‘‘Bigger than Ben Hur’’ has been the time-honoured saying to denote magnitude, but only dinosaurs use it now.
Movies like Titanic and Avatar have eclipsed it as blockbusters.
Well, a blockbuster is in the works that will smash them out of the park.
The as-yet untitled film will blow the lid on the blackest day in Australian sporting history, and aren’t that an Australian history indivisible?
That was the day the Australian Crime Commission and the Federal Government announced how drugs had blighted and criminals had infiltrated Australian sport.
The movie will have the lot — sex, drugs, drugs, drugs and rock and roll; drugs, drugs, drugs and violence; drugs, drugs, drugs and betrayal and drugs, drugs, drugs and corruption..
Poetic licence has been taken but this one will have the rawness of truth.
All the big names — Jackman, Damon, Cruise, di Caprio — have been rumoured for the lead role of Clark Brent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan website, whose dedicated digging uncovers the scandal.
For that he wins the Walkley, an honorary Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel prize and first prize in a raffle whose proceeds go towards recuperating broken-down footballers.
All the big female names are vying for the female lead, too; that of Lois Blaine, the intrepid, fearless young reporter who teams with Brent to uncover the truth.
It’s the most coveted role since Vivien Leigh scored Tara in Gone With The Wind.
Knightley, Jolie, Diaz..they’ve all put in for it and even Kidman and Madonna are said to be having more work done, but Jessica Mauboy is on a roll and has emerged as a bolter.
Robert de Niro is the pea for main villain, though there are local complaints the Underbelly series has shown Australia has plenty of homegrown candidates.
Alan Rickman, Steven Berkoff and Jeremy Irons are the standouts for the plum role of the villain’s right-hand man, his cook, the chemist genius gone bad.
Rounding it out is the fictional role of Mm, the female cop-lawyer who has overcome prejudice and scheming to head the Australian Crime Commission.
Dame Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Jacki Weaver are the names mentioned.
This is going to be huge.
And if this all just seems a flight of fancy, it seems no more fanciful than the melodramatic shock-horror government-ACC press conference which now seems surreal and a grand announcement of Drugs in Sport—the Movie.
The pressure on elite sportspeople has been known for decades.
US researcher Bob Goldman started a survey in the 1980s that became known as the Goldman dilemma.
He started asking Olympics aspirants if they would take a drug that would guarantee a gold medal but would also kill them within five years.
More than half said yes.
When he repeated the survey biannually for the next decade, the results were always the same.
About half said they would make the Faustian bargain.
And although the odds are always with the chemists staying one step ahead of the testers, the dangers of making bargains have been long known, from the physical problems suffered by drug-fed East German competitors post-Olympics to a November, 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of many similar.
The study showed the effects of EPO.
In an experiment, more than 4,000 patients with diabetes, kidney disease and anaemia were given either EPO or a placebo.
The researchers were testing the impact of the drug when it was used as approved, at moderate doses in sick people.
What they found, to their surprise, was that slightly more of the patients taking EPO suffered heart attacks than those in the placebo group, that nearly twice as many suffered a stroke and that the EPO group’s self-reported quality of life, their subjective sense of fatigue and illness, was barely better than with a placebo.
Of course, a similar study of elite athletes would doubtless show a marked improvement in performance, but there would be the same price to pay.
We all know Australian Olympians have never paid that price, by definition, because they are Australians.
Anyone innocent testing positive has always had the ‘‘I ate too much steak’’, ‘‘the dog ate my study notes’’, ‘‘I’m Australian’’ defence.
At the same time, Australians have always been the loudest screamers about overseas drug cheats.
In other words, it’s a question of degree.
Drug-taking here hasn’t approached industrial scale but it would take some naivete to think Australian sport is immune from drugs and pressure from a criminal element, but what has the government and ACC grandstanding achieved?
For all the sound and fury, it’s put-up or shut-up time.
AFL club Essendon is certainly in the gun and rugby league is back on the front page where it belongs, but it’s hard to disagree with South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson that if there is hard evidence against wrong doers, then it should have been produced under parliamentary privilege.
It’s a very bad syllogism: one NRL player is on the juice, therefore all NRL players are drug cheats. Or AFL or soccer or marbles.
The best that can be said is that this melodrama might prompt the AFL to produce a drugs policy instead of PR window-dressing, and that the whole question of medicine-sports science teams at sporting clubs needs examining.
Commonsense should dictate it’s unlikely that whole teams would be on the juice, the same as it should say there will always be individual players tempted to seek shortcuts.
The same as it says wherever there is gambling and specifically exotic forms of gambling, there will be temptations re the Ryan Tandy allegation.
And as long as there are nothing games where the results are forgotten five minutes later, like innumerable one-day and Twenty/20 cricket games around the world, the potential for fixes and rorts is vast.
Again, in other words, officialdom must find the balance between sporting ideals and commercial imperatives.
At the end of all this, if wrongdoing is found, the coaches and administrators should be the ones facing the heavy penalties.
They create the club culture.
Former Wallaby great Tim Horan tweeted the eternal verity: ‘‘Whatever happened to BHW (bloody hard work)?’’
It never went away, it will never go away. There aint no substitute.
Blackest day of the sporting week was the news wrestling would be thrown out from the 2020 Olympics, and including Greco-Roman wrestling.
You can’t have an Olympics without Greco-Roman wrestling — that’s like the Tour de France without Neil Armstrong rocket fuel.
Almost no-one might do it, almost no-one might understand it, but it is the Olympics, has been since 708BC.
Instead of dropping wrestling they should be widening it, bringing in sumo wrestling; wrestling on the parallel bars, on the vault, synchronised wrestling in the water.....
That’ll bring the crowds back to rugby league.
What next? Modern pentathlon to get the chop?