Are Sport And Addiction On the Same Team?
tIn the UK, The 6 Nations rugby championship matches are nearly upon us and with Finn Russell’s very public bust up with the Scottish management team, it seems like a good time to talk about the presence of alcohol in sport.
There’s nothing like watching a big sporting event. Spending time with friends, crowding around the TV and cheering on your team. All the while feasting on a buffet of snacks or takeaway food and sipping on a beer. Alcohol adverts are shown in sports programmes; there are sponsorship deals; pubs run promotions when the big game is on. It can sometimes feel difficult to avoid the connection between sports and alcohol and not just for fans…
Sports players needing rehab?
In the past few years, football fans have been caught up in the excitement of following their heroes through the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Russia. Their female counterparts have competed in the hugely skillful and entertaining FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Last year, lovers of rugby union revelled in the Rugby World Cup in Japan, and athletics aficionados watched the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Qatar. All these events accepted alcohol company sponsorship which has an impact on not just fans but the player as well.
For fans, sportsmen and women are our heroes, who often achieve an almost superhuman status. However, it is often easy to forget that our favourite footballers, boxers, rugby players or athletes are human and have the same flaws as everybody else. In fact, being a public role model can cause even more problems with drugs and alcohol and have far-reaching consequences.
Pressure to perform
Sadly many sports stars have struggled with addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling. For instance, football fans witnessed the terrible toll alcohol took on George Best, whom many consider to be the greatest ever player. Former Newcastle United and Rangers player Paul Gascoigne and ex-Arsenal and England captain Tony Adams have also been open about their issues with alcohol.
The problem is not exclusively associated with football, as the troubles of French rugby player Mathieu Bastareaud, referee Steve Walsh and former boxers, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard showed.
It sometimes seems as if there is an association between sporting prowess and addiction. Why do so many sports personality succumb to drugs or alcohol? Could be due to the stress and strain of competition where sportsmen and women feel constant pressure to succeed? Some can feel like failures if they do not win, leading to anxiety and depression. It can feel soul-destroying to lose if you have been training and working towards something your whole life. It can look as if your dreams have shattered leading many sportspeople to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way of coping.
Athletes may feel as if a lot of people are depending on them, and they have let everyone down. The weight of expectation can be overwhelming. This is especially true when millions of fans or your coaches, or the club that is paying your wages are watching closely.
Counselling services needed
The huge salaries some sportsmen and women receive at a young age can also lead to issues with drug abuse and alcoholism. There have been instances when sports stars may have the wrong people around them. Being surrounded by an entourage and hangers-on, maybe on their payroll, means it’s not always easy to see who gives good advice. Being able to afford to buy anything you want can often be too much and some people can lose their way. It can be a case of having too much, too young, and many don’t know how to deal with it.
This is compounded by the fact there is temptation everywhere, because there is often a drinking culture in sport. There are many reported cases of sportsmen and women over-celebrating their victories or drowning their sorrows. If you’re famous then everybody wants to be friends, shake hands, get a selfie… buy you a drink. Some clubs now provide mental health or other counselling services but there is still a need for more.
Help is available
The many cases where sports personalities fall victim to addiction are counter-balanced by inspiring stories of overcoming dependency. Stories of defeating drug or alcohol addiction and rebuilding lives. Just like in a game where they may have been behind on points they kept on fighting against their addiction until they ultimately triumph.
You can do it too with help, advice and support.