Booze wins gold at the Olympics

Reading about drunken Olympic athletes today, I felt a spiral of emotions that started with anger, dashed through disappointment, sprinted through sadness and finished with frustration.

We’re so in denial about the big picture of how much damage alcohol reaps when consumed to excess; it’s heartbreaking.

Ryan Lochte reportedly smashed up a petrol station bathroom and Rio cops say he, and three other US swimmers, lied about being robbed to cover up picking up women for sex. Getting drunk is one thing, losing control is another; lying about being robbed and taking advantage of the reputation of a country that has worked hard to make the Olympics a success is new level of shame.

Meanwhile, Aussie swimmers Emma McKeon and Josh Palmer have been banned from the Olympic closing ceremony after they spent all night partying in Rio. She was set to be flag bearer. He claims he had $1,000 stolen from him, as well as his wallet and phone.

After all that hard work, sacrifice and dedicated training, isn’t it sad that what we’ll remember most about them is drunken antics and our overwhelming disappointment?

When you’re representing your country, you carry the reputation of that country on your shoulders. The eyes of the world are on you. Of course you should be waiting until you get home to let your hair down – when taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for your trip and the cameras have stopped rolling.

However, no one will be angrier with them than themselves. That feeling of all-consuming shame, guilt and remorse goes hand in hand with drinking to excess. The terrifying tidal wave of “Oh no, what the f**k have I done,” the morning after the night before, is horrific. And, of course, it’s made worse because you only have yourself to blame.

If they had a time machine, you can bet they’d be using it today.

What makes me sadder than raging headlines laden with national disappointment is our broader acknowledgement of the negative side effects of alcohol.

We can’t continue to be surprised that havoc, destruction and apologies are the real hangover we’re left to deal with.

There’s a huge difference between enjoying a few glasses of wine over dinner, having a few drinks with friends – and losing control like this.

Regret is a heavy price to pay for a night that starts with excitement and celebration; but it’s always just one more drink away.

When will we remember it’s time to go home with our self-respect intact?

When booze wins gold, there are no winners.

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