak up has relieved him from the pressure (Proszenko 2016).
According to The New Daily (2017), it was reported that three players and a club chairman in the Rugby League had been involved in alleged cocaine scandals in separate incidence. Despite this allegation, one club boss did not agree that rugby was facing a drug crisis. Damian Sharks Chief Executive Damian Keogh was arrested on 5th May 2017 after allegations that he possessed cocaine. The other case involved Kiwis Captain Jesse Bromwich and teammate Kelvin Proctor. The two players have been named in court, but none has been charged with an offense. A day before this incident Sydney Roosters Centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall had also been charged with drug possession.
According to Jack (2017), following the arrest of Sharks Mr. Keogh, Gorman also a chief executive of the club refused to agree with the allegations that the club was having a serious problem with drug, Mr. Gorman said, “I don’t agree that drug problem is serious at all” he further argued that in the club had a serious problem with drug them it would not have made great achievements both on and off the field.
These situations have made Infinity Group Australia withdraw its sponsorship for the two clubs. The club had signed a deal worth $ 700,000 and $ 300,000 with Sharks and Roosters respectively.
According to Wide World of Sports (2017) while addressing the current drug issues affecting Sharks and Rooster, NRL chairman Todd Greenberg promised that tough actions would be taken against those breaking drug rules. However, Mr. Greenberg denied that rugby in Australia had a problem with cocaine, He said, “I don’t think the game has got a bigger problem that what the society is perceiving such forms of challenges.”
Solving a crisis in an organization requires communication.The message may have an impact on one or more audiences and are referred to as the stakeholders. As a public relations practitioner, it is essential to know the information that is relevant to the audience. For instance, in sports, the audience include fans, sponsors, coaches, and organizations among others. Each stakeholder requires specific information depending on the situation. Therefore, while dissemination information it is important to consider the needs of the target stakeholder. Public relation ensures that attention is created in the audiences to trigger an interest in the message and make the audience have the desire to act on the message by giving a response.
The two -way symmetrical model was developed by Grunigs in 1984. This theory aims at ensuring that decisions made by the organization are beneficial to the organization as well as the audiences. The objective of this theory is to develop mutual understanding between the organization and the public and encourages negotiations between the involved parties. According to Simpson, (2014), the two-way symmetrical model is the most ethical model of communication that PR practitioners should use. The symmetrical model of communication is more democratic for the public relations Practitioner to follow but may have a positive or negative impact depending on the situation.
Two -way symmetrical model allows the organization and the public to express their views, and thus they develop a strong relationship which is built on trust. Having developed trustworthy relationships helps the organization to be in a positive position in case there is a crisis because a good reputation has already been built. Two- way symmetrical model helps an organization in building a strong reputation and good relationships. This model allows both the organization and its model to grow and develop together since every party is given a fair platform to air its voice and their also their interest are considered.
The development of the social media has enabled organizations to interact directly with the public directly through social media platforms such Facebook, Twitter, and also on websites, and blogs. Sports organizations are also using the social media to communicate to their supporters and sponsors. Digital communication has made two-way symmetrical communication easier. According to Gruig, the public has more control over the source of information which forces the organization to participate by giving responses. For instance, in the issues relation to doping affecting Sharks and Roosters, the two clubs have been forced to give their opinions on the issue. This also forces the clubs to take immediate action against those involved in doping so as to show that they do not support doping in their clubs. Also due to public participation NRL is pressured to give way forward and the steps they intend to take against those involved in drug cases. The individuals involved in the saga also give their views on the issue.
However, it is important to understand how various social networks function this is because Public relations practitioners should know the target audiences to have responses from the involved parties. The social media allows organizations and the public to apply the two-way symmetrical since every person is given the opportunity to give his or her opinion. For instance, through the media Barba apologized to the public and showed that he was not pleased by his action of using cocaine. He also explained why he decided to take a break from the game.
Many media houses are also using digital platforms reach their audiences and get direct responses from them. Most of the people now are using the internet to get information from the media. For instance, the cases of doping affecting Sharks and Roosters have been published on the websites of the media organization, and they keep on updating the information from time to time.
Following Barba’s doping case Sharks provided the information about the player and the action that the club had taken to ensure that the issue was solved properly. The fans could, therefore, access the information about the issue on various websites. Sharks expressed their disappointment over the issue, but the club's chief executive Mr. Gorman confirmed that only Barba had involved in the doping by them. Despite the case affecting Barba the club promised to help the player to get out of the menace closely. According to a report by Zero Tackle Gorman said that Barba’s issue was difficult both for the club and his family, stating that his contribution to the team was remarkable and the club had accepted the situation and were willing to help the player go through the challenge. The recent case of involving the chief executive of the club and a player has become a major disappoint. Mr. Keogh has resigned from his position.
Through the social media other stakeholders are able to express the views of the issue. For instance, NRL verdict on the victims has been put on social media to inform the public.
Two -way symmetrical diagram
According to Atwood (2008), there are four elements of communication that is,
- The sender- in this case, is the media.
- Message- The message is sent to the receiver through a given channel
- Medium(Channel)- they channel refers to the means of communication example social media, telephone, e.t.c
- Receiver – The receiver gets the information and sent a reply back to the sender
To manage the situation of drug taking in all sports including rugby Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Has been taking regular doping test to athletes without giving prior notice. This helps in getting the PEDs users off-guard. Doping test are compulsory and the athletes who decide to decline from the activity risk serious sanctions from the Authority (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority). NRL also corroborates with ASADA in conducting and taking actions against rugby players involved in doping. According to NRL rugby not only harms the health of the players but also destroys the spirit and the reputation of the game. Doping is also against the fundamental rights with of the players to participate in a fair competition. NRL does not tolerate doping in the game. The organization has set Anti-Doping Policy in the league which every participant should be aware of and should apply them appropriately. NRL doping policies are in line with ASADA’s doping policies as well as World Anti-Doping Code and the Rugby League International Federation Anti-Doping Policy. NRL and ASADA run anti-doping programs through education, intelligence gathering, testing and managing the results.
NRL ensure that junior, junior elite and sub-elite players participating in the league are tested. Players are selected randomly for a doping test, and the exercise can be carried anytime while in the competitions or out of competition. All participant should be responsible and promote anti-doping campaigns in the league.
Players involved in doping cases face tough consequences for NRL which may affect their careers and reputation. Some of the players are banned from taking part in sports activities for a long period, and this may end up influencing their performance. Recently NRL has issued ban sanctions to several NRL players doping. For instance, apart for Barba who received a 12 months ban, there other players that have received even greater bans that have ended their careers, for instance, former Knight playmaker Mullen received was a suspension on First January until 2021. Mullen, 31 years tested positive for Drostanolone after the routine test which was in done in a preseason training session. ASADA recommended for a four years ban for Mullen, but he did not accept the punishment and appealed against the decision. Mullen pleaded for leniency and explained that his aim was not to gain a competitive advantage over other players, but he was compelled to do so after suffering a second serious hamstring injury in a year (ABC New 2017a). Another under -20 Sharks player Jesse Savage has been restricted from training for unknown period after allegedly being accused of possessing illicit substance his case is in court and is yet to be charged (ABC News 2017 b) Kiwis Captain Jesse Bromwich and teammate Kelvin Proctor have also been charged after they were caught purchasing cocaine from Adrian Mark Crowther outside the Cube nightclub in Canberra city centre on 4th may 2017. The two are yet to be charged too (Kent 2017).
Clubs also takes action against players who get involved in doping by suspending them. However, Club like Sharks has that they will support victims in their club to ensure that they get to their normal status and overcome the difficult situation that results from doping. For, an instance in Barba’s case, the club agreed to terminate the player’s contract and also ensured that he was enrolled in a rehabilitation program that would help him recover. This would also help his family his young family which was undergoing through a tough moment. His teammates as showed their concern to him and promised to support him throughout the period. Other clubs also showed their support to him with Sydney Roosters player Michael Gordon a former teammate promised that he would help Barba to get back to his normal life.
NRL and also the affected clubs have denied the fact that the league has been affected by drug abuse issues with many cases of cocaine abuse. The drug crisis the league is evidence with the latest cases of drug abuse that have even affected club leaders. This may only be a way of trying to hide the reality of the impact that drugs have on the Australian rugby league. Necessary steps should be taken to solve the menace before it ruins the reputation of the game in Australia.
Doping is a challenge facing NRL and the league officials, ASADA, coaches, and clubs among other stakeholders should make sure that they take the appropriate roles to ensure that they deal with the issue appropriately. Clubs have the responsibility to manage their players and ensure that they do not engage in doping. The society should also take part in teaching the young people about the need to maintain integrity in every area of life. Sports organization should take any action that ensures that athletes do not engage themselves in any form of cheating.
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