In hindsight he was an easy mark. Talented, with a growing reputation and still young enough to succumb to the temptation of life's finer things. He couldn't help but be wide-eyed and cocky and so the alarm bells stayed silent as the man with the friendly smile offered to pay for the price of a refill.

Never one to turn down a beer, despite being a professional athlete, he accepted graciously. That would prove to be a fatal moment in the drama that had yet to play out and yet it all seemed so innocuous at the time.

There followed a conversation about sport, the weather, travel and other such mundane topics as the man with the friendly smile had seemingly formed a habit of making sure the young athlete's glass was never empty for long.

And as men with friendly smiles often do, this particular one was rather adept at praising the deeds of young men, both those already performed and, more importantly, those yet to come.


As the bonhomie lurched from lull to crescendo and back again, the television behind the bar showed news from around the world. Various pictures and headlines would hold the attention of one or other of the men for a period before they soon found some topic or other to discuss.

Although there was one item that piqued the curiosity of both men; some footage from a hidden camera showing the barbaric slaughter of some newborn calves, ripped from their mothers and beaten over the head with blunt objects, thrown and kicked mercilessly across the yard as their short existence was made as morbid as possible. "They're sacred in my country," said the man with the friendly smile, which faded for the briefest of moments, while the young athlete experienced a sickness to his stomach. "But," he said, the smile returning, "who are we to judge? People have their reasons."

As disconcerting as this may have been, the moment passed and the young athlete was soon basking in his friend's praise once more. Hubris can be as potent as liquor in bringing down moral defences.

And so it was the man with the friendly smile produced an envelope and handed it to the young athlete with assurances he represented a sports company that was very interested in sponsoring his sporting prowess, going forward. It was flattering, of course, but after some internal deliberation the young athlete handed the cash-stuffed offering back to the friendly man, whose smile now seemed just a touch less friendly.

But the atmosphere was convivial enough as the two new acquaintances bid farewell and went their own way - and yet the young man still felt sick to his stomach.

When he awoke it was in a strange room, with a strange man who held a series of strange photographs that featured our young athlete. In the first few he's drinking at a bar with a friendly-looking smiley man.

The next few show him taking an envelope of cash from the smiling man and the two of them appear to be getting on very well indeed.

The next few snaps show our athlete in the very bed on which he now sat, only this time he's involved in startlingly amorous acts with a glamorous woman whom he'd never met and yet was doing things with he'd never conceive of with his wife.


As shock gave way to realisation, he inquired of the stranger as to his purpose. "We now have you," the stranger said coldly, "you work for us now."

Over the course of the next few minutes, our athlete was given instruction on how to perform at certain points in his next contest. On the face of it they were menial but, of course, they had to be so as to not raise suspicion. After that one was out of the way, he was to await further instruction.

The man left and the young athlete was left alone to ponder. And he reached the unnerving conclusion that, despite his best intentions, he was simply no more than a commodity, churned out so other people can make money. Some do this well and keep their heads above water, others get them caved in with a blunt object.