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The fall of sporting idols

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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The fall of sporting idols | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Sports stars are among some of the most revered men and women on the planet. Those who excel at their chosen sport are seen as gods among us mere mortals and they are rewarded accordingly.

But a fall from grace for someone at the top of their game is viewed with as much, if not more, interest than any sporting endeavor they participated in.

The media circus that followed Lance Armstrong’s admission of doping during each of his seven Tour de France title campaigns was more intense than any coverage he gained on his bicycle.

The downfall of a sports star grips fans and non-fans alike. Below the Phuket Gazette recaps some of the major scandals that have made news headlines the world over during the last six months.

Shock from South Africa


Oscar Pistorius put on his artificial legs and walked across his bedroom before firing four handgun rounds into a locked bathroom door, killing his cowering girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in cold blood, prosecutors said in February.

Pistorius secured his place in sporting history by becoming the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics and was an inspirational figure to many.

Standing alone in a courtroom in Pretoria, South Africa, the severity of his actions etched over his face, “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius was a million miles away from the worship and adulation he received for his efforts at the London Olympics in July, 2012.

The South African was eliminated from the 400-meters and finished last in his semifinal, but his presence was always likely to be more significant than his achievements on the track.

A high court ruling recently eased Pistorius’ bail restrictions on appeal and has allowed him to travel to compete, which means he could race at the World Championships in Moscow in August.

His next court appearance is set for June 4. The fact that he is awaiting trial for the premeditated murder of his girlfriend – a charge which he denies, saying he thought she was an intruder – and the fact that the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) spokesman Yannis Nikolau backs his return to the track, means that Blade Runner could be competing at race meets across Europe, while at the same time fighting to clear his name in a courtroom in South Africa.

“It is up to the meeting organizers to invite him for the one-day meetings. If he qualifies for Moscow, then on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, he will be free to run.” Nikolau said.

The Brazilian OJ Simpson

Bruno Fernandes was tipped to represent Brazil at the 2014 World Cup; however, instead the ex-Flamengo goalkeeper will be serving a 22-year prison sentence for ordering the kidnap and murder of his former lover, Eliza Samudio, who was dismembered and fed to his pet dogs.

The prosecutors alleged that she was murdered after demanding that Bruno pay child maintenance for their baby son.

Bruno was a fan favorite who had played for Brazil’s biggest club, Flamengo, since 2006. On the pitch, he helped his team win the national championship in 2009, and before his arrest in 2010 he was tipped to make a lucrative move to Europe, with AC Milan the possible destination. The court case, which started in 2010 and ended with his conviction in March 2013, gripped the soap opera-obsessed nation and gained huge media coverage, with the Brazilian press comparing it to the OJ Simpson trial.

Cycling’s dope

Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. By 1999, he had beaten the cancer and claimed his first of seven Tour de France titles. All of this was to come crashing down around him in spectacular fashion after he was banned for life and stripped of his race wins, including those seven Tour de France victories, after a US Anti-Doping Agency report last year described him as the ringmaster of the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

It wasn’t until Lance Armstrong was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on her TV show, in January of this year, that he admitted to cheating. On the prime time show, he admitted to using testosterone and human growth hormone, as well as EPO (Erythropoietin). In addition to using drugs, Lance also admitted that he took blood transfusions to help him excel in the increasingly competitive sport. Armstrong was denied the chance to compete at the recent Masters swimming competition in Texas, after the world swimming governing body FINA ruled that he could not compete.

Generation Y

It isn’t just professional players who have run-ins with the law. Two high school American football players from Ohio were found guilty last month of raping a 16-year-old girl at a party last summer while she was passed out drunk. Because the victim did not remember what had happened, scores of text messages and cellphone pictures provided most of the evidence.

The use of third party evidence was seen to highlight the power a high school American football team held over other teenagers, who documented and traded pictures of the assault while doing nothing to protect the girl.

The 17-year-old quarterback was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, and the 16-year-old wide receiver was sentenced to serve at least one year.

Performance enhanced match fixing


Members of Australia’s 4×100 meter freestyle team recently admitted using a banned sedative in a “bonding session” prior to last year’s London Olympics. The relay team were expected to claim a medal at the Olympics, but they finished a disappointing fourth in the event.

Last month in Australia, anti-doping investigators interviewed 30 National Rugby League (NRL) players as part of an ongoing probe into the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs.

The Cronulla Sharks fired their head coach and four other club officials, including their team doctor, in response to the enquiry.

A global betting scam which was run out of Singapore fixed hundreds of football matches across the globe from 2008 to 2011, Europol alleged in February.

The Europol report claimed that about 680 suspicious matches, including qualifying games for the World Cup and European Championships, and the Champions League for top European club sides, have been identified in an inquiry by European police forces, according to the European anti-crime agency Europol and national prosecutors.

— Andrew Scott

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Crime

Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phuket police arrest meth dealer, discover drugs valued at 15 million baht | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Newshawk Phuket

Drugs valued at 15 million baht have been seized in a drug crackdown in Phuket. On October 22, Phuket police, along with Phuket Governor Pakkapong Tawipat, reported to the media about a drug crackdown that ended up with a total seizure valued around 15 million baht.

Earlier, the police received a report from an undercover agent that a woman named ‘Ying’ or ‘Suthicha Thirawut’ was a local drug dealer trading drugs in Phuket area, so police planned to purchase drugs from the woman. They contacted Ying through another woman named ‘Noina’, Ying’s close friend. Around 10pm on October 20, police bought 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine from Noina before arresting Ying and another man, Thanet Thongtan, at the Naka Condominium.

The two confessed that they receive the drug from a man who they weren’t able to name, in order to sell in Phuket. They were paid 40,000 – 50,000 baht per time and admitted to police that they have done this for the man three times already. This time, the drugs hadn’t been sold to customers as they were arrested before being able to make a sale.

Apart from 2.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, valued around 4.8 million baht, the police also discovered 76,800 methamphetamine pills, worth around 11 million baht.

The three are now assisting Phuket police with their enquires related to the case.

SOURCE: Newshawk Phuket

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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