Not many of you will know Terry Newton as he was hardly a household name outside of Rugby League circles, but in the last couple of days the former GB star sadly committed suicide at his home in Orrell whilst serving a two-year doping ban. Whilst Terry will be missed by fans of the game and most importantly his family, unfortunately this will only be a mere blip in sports columns across the country, highlighting a problem in today’s elite sports communities.
Being well and truly in the professional era of sport, the regular day-to-day demands on our athletes has increased at an alarming rate. Premiership footballers aside, most athletes make a reasonable wage, given their profession usually ends in their mid-thirties. From a very young-age, athletes are under intense and regular pressure from their clubs, team-mates, coaches and fans to achieve excellence week-in, week-out, whilst facing the rigours and pressures of media scrutiny if they step out of line off the pitch.
As such, what British Sport communities need to accept is that when athletes become involved with drugs, whether recreational or performance enhancing, it is a psychological problem. Whether based on the pressures of their jobs, factors in their private lives, the pursuit of ubiquitous excellence or something else entirely, athletes are human-beings with faults like you or I. To lay shame and ostracise these sportsmen and women, rather than provide a support mechanism is to ignore a problem that seems to be spreading and as Terry’s short life proves, it sometimes ends in devastating circumstances. We all need to change our attitudes, stop and ask ‘why?’ rather than become the judge, jury and executioner, turning our heads in disgust.
As we write this, the RFL are currently trying to defend themselves by saying they did not let Terry down by not providing him with sufficient counseling to support the difficult time in his life, but tragically the events of the last two days speak volumes.