Don’t drink and dive

National divers

Full disclosure. I love a drink or two … or 10.

There’s nothing wrong as long as I don’t drink and drive or misbehave. In fact, I’m known as a quiet drunk so, that’s a good thing, I guess.

It is different, however, when athletes – in this case seven national divers – are caught drinking.

Why the double standard?

First some background.

Podium Programme divers Pandelela Rinong Pamg, Nur Dhabitah Sabri and Chew Yiwei, and four juniors – Hanis Nazirul Jaya Surya, Jellson Jabillin, Gabriel Gilbert Daim and Kimberly Bong – under the National Sports Council (NSC) programme were filmed drinking alcohol while in a training camp in China.

The incident happened in February – when the divers had a three-day break for Chinese New Year – but the videos only surfaced on Tuesday.

Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia suspended the allowances of the septet and yesterday, Chew told a press conference they are willing to be dropped from the Asian Games which is from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

There are many who believe the divers should be punished severely while there are some who feel they are not robots and need to let their hair down – particularly as they were on a break from training.

They argue the divers were “celebrating” Chinese New Year in camp and didn’t do a “Disco Six” – as footballers Azman Adnan, Shamsurin Abdul Rahman, L. Suresh, Zami Mohd Noor, Assrof Hanafiah and Rizal Sukiman were labelled when they snuck out of camp before the 1995 Merdeka Tournament.

Other instances of athletes breaking curfew include the “Hard Rock trio” – footballers Kamarulzaman Hassan, Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz and Mohamed Khalid Jamlus – who partied at the club during the Asia Group Three World Cup qualifiers in February 2010.

Seven months later, 10 national junior hockey players – dubbed Disco Kids – were caught in a dancing hall in Poland. The hockey players and footballers were slapped with fines and suspended between two months and a year for their indiscretions.

But was what the divers did really that bad?

Twentytwo13’s Haresh Deol asked on his blog Foul! where was the chaperone and where do we draw the line between having fun and doing something silly and being indisciplined?

Having said that, major questions raised from this incident are:

  • Who bought the beers? AND
  • How could the divers freely bring alcohol back to camp?

Let’s not forget these are athletes in a foreign land.

What if something had gone wrong? What if the alcohol was tainted? Who would shoulder the blame if something untoward had happened?

Former national gymnast Sarina Sundara Rajah said: “Most people are quick to jump to conclusion and pass judgment before assessing the whole situation.

“Athletes are entitled to fun but a line should not be crossed. I’m not judging anyone but the fact remains they did consume alcohol in camp.

“Athletes must remember they are role models for young children and as such, should always set a good example.”

Numerous studies have shown drinking beer or other alcohol can have health benefits but it’s the amount consumed which leads people to be judgmental.

That and the fact there is a time and place to have a drink.