Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: Misuse of pills just ignorant

Tabai Matson, assistant coach of the Crusaders. Photo / APN
Tabai Matson, assistant coach of the Crusaders. Photo / APN

The combination of energy drinks and sleeping pills is a breach of every player's contract, not just rugby league but in any professional sport.

The contention that it isn't illegal cannot justify the abuse of substances which in effect breach two ethical rules.

First, to knowingly take this combination to achieve a "high" for competition is cheating, albeit with legal substances; you are increasing performance outside of skill development and hard work.

Second, in the professional contract, a clause appears stating you are banned from pursuing sports or activities which have the ability to cause injury or harm to your body, or words to that effect.

Each sport has its own version of that clause. These substances have the potential to cause harm. There is also a code of conduct which forbids the use of illegal or performance-enhancing drugs which must be adhered to by all participants.

To hide behind the mask of it not being illegal is cowardly and ignorant of the damage the use of this combination is doing to your body. There is a ripple effect encompassing a number of innocent parties; a team and team-mates, an individual sport and sport in general.

Two days ago, I was fortunate to watch a presentation by Tabai Matson, assistant coach of the Crusaders, on behalf of a trust called SAY When (Sport Assisting Youth). He was speaking to students at Westlake Boys' High on the effects of alcohol on males aged 18 to 24. It was invigorating to hear him passionately speak of alcohol use and its effect on communities, sports teams and individuals. Why we drink, how we drink and the consequences of such actions gave an insight to the choices we make.

The young men he was speaking to are the future of this country who could create a shift in how their generation treats alcohol. Although not illegal, alcohol and how we use it is affecting our culture and the limits we are prepared to go to for gratification.

Matson's talk was also timely, given what has been highlighted within the Kiwis at the 2013 World Cup, as well as All Blacks Israel Dagg and Cory Jane during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The use of legal substances has highlighted a trend, seeping into our consciousness via professional sport, and people need to realise the consequences of their actions.

Just because it is legal does not mean it can't hurt you or be detrimental to you and others.

Just like alcohol, there are concerns about the misuse of sleeping pills and energy drinks. The governing bodies need to amend professional contracts to encompass this activity as one that can cause injury or harm to the body, then modify both the code of conduct and drugs policy to address this misuse.

- Herald on Sunday

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Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

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