Gonzo Sports Digest; Recreational Drugs and PEDs in Sport Should be Treated Differently


I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while and now seems as good a time as any given the allegations about Tyson Fury testing positive for cocaine.

Each sport is governed differently of course so this is going to be pretty general, but by in large most sporting governing bodies don’t differentiate between performance enhancing banned substances and illegal recreational ones – but should they?

As it happens the World Anti-Doping Agency does treat some recreational substances differently and cocaine is not a banned substance when taken out-of -competition.  The definition of “in-competition” and “out-of-competition” depends on the sport and the testing authority , which leaves things open to interpretation. Most PEDs are also banned out-of-competition and that is admittedly a tangible difference. Like I say, this is a general thing.  In-competition cocaine use will get you a ban, and a big one. Hull City’s Jake Livermore was facing a two-year suspension but the FA, quite rightly, opted not to extend his ban due to exceptional circumstances.  French tennis player Richard Gasguet had a two-and-a-half month suspension after a positive cocaine test, which ruled he had consumed “no more than a grain of salt”, which probably happens when you watch ‘Narcos’ on Netflix.

My argument is Livermore, Gasquet and others shouldn’t really have even had to deal with that anyway.

‘Fun’ drugs shouldn’t be regarded in the same way as PEDs, in or out of competition.  My key point is they simply don’t give a competitive advantage, sticking with boxing and marching powder as it is the topic du jour – if you think there is an advantage in being coked up during a professional fight you’re wrong (not that Fury necessarily was/has been of course).  The booger sugar might feel like a boost when you’re throwing fists with someone who’s just spilled your drink in the Dog and Duck; but in a ring, where you need your wits about you and a cool, calm head it is not an advantage.  Unless you’re an animal type fighter like Mike Tyson… that kid was a rare breed though.

Team sports are different, granted.  The individual is employed by the club and being a stoner, space cadet or a raver is going to impact on performances. Sanctions in this case should come from the club, I see no real reason why governing bodies need to get involved in such issues.

Employers in sport do have the right to fire any player (not employee – player) if they are using recreational drugs.  I cannot argue against that.  If you own an NBA franchise and are paying someone $15million+ a season – you get to tell that guy he can’t smoke weed.  That’s fair enough, essentially the athlete’s physical prowess is part of the deal and they have a responsibility to ensure they’re in top form.  That doesn’t mean it should be an obligation because no one would axe LeBron James for rocking up tripping on magic mushrooms.  However, to get sacked and then face time out due to a governing body, that seems unnecessary for substances that have no positive impact on performance.

Maybe I’m too liberal, maybe not. I don’t really believe in prohibition as a concept or an effective method. I just don’t think it works and there’s enough evidence to back up that viewpoint (see further reading, have a google). People will do what they want to do at the end of the day legal issues aside, I doubt there are many teetotallers out there who would be full blown smack fiends if heroin wasn’t outlawed, for example.

I’m fully aware there are other issues too.  Sports stars are supposed to be ‘role models’, whatever that really means, by keeping on the straight and narrow, but drugs are a part of everyday life for many people, whether or not they realise it. Is drug abuse any more immoral than cheating on a partner? Using prostitutes? Violence? I would say no, but hookers and fisticuffs probably won’t leave your career in tatters (examples include; alleged call girl user and England captain Wayne Rooney and Watford striker Troy Deeney, who was found guilty of assault in 2012).

You could club alcohol and tobacco in with recreational drugs and arguably they’re as, if not more, detrimental to health and performance than the likes of marijuana, MDMA, cocaine… but because they’re not illegal there are no real sanctions in or out of competition.  Having the odd night on ecstasy in-competition is probably no more damaging than hitting the booze but the drink is fine and the pills are not. If a sportsperson is using a substance and as such ruins the experience for the fans with sub-par performances that’s not on, obviously, but if they can still entertain and get results… what’s the big deal?

There is an argument that people in other walks of life would get sacked for drug taking but not in all areas.  I’ve had jobs before where bosses do lines with members of staff on nights out (and to ‘recover’ the day after) and where one employee seems like he’s there specifically to act as a dealer, with the odd bit of photocopying and tea making on the side due to ineptness in every other relevant area.

I’m not going to bother with a conclusion, I think I’ve expressed my opinion well enough throughout so I’ll leave it with some optional further reading.  Good luck to Tyson Fury as well, it looks like he’s got a long road ahead of him but no one can take away the fact that for a brief period he was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.  I’ll finish by pointing out that failing a drugs test for cocaine out-of-competition is more widespread than you’d imagine, but mostly it doesn’t get mentioned as bans won’t happen.  As the heavyweight champion of the world however, and being the divisive figure he is, Tyson Fury should have been more careful.


Reasons to legalise all drugs via Urban75.

Tyson Fury bits via The Guardian & ESPN

Photo Credit: My buddy Dave.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.



Were The Telegraph Right to Sting Sam Allardyce?

Former England boss Sam Allardyce did, in his own words, a “silly thing” by talking to undercover reporters masquerading as businessmen.

Had it been any other  football management position, he probably wouldn’t have been given the boot but the England role is direct with the FA, whose player transfer rules he advised on “getting around”.

For what it is worth I still think he’d have done a good job if given the chance but that is neither here nor there really now, and I doubt the likely candidates (Gareth Southgate, Steve Bruce, Alan Pardew and Eddie Howe at the moment) are an upgrade. Again that’s a moot point and the only real option was to part company; his position had become untenable regardless of your viewpoint on his actions with those undercover journalists.

There are a lot of points to consider in this whole mess but I’m going to keep this fairly brief and focus solely on the journalistic methods used.

Was the Telegraph’s use of subterfuge, or to borrow from Sam Allardyce ‘entrapment’, justified?

That’s a big question but without knowing any more I’m going to have to stay on the fence and here’s why.

Entrapment as a form of journalism can be as – or more – seedy than the thing it is trying to expose.  Consider the ongoing Fake Sheik trial as an example, where Sun journalist Mazher Mahmood is accused of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of Tulisa Contostavlos.

This case may be a little different depending on what The Telegraph have unearthed further.  They claim they have eight current and former Premier League managers accused of taking ‘bungs’ to facilitate deals, in something perhaps more serious than Allardyce’s indiscretions.

Whether or not the newspaper’s actions are justifiable depends on what information they had in the first place to act, or whether it was simply a ‘fishing’ exercise. If they had good reason then this was probably the only way to get the proof they needed, if they just threw some bait out there looking for a bite… that’s questionable behaviour at best. Maybe we’ll never really know the answer to this and as such what happens next is vital.

It reminds me of The Times’ sting earlier this year on doping.  The case involving the ‘doping doctor’ Mark Bonar, which didn’t really come to anything near what was promised in the original expose. That suggested  around 150 elite sports stars, or a percentage of, would be unveiled as dopers but it just didn’t happen.

Because there’s supposedly much more to come I’m going to take a ‘wait and see’ approach regarding The Telegraph’s methods here.  If, as they promise, they uncover widespread corruption within British football in regards to transfer dealings, third party ownership, bungs, bribes, pay-offs etc etc then their methods will have been justified.  If it all fizzles out to nothing and Allardyce was in actual fact their mother load, quite a few people are going to feel pretty short changed by this whole debacle.

I’ll come back to this when we know a bit more, let’s see what The Telegraph comes up with.

Further Reading:

The original Telegraph article.

And more from The Telegraph.

Mark Bonar bits, via myselfThe Times and the Daily Mail.

Gonzo article on Allardyce prior to his appointment.

Fake Sheik via Sky News.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

Manchester United, Jose Mourinho and Some Perspective

I can’t really believe I’m writing this but I’ve decided to launch a defence of Jose Mourinho.

Three defeats means the world has fallen apart for Manchester United, apparently.  I thought people in this country have had enough of experts but it looks like that doesn’t apply to the world of football, just politics. 

Already we’re seeing stats comparing Mourinho’s United with Louis van Gaal’s, his Chelsea figures from last season have made an appearance, pundits are falling over themselves to offer a viewpoint… I’d say the football community have an insatiable desire for experts and statistics based on this evidence.

Somewhat understandably, a noticeable majority within the media have used it as an excuse to turn the knife.  A quick google of Jose Mourinho and stuff like ‘dressing room split’, ‘murky medical…’, ‘players shocked by Mourinho’s treatment of…’ etc etc. It isn’t good reading.

As an individual he has a strained relationship with the press; often showing outright disdain, sometimes being overly aggressive and always acting as if he’d rather be anywhere else other than having talking to you.  That means he’s going to get a rough ride more often than not, and there are plenty out there who just like taking shots at United as well.

Me included, but you’ve got to be fair.  So let’s break a few of those issues down a bit.  We’ll start with the losses, then move on to the rumours and other jibes.

The Manchester Derby Defeat

The Mourinho honeymoon period came to an abrupt end at Old Trafford in the first Manchester derby of the season as Man City ran out 2-1 winners.  In truth I don’t think United were playing particularly well beforehand and that display against City was no real shock.

City probably just about deserved that win but the result really could have gone either way.  Kelechi Iheanacho was played onside with such naivety for the second and there’s not really any way a manager can legislate for that, it is just human error.  Claudio Bravo was lucky not to give at least one more away for City and Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw a great chance blocked late on as well as they pushed for an equaliser.  The defeat is a bad result but there was enough evidence in that game to suggest United can beat City, which has to be encouraging.

… Feyenoord?

Yes Manchester United should be beating Feyenoord both home and away, but that’s not to say the Dutch side are a bad team and at De Kuip they can give anyone a game.

Mourinho has made no real secret that he’s not that bothered about the Europa League and going out early might not be a disaster all things considered if they’re challenging on a few fronts elsewhere later in the season.  I do think they’ll get out of the group they’re in regardless of that defeat though, having been also drawn with Fenerbahce and Zorya Luhansk. If they qualify this result will be almost irrelevant anyway – especially if they top the standings.

Come on, what about Watford?

Admittedly this is a shocker.  Perhaps the pressure of having already lost two in a row played a part here, who knows?  I didn’t actually watch this game so can’t offer any kind of analysis in full confidence but on paper this is a bad result.

Other Issues for Jose Mourinho

His treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger is incredibly harsh, and some of his comments about Luke Shaw after that Watford defeat were below the belt.  In the German’s case; he’s been frozen out and Mourinho tried to get rid in the summer but there were no takers, at least none willing to match his wage demands. He could have brought him into the fold after the window shut but he’s decided there’s no place for the midfielder in his team and – quite clearly – now wants him off the wage bill in January if possible.

For Shaw; I can’t see how that kind of criticism helps a player but at the same time mountains and molehills spring to mind for the subsequent reaction.

Here’s what he said: “And here for the second [Watford] goal, [Nordin] Amrabat receives the ball and our left-back is 25 metres from him instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, you have to jump and go and press, but no, we wait.

“This is a tactical but also a mental attitude. It’s something that doesn’t become perfect in a couple of weeks.”

Perhaps ill advised but then again it isn’t so bad, it may have been better to keep this kind of thing in the dressing room though.  Shaw has two options really – he either sulks or he could suck it up and step up his game, seeing it as proof the manager thinks he is capable of much better.

If United lose in the EFL Cup at Northampton later this could all go out the window but my thinking is there will be no knee-jerk reaction from the hierarchy just yet.  They’ve paid a lot of money to bring Mourinho in and then given him a lot more to get a squad together.  The United fans are a fairly patient bunch when it comes to managers, although perhaps there is a bit more urgency for success after the David Moyes and Louis van Gaal tenures. There’s certainly more to come from summer buys Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan and I’m fairly sure the now seemingly not-so-Special One will be given a decent amount of time to get them and others playing to their full potential.

This constant analysis and criticism is quite frankly boring, it feels like too many just couldn’t wait for the wheels to fall off and have jumped the gun at the first sign of trouble.  The money spent in the summer may have lead to expectations of instant success but you have to remember he took over a struggling, underperforming side and they will give him time to make it right.

For whatever it’s worth I don’t think Mourinho is the right coach for United and I never have done. I don’t think his philosophy on how the game should be played fits at Old Trafford, and his reluctance to use younger players is at odds with the recent history at United. However, now he is in the hot seat he deserves more than five Premier League games before a fair assessment is made, and the club will be thinking along those lines too even if the media are not.

Further Reading:

Stuff on Luke Shaw via the MEN.

BBC expert Danny Murphy offers his thoughts on Jose Mourinho and Manchester United.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.  



Gonzo Sports Guest Article: What I have Learnt About Being a Football Club Journalist for a Month

Just over a month ago I said goodbye to Jacque Talbot but for reasons known only to him he’s decided to come back.  Here he takes us through his experiences of working for a non-league club, enjoy.

My first match report/ How to do a novice match report

Job opportunities are few and far between for aspiring sports writers, that’s why is vitally important to say yes to almost every proposition that you come across.

It’s fair to say a writing job with an unnamed football club (they do have a name really, they are not actually unnamed or called unnamed football club), landed in my lap mostly by a good piece of fortune, yet I must stress that in this line of work, you do enable your own luck.

No sooner had I hastily applied for the job vacancy ‘club journalist’ online than I was travelling to their secluded stadium, in midst of the North-West, to liaison with the club secretary and take a look around the ground and training facilities.

Now fast forward to our first agreed match to which I would be reporting: it was 3rd September and a miserable, wet day in Ashton – a small town just outside Wigan. I regrettably misread the bus timetable (I was in town about two hours early), but also had the good fortune to miscalculate the point at which to get off the bus, which in turn resulted in a tiresome, long, soaky trod in the pouring rain, to fill up my time until kick-off. I guess it was a somewhat bittersweet occasion.

The stadium was hidden in the depths of a housing estate on the edge of town. There was advertising boards surrounding the pitch and a stand which fitted several rows of plastic, red, foldable seats, where a single onlooker was already present.

My long walk had cut my time sizably, but there was still about half hour to go, so, keeping in the spirit of the profound immersion of this anecdotal article, I will briefly describe to you how I prepare myself fully before a match starts:

You should exercise a bit of pragmatism so, you need to; bring a number of pens in case one runs out, turn your phone on silent so you don’t get distracted; take with you at least two notepads– one smaller to log the live reporting and one larger notepad so you can start writing your report immediately after (I’ll explain this one further in the article); make sure you dress for the occasion: as silly as it sounds, wearing comfortable clothing during for the match will enable to have your mind thinking both punctually and with clarity.

Positioning is also imperative. You won’t be able to clearly illustrate a game to an audience, a match you’ve watched through the bar window of the clubhouse. Therefore, get there early enough that you have a vast choice in selecting a position which gives you a great view of all ends of the pitch, and with the freedom to move towards areas of significance (such as closer to the 18 yard box to see a forthcoming penalty)- if you have the environmental capability to do so.

In smaller notepad, you should have already laid the foundations –write both teams names at the top of your first page and draw a line underneath. Then put a single line down the middle of the page and in-between the two names, giving something resembling a Christ cross with two club names balancing on the ridge at either end. The idea is to write events, as the match progresses, and chronologically state events under the name of the club you are commenting on. If you make the mistake of writing the events side by side, what you’ll be left with is a mismatch in timeframe, rendering you with just guesswork.

Now with a couple of seconds away from kick off, you may have or may not have the team sheets on your person. If you do not, you have to ask for this after the match from one of the club officials – every football match will have a team sheet, they wouldn’t be able to ‘legally’ play without one.

Regardless, you won’t need to use one until after the match has been played, the way to keep track (On the presumption that you don’t know the player names because it’s your first gig) is to take note of player numbers whilst they play and add them to your notepad whenever a literal-noteworthy event takes place with the said player (or in this case, the said number) on it.

You must also need to work out a key for yourself and write in down in a suitable place or memorise it. This which will enable you to knowledgably jot the ‘code’ down on your journal, quickly and precisely.

Here I will write out a section of my notepad by way of example:

RW O-B 7-11-7, G7 FT I-B LW LF HTR, A11 ’57.

What looks like code is actually a whole lot of useful information for me to write a detailed description of this particular event later on. Without defining every-single piece of information there, I will merely write this out in correct form:

Number 7 plays a one-two with number 11 outside the box on the right wing, the return pass sees number 7 score a goal with a first time shot, inside the box, on the left wing, with his/her left boot, hard into the top right of the net, assisted by number 11, on the fifty seventh minute.

How much you write is up to you, I tend to write as much information as possible due to my lack of confidence in my own memory. You will also be writing the code (I’m deliberately not using the word ‘short-hand’ that’s a whole other complicated game, which can be learnt through NCTJ courses) during the period the action happens, so you better get used to writing on you notepad without actually looking at it.

Of course there is no way of knowing when a massive event is about to unfold in a game, so you have to keep writing somewhat constantly and particularly when the teams(s) get the ball in dangerous areas. Remember too, it’s not just goals you need to report, it’s yellow/red cards, fights, chances, missed penalties, great saves and general commentary on the games narrative: ‘St.Madeupstone are seeing a lot of the ball, but Cantthinkofasecondname United are defending well, closing down aggressively and making decent counter-attacks.

These comments can be made through the centre of your drawn line, particularly when the ball goes out of play and there is some time to reflect on the game so far. The centralisation of your comment will establish to you that it is an overall thought about the match entirely, and not of a specific club.

Once you finish logging the game and the match is finished, you may use the team sheet, and find the player’s names through the numbers matching them on paper – turning ‘number 7’ into ‘actual first and second name.’

Straight after the game is when you need to write up your match report in the larger notepad. Make valuable use of your time commuting, whether you are on comfy train with a table or on a bus wedged between a fragile window and a pensioner, it’s an absolute must that you write out your report whilst it is still fresh in your mind.

At first you may find this hard, but after time you will surely be able write it up with relative ease and speed. After three games into my match-reporting career, I got my report sent-off within the hour of the final whistle. The professional journalists, working at the nationals, have a match report to ready to read online within about ten minutes of the game finishing.

It’s something I do not personally, yet most professionals will usually have the first half of a match report written during the half time interval. I prefer having a cup of tea and sandwich instead – again, these are not rules and regulations, just ideas and prompts to help you.

The aforementioned match I attended my first time, ended in a waterlogged pitch just before the game started. I actually thought the pouring rain attributed to the authenticity of watching a British, non-league game. The reason being that a tiny area of the pitch, just by an obscure side by the corner flag, was deemed unplayable. It was a nervy experience, as I seldom found anything online when I researched for advice.

So this is why I thought I would put some advice out there for the aspirational reporters who need it. For any budding sports writers who are approaching their very first match as a reporter.

Please feel free get in touch with me for any more advice, or see if you find any decent educational videos on YouTube from the pros.

You can find Jacque on Twitter here; @Jac_Talbot

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.

What Next for Kell Brook?

The Gennady Golovkin fight didn’t pan out as I’d expected for Kell Brook; I didn’t give him much of a chance and thought he’d get overwhelmed pretty quickly.

My public guess (not on here) was GGG within five rounds and Brook did get stopped in the fifth but he would have carried on if he’d been allowed – that’s not to say I don’t think Dominic Ingle made the right call, he 100% did.  There was no way Brook was coming back to win that; he’d taken enough punishment and the corner saved him from a further battering.

Golovkin quite literally broke his face and Brook now requires surgery on his eye socket.  Both fighters were probably a bit disingenuous in their post-fight comments as the Kazakh said he wasn’t hurt and the British weight jumper claimed he was just getting started.  In truth, Brook had used all his tricks up but if anything that just antagonised GGG to step up a gear, it was more a case of poking the beast rather than tranquilising it, and he wasn’t throwing much back or dodging particularly well when the towel did go in.

For Golovkin it depends on how you define hurt.  Maybe he didn’t feel anything that made him worry there was any chance of him being taken out but Brook connected well a couple of times and he knew he was in a scrap.  There was definitely a reaction from the middleweight king in the third round after some good work from Brook in the second (even though that’s when his facial injury happened), and his face had more marks on than usual at the end of the affair.

But where does Kell Brook go from this now?  Sticking around at middleweight seems unlikely, for one thing he’s taken on the division’s top dog and his best wasn’t good enough.  I also can’t see too many more middleweights queuing up to take the risk either after his efforts against Golovkin, because he certainly didn’t disgrace himself on Saturday night at the O2.

The drop back down to welterweight may not be an option either.  He was already avoided at that level and getting back down to make the weight again could be a struggle, although a possible match-up with Amir Khan – a fight he’s always wanted – could be a key motivating factor there.  Khan also had his own middleweight outing of course but there’s no way he’ll be sticking at that level and I would imagine he’ll be back at 147lbs in his next outing whenever that may be.

That leaves the 154lbs mark and there is a potential match-up with Khan’s conqueror Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on the horizon should the Mexican overcome Liam Smith, who would also be an option should he pull off a shock next weekend.

Brook and his team now need to go back to the drawing board to figure out their next move but I expect there was a contingency plan in the event of a loss to Golovkin.  No matter how confident they may have been outwardly it would be foolish not to have a back-up plan.  He has time on his side now though, as that injury should keep him out of the ring for a while.

The IBF welterweight champion did say he’d be up for a rematch but Golovkin won’t go down that route.  He made it clear he wants to unify the middleweight division so perhaps we’ll see him back in the UK soon for Billy Joe Saunders, or maybe he’ll go after Canelo again despite the fact he vacated the WBC belt and dropped down a division – after all that’s still the fight we all want to see.

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