From London to Launceston, it hasn’t been a great week for sport’s public image

Well done: Gold medallist Justin Gatlin is congratulated by Sebastian Coe as bronze medalist Usain Bolt watches during the medal ceremony for the men's 100 meters at the world athletics championships in London. Picture: AP
Well done: Gold medallist Justin Gatlin is congratulated by Sebastian Coe as bronze medalist Usain Bolt watches during the medal ceremony for the men's 100 meters at the world athletics championships in London. Picture: AP

From London to Launceston, it hasn’t been a great week for sport’s public image.

Tennis is still reeling from the latest Bernard Tomic bombshell while simultaneously bracing itself for the next one, as the task of restoring public confidence in cricket and its assorted adorable administrators appears as simplistic as getting the rest of the world to warm to Kim Jong-un.

Soccer is attempting to justify salaries that would make Gina Rinehart blush.

As Neymar joins Paris Saint-Germain for $333 million insisting, apparently with some degree of self-belief, that “it’s not about the money”, a more poignant example of economic excesses emerges from the English Premier League.

When Manchester City travel to newly-promoted Brighton for the teams’ opening fixture on Saturday they will take with them two defenders who between them cost more than the home team’s sparkling 30,000-seater stadium.

Meanwhile, footy’s latest charm offensive has been left feeling like Brent Staker after a brief liaison with Barry Hall.

Last week, AFL Tasmania announced it was backing a “green armband round” across all leagues and clubs “to promote and encourage mutual respect between all roles on and off the football field”.

“From the TSL to the King Island Football Association, all players, coaches, officials and umpires in Tasmania will be donning green tape on their arms to promote respect,” said the competition’s spin machine.

“We won't be making any comment on the alleged half-time incident until such time as it has been investigated,” said the same source on Monday when asked for comment on the state’s highest profile fixture in which a Clarence trainer reportedly struck a North Launceston player on the boundary line.

Green red light: North Launceston and Clarence players show their mutual respect while wearing green arm bands. Picture: Scott Gelston

Green red light: North Launceston and Clarence players show their mutual respect while wearing green arm bands. Picture: Scott Gelston

Described by The Examiner’s reporter Corey Martin as “an outrageous incident”, the matter was the third report about Clarence destined to be investigated by the match review panel.

But all the players were wearing green arm bands, so no harm done.

So much for mutual respect on and off the football field.

However, few other sports keep their spin doctors (sorry, media and communications managers) as busy as athletics.

On Saturday, Ethiopian Almaz Ayana won the women’s 10,000-metres at the world championships in London by 45 seconds.

Photos of her crossing the finish line in celebration show exhausted rivals in her wake grimacing, primarily because they still had another lap to run.

A day earlier, The Guardian had published a story tactfully headlined: “Inside the doping hotspot of Ethiopia”.

It contained a photo of nine vials of banned blood-boosting drug EPO which a reporter bought – along with a toothbrush and tube of mosquito repellent – in a chemist near the national athletics stadium in Addis Ababa.

It’s fair to say Ayana’s victory wasn’t universally applauded.

It was her first 10,000m run this year and her first competitive outing since last year’s Olympics when (in just her second attempt at the distance) she went 14 seconds under a 23-year-old world record held by China’s Wang Junxia that nobody else had managed to get within 22 seconds of.

However, in a damning indication of how little respect athletics commands, Ayana failed to land the accolade of most suspicious performer at the world champs.

That prestigious title was claimed the following night by American sprinter Justin Gatlin who not only returned from two drugs bans to claim a 100m world title but, even more deviously, denied Usain Bolt a golden farewell in the process.

“It’s not the perfect script,” admitted International Association of Athletics Federations president Seb Coe who then had the honour of presenting Gatlin with his gold medal.

As sport loses Les Murray and Betty Cuthbert, two likable legends in their field who helped the rest of the world grow to love Aussies, the same could be said about the whole week.