As "booze culture" is ingrained in the Kiwi psyche, so too is sport - which is where experts say the problem arises as athletes are thrown into the spotlight for alcohol-related incidents.

The "complex" relationship between drinking and sport has forced athletes into the spotlight on a number of occasions - with two former All Blacks, and Black Caps cricketer Doug Bracewell making headlines in recent months for drink driving.

Last week the Hastings resident pleaded guilty to drink driving at more than three times the legal limit - in another alcohol-related fall from grace for the 26-year-old.

Over 2012 and 2013, Bracewell received a game ban after a fight at a Napier bar, missed a test series against England after injuring himself during the clean-up of his house party, and was stood down for a T20 game after he returned late due to drinking the night before.

But worryingly, he is not the only young, male Hawke's Bay athlete to experience such alcohol-related incidents.

Fellow cricketer and former Napier Boys' High School student Jesse Ryder wore the label of NZ Cricket's "problem child" for years, after his battle with alcohol became public in 2008. The then 23-year-old had injured his hand when punching a glass panel in a Christchurch bar.

Other sporting codes have had their own incidents - Magpies player and former All Black Zac Guildford has publicly struggled with repeated behaviour problems and battles with alcohol.

As has former Olympic swimmer Daniel Bell - whose appearances at the Beijing Olympics, 2009 World Aquatics Championships and Delhi Commonwealth games were affected by alcohol-related indiscretions.

As well as being young and male, the four athletes come from Hawke's Bay - which has one of the highest hazardous drinking rates in New Zealand.

A quarter of Hawke's Bay adults are classed as "hazardous drinkers" - when a person is likely to be harming their own health, or causing harm to others through their behaviour - which accounts for up to 600 hospital admissions, and costs more than $3 million a year.

While there had been several Hawke's Bay athletes involved in alcohol-related incidents, Sport Hawke's Bay chief executive Mark Aspden said he did not think this was an issue more common here than in other regions.

As professional athletes tended to be young and male, he felt this instead reflected on society's relationship with alcohol, and the "preponderance of alcohol issues with young males".

When asked, he said he was not sure if Bay athletes were over-represented in this issue.

"I don't know what happens in the provinces of similar size but you hear stories from every part of the country in a range of sports," he said. "What you don't tend to hear are the stories about Joe Bloggs who does exactly the same thing and who isn't connected with sport and isn't well known".

While research has shown that athletes involved in team sports are more likely to drink in a dangerous pattern, it is not confirmed whether athletes actually drink more, or more dangerously, than others.

There was a tie between sport and alcohol as both were big parts of society, Mr Aspden said, but he had not been presented with anything to indicate "the average 25-year-old elite sportsman is more likely to drive drunk than the average 25-year-old non elite sportsman".

"I'd be surprised if that was the case."

Instead, he stated he felt there was more notice taken of athletes in this regard as they were in the public eye.

"That's the reality of it," he said. "I think teams and sports are very conscious of that and have protocols around it which an ordinary social sports team wouldn't do.

"I think it is a reality of being a public figure and not just in a sporting sense. Overall people are interested in what public figures do and you've got that public pressure, or knowledge that what you do will be of interest."

This was echoed by Massey University's Steve Stannard, who said the difference between sportspeople, and others, were the high expectations placed on athletes - to be professional, and not impair their performance with alcohol.

"When these sportspeople get done for a DUI or whatever, it's no different than anybody else that gets done for a DUI but they're in the media already, they're high profile."

An example of this was the February charging of former All Black Daniel Carter with drink driving in France, which unfortunately "reflects what happens every day in New Zealand, he's just another Kiwi guy in that context".

The School of Sport and Exercise professor said the relationship between sport and alcohol was complex, as the two "have been closely tied for a long, long time".

"Sport and alcohol are sort of like peaches and cream really."

When asked whether there was an issue, Central Districts chief executive Pete De Wet said he thought athletes were focused on due to their high profile, but that this reflected a bigger issue in society.

"I don't think that it can be linked specifically to athletes, I think it's broader than that," he said. "I think that there's a bigger issue here than drinking and athletes."

Mr de Wet added he did not think the issue of misuse of alcohol in society was limited to Hawke's Bay, or New Zealand.

"We work really hard at the [The Central Stags], we certainly don't have a drink culture in the Stags" he said.

"We understand the role that these guys play as public figures and we work really hard at that. We certainly don't condone it but by all accounts Doug has fessed up to the fact that he's made a mistake."

Some sports are arguably more tied to drinking than others - with cricket games watched at a pub, overpriced alcohol purchased at a live rugby match, or celebrating a football win at the local clubrooms.

The reasons were numerous, in part due to the similarities between the two activities - both are seen as social, "leisure" activities, both have a "celebratory context", and both are tied to Kiwi culture.

Mr Stannard said social expectations also contributed to the relationship - with Kiwi culture tying alcohol with socialising and celebrating.

"Sport is a sort of social gathering so there's an expectation you have alcohol. In New Zealand there's this societal expectation that you can't celebrate, you can't have fun unless there's alcohol involved.

"I've even had high-profile coaches talk to me about this...I had someone tell me once that the spirit of the team is at the bottom of the bottle."

Adding to this was alcohol companies sponsoring sport - meaning people grew up watching sport, and associating it with a particular brand, or alcohol in general.

These social expectations, and normalisation of the tie between sport and alcohol meant when athletes reached an age when they could become professional, "they don't know any different".

"They are high profile, they're in the media, they're meant to be good athletes, but they can't see any other way of celebrating except with alcohol," Mr Stannard said.

"In a sporting match or sporting context, they don't know how to enjoy themselves without alcohol."

Mr Stannard warned that as well as normal drinking-related dangers, alcohol could inhibit an athlete's performance.

Even moderate amounts of alcohol affect recovery from athletic performance, "and a professional sportsperson should know better therefore than to go out and drink alcohol immediately after [playing]".

Currently, Hawke's Bay has a joint alcohol strategy shared between two councils, and the Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB).

Sport Hawke's Bay also works with the HBDHB on a programme to promote a healthy drinking culture in sports clubs.