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No Social Media for Aussies in Rio? More Like No Partying

11 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
#TweetOrCompete Won’t be the Rule, but Australian Olympic Committee is Taking Hard Line Against Drugs, Alcohol at the Games

Sounds like Australia doesn’t want to finish down under in the medal count again.

Following a subpar showing at the London 2012 Olympics, in which Australia finished 10th in medal contention at the 2012 Games, making the country’s medal haul the lowest in 20 years, athletes are being warned about excess partying.

The Australian Olympic Committee is setting rules to try to prevent a repeat performance of athletes’ embarrassing behavior after partaking of drinking and drugs while at the London Olympics. Several athletes were accused of drinking to excess, and the men's 4x100-meter relay team was embroiled in a scandal after they took Stilnox, a sleeping pill banned by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), as part of a team bonding exercise. Rower Josh Booth was arrested for property damage after being out drinking following the finals of the men’s eights competition.

Fed up with the misbehavior, the AOC in 2013 instituted a new position statement on alcohol use, stating that it would send athletes home from the Olympics if they were found to be under the influence. The warnings continue in frequency and volume as the 2016 Summer Games inch closer.

Although there was an earlier push to get athletes to abstain from using social media in order to shut out distractions, the AOC has noted it will not be a formal rule.

The anti-social media effort, dubbed #TweetOrCompete, was the initiative of journalists, as well as the public. The AOC has no plans to enforce it, according to Inside the Games.

A social media ban was envisioned as a way to help Team Australia concentrate on the task at hand at the Olympics. Athletes, however, had differing opinions on whether the use of social media had influenced their outcomes. BMX cycling champion Caroline Buchanan said forums like Twitter and YouTube were a positive outlet for her. Hurdler Sally Pearson and sprint cyclist Anna Meares, two of Australia's gold medal winners at London 2012, claimed their decisions to turn-off all social media accounts on arrival at the Athletes' Village boosted their chances.  And swimmer Emily Seebohm later remarked her love of social media may have cost her a gold medal, admitting the influx of encouragement following her fast 100-meter backstroke heat almost had her believing she had won her final before it had begun; she ultimately finished second to the USA’s Missy Franklin in the final.

Ultimately, though, #TweetOrCompete is up to the individual, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has stated.

“There is not a ban. There was never a ban,” AOC officials noted. “The AOC has recommended to the individual sports that they implement a plan for their athletes around the use of social media at the Games. It is up to the sports if they do so. Some sports are limiting the use of social media in training and competition venues at Games’ time for obvious reasons. There is no problem with athletes using social media in their downtime in the Village, on transport or when they are out and about in Rio. In fact, they are encouraged to engage with social media.”

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