Induvidual or team based, sport provides entertainment, passion and ambition to many people world-wide. The involvement of sport in peoples lives can extend to further then “just an activity” but to a career and international level. There is not only the social benefits of being involved, but the physical and mental prosperity from keeping fit. However, due to the level sport is taken these days within communities globally, it does come at a cost economically, politically, socially. The involvement of money around funding, athletes and injuries is phenomenal. Money is in every aspect these days, especially in the health care sector providing rehabilitation to more people then ever not only in contact sports. The extensive training and performance of a representative athlete brings in a personal salary of millions to the point teams and athletes are almost treated as “commodities” (something than can be purchased). To be the best, players also go as far as performance enhancing drugs (PED) which can have detrimental effects to not only the health of a player, but the reputation and economy of the country or team they represent. As most PED users are wealthy to a degree, is money the motive? Does sport put pressure on the healthcare sector or minimise it? Finally, are athletes merely a commodity swayed by money or are they treated with respect and equality?
In 2016, New Zealand reached a total 3.59 billion dollar expenditure on healthcare across the nation. Of this cost, half a billion was due to ACC payouts from sport related injuries. Is the expense on injury recovery worth the “minimisation” of pressure put on the health sector? There are many benefits to sport which long term have positive effects including better physical health, mental health and an overall increase in education enjoyment. However there are also the negatives which include temporary injuries which can impact the financial state of a family, and the devastating long term injuries which can have detrimental physical and mental health effects. One of the main reasons behind Sport is to keep fit. In order to keep fit, people train and it overall increases exercise, leading to a healthier induvidual. Growing statistics and studies show that there is clear link between cardiovascular disease being minimised significantly through exercise. According to the American Heart Association, frequent expertise can reduce the likeliness of high blood pressure, poor cholesterol and obesity which are all factors of strokes. The risk of this occurring can lead to a chance of being non-fatal, heart surgery or death. The physical benefits including prolonged life and further benefits to the New Zealand economy. The average cost of a heart bypass surgery costs between $70,000-$200,000. If the average New Zealander was not keeping fit by sport or exercise, the national expenditure on health care by ACC would be significantly higher. Half a billion dollars is worth the cost of various sport related injuries in comparison to a chance of death or surgery which can have devastating effects on the finances of families. If person happened to have a heart issue and needed time off work, this would add pressure to the family, especially if they have kids. Not being able to work means the partner would become the sole provider until the victim is ready to return to their occupation. There’s not only the physical benefits of sport, but mental too. Living a healthy balanced life stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain (natural mood lifting chemicals) and reducing stress, chance of depression and quality of sleep. After time, there is also the self confidence boost from the increase in skills, stamina and self image. This is positive for youth in New Zealand because it not only influences a healthy future, but reduces costs on mental health nationwide. The natural positive hormone boosts and their connection to sleep, stress and other forms of mental issues are proven to help through extensive studies. Finally, there is also the link to sport and increase of enjoyment in education. Students who are driven by sport tend to have a greater concentration. As sport develops critical thinking, judgment and learning these skills are shown through the effort youth put into school work too. Parents pay the fees for a student to attend school, and if they want to be there then the money is building their future. If the student has no ambition or want to be in a school environment, the expenses of uniform, stationary, transport, devices and fees add up where the money could be used in other ways. The final benefit of a student playing sport during their time of education is the increase in social interaction and development of leadership skills. With this they not only build strong relationships with peers and team members, but may follow a health related path in the future. As there is a stress on staff in health care workers nationwide, the development of an interest at a young age will later pay off for New Zealanders having more people want to go into the industry. On the other end of the spectrum, a result of sport can include long term injuries. These include extensive ligament, muscle or tendon damage which can cause problems for anywhere between months and years. The result of this means a person can be put out of their sport and work commitments for weeks. In instances of a serious injury such as a concussion or further physical injury which does not allow them to participate in
their desired sport again can be detrimental to mental health. Not being able to play again or simply being taken away from it when it is what their life revolves around leads to frustration, depression and an overall declination in mental health. The cost of this includes physical and mental rehabilitation which is partially covered by growing taxes in New Zealand. However, some conditions can be very expensive and take further tolls on a family as mentioned previously economically. Further it can create a resentment towards sport if a child does not meet parental expectation in sport. This can lead to mental health effects and create a barrier between families, this distance can lead to further impact of the health sector due to counselling or further help. I believe that overall, Sports pros outweigh the chances of negative effects. The rising studies showing the health benefits physical and mental lead to a healthier country with greater engagement socially and educationally in the average New Zealanders life.
Recent statistics show that PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) are on the rise in sport globally. During late 2017, just over 100 semi-professional athletes got busted buying PEDs designed for horses. The effect on humans includes muscular growth and weight loss. What is the motivation behind the drugs and should they be made legal? When an athlete takes drugs that give them a significant performance advantage over another athlete, they are not only cheating themselves, but their team as well. There are many advantages of PEDs, however do they outweigh the long term negative health effects? The first reason an athlete may use PEDs is the faster recovery time and more effective training. Many cases involve people using them recreationally just to feel good and recover from assiduous training sessions at a greater rate. The benefit of being able to gain a larger physique faster is being able to perform better. As they are illegal and have to be bought on a black market, the doper is generally in a strong financial position. Due to most being wealthy and able to afford the illicit substances, it suggests that the motivation of PEDs is more personal/ fame orientated. Many cases in MLB (major league baseball) result in players losing up to 40 million off their salary excluding the cost of the experimental drugs. Another perspective to this issue is the affordability to gain higher end drugs. Being the best and winning frequently would involve the offering of scholarships and sponsorships in high level professional sport. Gaining a well larger salary means dopers can afford to spend more on “safer” drugs which aren’t as detrimental to their physical health. An example of this is the use of diuretics which mask the effects within the body to avoid testing positive in tests. These high end drugs are top of the line and can easily be distributed within a team as proven with the 2014 Winter Olympics. Russian funded a state-run doping program in the months leading up to the even in order to guarantee results. At the time none of the athletes got caught out, however it was later revealed that 15 medal winners were involved with the scandal. The intention behind this doping was heavily political, wanting international recognition for being an athletically dominant country. Statistics in a New Zealand study show that out of 142 elite secondary school rugby players, only five admitted to using the drugs in order to be better than everyone else with the aim of starting a career. In the same study, one in five felt pressured and at risk of taking them in the future because of the high levels they are expected to perform at. The short term benefits and instantaneous advantages often outweighs the damage in the eyes of users or people considering them. A reason to start taking them is to take sport to a professional level and to start a well paying career, however this is not always the case. A further study on 500 PED users showed that 80% (400) were not completive athletes, but average males using them recreationally. The long term effects can include diabetes, blood cancers, tumours, anaemia and strokes. This brings into question is the money behind a sporting career really worth the physical implications long term? This not only adds pressure to the New Zealand healthcare sector which is subsided by the people of NZ’s taxes, but costs (millions) further for drug tests sport-wide. NZDFS ( NZ drug free sport) ran a total of 2014 tests in 2017, resulting in a total of 8 violations. Judging by the evidence presented by various studies, I do not believe money is the motive behind performance enhancing drugs. The detrimental health issues that occur in long term are too significant for that to be the case. I believe that people see the short term benefits and use them to strive for their goals, reaching a certain level of fitness with ease or simply being the best at what they do. This is reassured by former professional cycler, Tyler Hamilton. “One day I’m a normal person with a normal life, the next I’m standing on a street corner in Madrid with a secret phone and a hole in my arm and I’m bleeding all over, hoping I don’t get arrested. It was completely crazy. But it seemed like the only way at the time.” Tyler was impressive as he was, however seeing what he could do without drugs lead to curiosity getting the best of him; experimenting what he could do chemically enhanced which was not an easy journey after receiving a dodgy street steroid. If humans were made to
take performance enhancing drugs, they would not have devastating effects and be legally distributed. Finally, I believe that athletes tend to be role-models and influencers for young people in sport world wide and make regular media appearances. Getting caught doping for a slight edge on opposition will not only damage the reputation of the athlete or country, but send mixed signals to the youth who were inspired by them.
Another huge side of sporting world-wide is the treatment and cost of professional elite-athletes. Through sponsorships, scholarships, government funding, annual wages can start from approximately 1 million – 6 million on average, and over 20 millions for exceptional performers. As businesses and colleges highly regard sport as a way of getting recognition through sponsorships and awards, athletes become an important commodity. Taken to the extreme of schools offering greater treatment and teams greater salaries just to gain the best of the best. How are these athletes really treated? As stars who excel in their sporting career or objects traded to make profit for a team or organisation? In the United States of America, there has been many instances of what is commonly known as preferential treatment. This means that school students who play for the best teams gain privileges and bypasses that the ordinary student wouldn’t. Many of these cases include the changing of grades, being let off the hook for poor attendance or getting away with bullying because the college needs their carries to play. On a wider scale, in professional sport, some athletes have been seen as “above the law” in a similar way as students. In 2011, Anthony Watts (professional rugby league Australia) was charged with violence and domestic assault against his girlfriend. These charges were then dropped without “sufficient” evidence. Many other shady examples include the faking of drug tests, getting off speeding fines and disorderly conduct world-wide. However, these cases are in the minority. At high level sport where contracts and sponsorships rule, there are very distinctive regulations athletes must follow or risk losing incredible salaries. The social consequences of bad behaviour include up to lifetime bans of future competitions, letting down coaches, fans and team mates, and media coverage resulting in the damaging of their reputation. Economically, not only are the athletes afflicted by the loss of sponsors but fines can be larger depending on the charges. As high performance athletes become the face of a brand, they deserve to be held accountable for their actions and sacrifices need to be made day to day. However the sacrifices are generally fair as it takes into consideration TV ratings, retail and crowd numbers. The million dollar salary is a small expense to a person who will bring in well more than that amount over the contract at the cost of them not ruining their reputation. Ethically, breaking a contract and the law shows true character, on both parties this leads to disputes over punishments or the lack of. Another point which suggests players are more of a commodity is how they can be “sold” to other clubs. Common in football in the UK, rising talent aged between 14-17 is scouted for large clubs then trained up until the age of 18. This training makes a great player, exceptional and worth 5 million euros to another premier club. In New Zealand, this happens on a large scale for high impact sports such as rugby. Polynesian and Maori players are scouted and recruited for international sport due to their large and muscular physique. This is seen in a positive and negative light by the players who are essentially items of commerce. American-Samoan unemployment currently sits at a high of 30%, so young teens see this as an incentive to make money. “the beautiful thing about football is it’s allowed us to get into education. Football is something that comes naturally to us.” According to this anonymous player, he believes that it is the best way to get a good education and develop a future. Large social justice organisations believe that “Pacific Islanders have become the most prodigious and prevalent ethnic group of rugby sports migrants globally” and that they have become “exquisite” products leading sport world wide. Another hidden factor to contracts of high paid athletes is that if they injur themselves outside of the sport they are known for, their contract will expire and they will not be paid. This affects athletes in New Zealand because they no longer have a stable career for an accident out of their control. For example, if a male athlete is cycling and gets hit by a car, he will most likely be out of sport in recovery for a long period of time. Whilst in recovery, he is of no value to a company because he is not training or representing the brand thus not making money for the representative group. This in a sense is very controlling and suggests that all high paid athletes aren’t seen as more then a commodity. I believe that players although athletes are paid well, I think they are seen as more of a commodity. Yes, they are playing in a big league and earning a huge salary that most the population will not ever get, but at the same time a single injury or mistake can put them out of their career for life. Whether it was their choice or not, the bindings of a contract are harsh.
Even though sport in New Zealand is costing a fortune in healthcare due to the extensive and frequent injuries, especially in very popular high risk sports such as rugby, the benefits significantly outweigh the expenditure. The positive effects on a New Zealanders physical, mental, social and religious wellbeing are beneficial to a functioning society. The role sport has in improving mental health and prolonging life means money can be invested more into areas of society which have a greater need such as child poverty and getting more children involved with sport.
Performance Enhancing Drugs will always be prevalent in a competitive world. Whether its on a high performance level or recreational growth, people just want to be better than everyone else or simply the best they can be. I believe that money is not the motive behind doping as the life treating long term effects are too significant. The cost of Olympic drug tests average around $400 a person (equating to millions of dollars), however they are needed ethically to catch out anyone as best they can who is trying to get an edge on their opponents. Making them legal will not make the situation any better socially as the pressure to take them would increase resulting in additional pressure on the health sector in New Zealand. They are illegal for a reason and they should stay that way.
From preferential treatment at a young age and being seen as “above the law” on media, athletes are really put under the spotlight. However, the sacrifices made by a high performance athlete are not “too much to ask”. Not drinking, smoking, gambling or breaking the law is well paid off by the size of contracts offered by sponsors. As they are representing a brand, they need to be role models who make profit and benefit a large organisation. After researching into the ever growing Polynesian recruitment nationally, it makes me consider that athletes are a commodity. This question brings into factors such as ethics and morality. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this, it is a case by case question of are the athletes being treated as human beings or merely a commodity.
Overall, I believe that money in New Zealand is being well spent into sport. It is not only providing many healthy alternatives to mental health rather than pills and therapy, but physically and social too. Sport brings people together and creates future leaders and role-models for the generations below. Although there are some scandalous acts which happen worldwide in big leagues, the New Zealand organisations do their best to maintain healthy sporting environments all over the country.