The media have gone bananas again.
Not that Ben Cousins doesn't bring it upon himself, though.
But let's just re-cap for those who don't know who Cousins is.
Cousins is probably the highest profile footballer in the AFL at the moment. He won the Brownlow Medal in 2005, which is the league's official Best and Fairest award, voted for by the umpires who officiate at each game.
In 2005, he also won the Leigh Matthews Trophy, which is a Most Valuable Player award voted for by the players. I will note here for my non-Australian readers that the Matthews Trophy doesn't have anywhere near the amount of kudos that the Brownlow Medal does as an individual award, but it still shows the level of esteem he is held in by the other players.
In 2006, his club, the West Coast Eagles, won the AFL Premiership for that season. This makes him officially a champion.
But off-field is where, like another great champion, Wayne Carey, he is more likely to be remembered.
During the end-of-season celebrations in 2002, Cousins was involved in a punch-up with fellow Eagle, Daniel Kerr.
In 2005, Cousins and team-mate Michael Gardiner famously refused to aid police after an incident involving a stabbing and a shooting at Perth's Metro City nightclub.
Incidentally, West Coast management told the pair that they were on their last warning after this affair.
And in early 2006, Cousins stopped his car and did a runner after noticing a booze bus up ahead, and working out that he was well over the legal blood-alcohol limit. He was fined for that, and no doubt copped some ridicule from other players over it.
Then in December 2006, he was arrested outside Crown Casino in Melbourne after getting a little rowdy and then passing out outside. Some incriminating photos were published by the media from this affair.
West Coast's management pretty much went on record at this point and basically indicated that the club would do nothing about Cousins' repeated indiscretions for no other reason than that he is a star player.
But the most recent events are surreal, even by Cousins' low standards.
Cousins' was suspended indefinitely after not showing up to training on repeated occasions.
Speculation mounted before finally it was revealed that Cousins had a drug problem.
Now this is where I get upset.
Cousins problems, bad as they are, relate to recreational drugs. The way that the media are going after him, though, you'd think that he was busted for blood-doping or something anabolic.
Now the AFL does not have a good record with regards to recreational drugs. Being sponsored every other year by either Victoria Bitter or Carlton Draught is hypocritical in the extreme. Alcohol is a recreational drug.
But the AFL wouldn't be alone in this regard.
Cousins should not let his recreational drug use interfere with his career as a professional footballer, however, his recreational drug use is his business, and his alone. And let's not forget, that this only came to light because several Eagles, including Cousins, were drug-tested the day before this was made public.
Some in the media are trying to spin it that Cousins' fall from grace is due to breaking up with his long term girlfriend, but this is also none of anyone's business.
So why are sporting bodies so fixated on recreational drug-use? Provided it doesn't interfere with one's career, one should be free to do whatever they like in the privacy of one's own home, or in a club, or at the pub?
Some have suggested that it's to protect sponsors from Big Alcohol who rather like people to keep chugging their product. If they're not because someone's smoking grass or having a few hits from a ice pipe, Big Alcohol is, quite rightly, going to get upset. After all, they sponsor the game and it's not through altruism, either.
AFL footballers are largely well known for their superhuman intake of alcohol, and this makes them all round good guys in the eyes of the media.
But here's the rub.
While Cousins' "substance abuse" problem is well known, when was the last time you heard of a footballer being 'outed' with an alcohol problem?
Since Cousins' problems were made public, several other key pieces of innuendo circulated about other players' problems in the same vein. Pun unintentional.
But we all remember Dale Lewis being sent to Coventry by the media for suggesting that footballers recreational drug use was anything other than alcohol.
The AFL, the media and the West Coast Eagles Football Club are seriously guilty of burying their heads in the sand on this issue for too long. People, and I like to think that footballers are people too, indulge in all manner of recreational drugs. Just why the hypocrisy exists is a complete enigma to me.
Edit 27/03/2007: Greg has put up a ripper post on this, and my learned advice is to check it out.
Footnote: The mighty Swans play the Eagles this weekend in Round 1 of the 2007 AFL Season. Go Swans!