I can’t help feel for Ben Barba.  He has been released by the Sharks to deal with personal issues after a positive test for Cocaine four days after their grand final win.  Not knowing the underlying story or long term support the Sharks have provided to Ben, one still wonders if our athletes are held to a high standard when it comes to personal behaviour?

 Australian workers are self-medicating on a daily basis, alcohol, gambling, recreational drugs, but most don’t lose their jobs over it.  The Drug Information website tells us that over 8% of Australians over the age of 14 years report having used cocaine at least once.  Alcohol remains the biggest risk factor for recreational drugs in Australia costing us over $15 billion dollars year and more deaths are attributed to alcohol than motor vehicle accidents, but unlike cocaine alcohol is legal. 

By the media reports it seems particularly hard because the doping test was conducted in Ben’s off-season.  One understands and appreciates the importance of doping tests for performance enhancing drugs in the off-season, especially if they provide long term advantage, but it is hard to see how Ben’s cocaine use four days after the season finished would have benefitted him.  I am sure the club will provide Ben with support he needs, something I believe the football codes usually do well. 

It isn’t easy been an elite athlete, self-regulating the highs and lows of intense competition in the very public goldfish bowel they swim in.  My thoughts go out to Ben and I hope he is able to remain engaged in playing, it is part of him, part of his life.  Without it, his emotional well-being may be compromised and in changing clubs he may also grieve the loss of his mates.  Social support and connectedness is important for the mental well-being of all of us but especially for athletes, because their relationships with their mates is very intense and very personal.  They provide a lot of emotional support to each other.  Take care Ben Barba and stay connected.   

Gayelene Clews is a Performance Psychologist and author of “Wired to Play: The Metacognitive Athlete”.  She has worked with many of the very best sporting teams in the world including Olympic and World Champions.  Clews applies science to success in her “Wired for Success” business and sporting workshops for emotionally intelligent organisations.  Contact Gayelene via info@wiredtoplay.com.  To purchase her book www.wiredtoplay.com.