The transition from super-fit, celebrated sportsperson to ordinary civilian is apparently a slippery slope, with Geoff Huegill the latest ex-Olympic swimmer to succumb to illicit drug use. As The Australian newspaper reported, Huegill and his wife Sara appeared in Waverley Local Court earlier this month for a charge of possessing less than one gram each of cocaine at an event at Randwick Racecourse. While the couple was not convicted of the charge, they have each been sentenced to a six month good behaviour bond. Dietary supplement giant ‘Swisse’ have announced that they will not be renewing Huegill’s sponsorship deal which ended this month, and his behaviour may have implications for a range of other sponsors – including Austswim and Speedo – associated with the swimmer.
Huegill has previously been a representative of The Black Dog Institute’s campaign that focuses on preventing depression, and is no stranger to mental health struggles. As the Daily Mail reported, after fantastic success at the 2000 Olympic Games, he found little direction in life outside of the pool. He turned to food, alcohol and drugs, reaching an unhealthy weight of 138kg, and “letting down friends and the few remaining sponsors” he had. However, making an astonishing comeback at the 2010 Commonwealth Games as the only Australian swimmer to win gold, by all public displays it appeared that he had regained his healthy lifestyle and image. As is the case with so many professional sports people, life after sport can be challenging.
The mental health of other professional swimmers has been in the spotlight of late, with Grant Hackett entering a rehab facility for an addiction to sleeping pills, and Ian Thorpe seeking treatment following for an alleged life-long struggle with depression and alcohol misuse, as ABC News reported.
It would seem that the hype, public attention and admiration surrounding professional sports people is difficult to replace in everyday life, and some are drawn into risk-taking behaviour to fill the gap in their lives once their sporting career is over.