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Should athletes be penalized for bad behaviour off the clock?

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nick-darcy.jpgDisgraced Australian swimmer Nick D’Arcy is fighting to save his career and Olympic dream after being banned from the Australian team over an alleged bar room bashing of fellow swimmer Simon Cowley. The 21-year-old butterfly champ has expressed regret overhis actions and promised to stay away from alcohol but it has sparked a debate about whether athletes should be penalized in the pool or on the field for bad behaviour not related to their sport. Are athletes beyond reproach?

An annual survey of sports fans conducted for Sporting News found that a majority of the 1,500 participants — 62 percent of men and 63 percent of women — completely or mostly agreed that “more and more athletes today feel like they are above the law.” About half of the 12-64 year olds polled — 52 percent of men and 49 percent of women — completely and mostly agree that “athletes are less accessible and approachable today than ever before”.

Despite the negative swing in how athletes’ behaviour is perceived, the Sporting News survey found that sports fans are spending more time and money watching sports. About a third of men, or 27 percent, will spend 32.4 hours a week either watching sport on televions, reading sports magazines or surfing sports Web sites while about 44 percent of men will spend an average of 14.8 hours a week with sports media.

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