Why are there so many sex scandals in sports?

Imagine this. You’ve been training most of your life for a competition. All the people you know have been putting pressure on you to perform. You’ve been eyeing up that podium position, that gold medal, that trophy, that number on the scoreboard. You can’t help not thinking but knowing that you are the best in the world and now you’ve got to step up on the big stage and prove it to all of your family, friends, coaches, fans, and the rest of the world. You feel on top of the world, like nobody can stop you, but you still feel the expectations weighing down on you. The thoughts running through your head seem enough to make you explode. So as a means of taking the pressure off your shoulders and letting loose, is it any wonder that there are so many sex scandals in professional sports? 

With sports stars having their lives more and more publicised, with growing pressure being applied to what they do best, the tendency for the aspects of their problems tend to get blown up for the excitement of the media and public. Especially in the heavy-testosterone environments of male team sports, there are often occasions of being goaded on into doing something that they probably shouldn’t. Rugby is a sport that is no exception to this. Aaron Smith, one of the All Blacks greatest and most decorated scrum halves in the history of the sport, was caught sneaking out of a toilet cubicle in Christchurch Airport with an unidentified woman, that was not his girlfriend. After much public outcry at the controversy, Smith was dropped for the next few games against South Africa. Although we like to think that such infidelity among key role models as being uncommon and mostly harmless, there have been occasions in which athletes have used their ego and influence with more sinister intentions. 

In 2017, news broke out about two promising Irish rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding along with the involvement of other players at their club, Ulster rugby, were to be charged with rape and sexual assault. With every detail and Whatsapp message that was uncovered, it exposed a dirty underside to the sport through the attitudes of many of it’s players. Although all of the players were not found guilty, it lead to them being exiled from domestic and international rugby, but it was nothing compared to the punishment they should have received. Since then, it has been a stark reminder for rugby, along with all other sports, about the prevailing attitudes towards sex and the egos that affect them.

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Joseph Howard

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June 2022
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