Way back in 2008, the three most admired personalities in sport were probably Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. They were portrayed not just as great athletes but as great men, role models: Woods was the ultimate professional, Armstrong had overcome cancer to rule cycling, and the double amputee Pistorius had become an outstanding sprinter. It later turned out that Woods was a serial adulterer, Armstrong a drugs cheat, and on Thursday in South Africa Pistorius was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. His family and management have disputed the accusation “in the strongest terms”.
Any sentient person over the age of eight already knew that great athletes are not necessarily role models. That’s not what the scandals have taught us. Rather, we can see now that the sports-industrial complex – the machine of media and advertising that cranks out myths about athletes – has gone into overdrive. As with investment banking it might be time to shrink it before it destroys society.