It may not be much comfort to the ruined physiotherapist Steph Brennan but there might just be a day when he can look back on the "Bloodgate" affair and remember that in the worst days of his life – and the sport to which he attached himself – he showed a degree of moral discernment.
He put some distance between himself and the rugby union establishment, all corners of it, when he announced in the most unequivocal terms that in the end he recognised the difference between right and wrong.
His pain and disaster did not, to his great credit, lead him along the way taken by so many apologists for a story of institutionalised corruption at one of the nation's leading rugby club. He owned up to his own weakness – and responsibility.
A bizarre little detail in Brennan's evidence preceded his moment of bitter truth about what he had done or, to put it more precisely, what he had not done when given orders to help Harlequins cheat their way through a round of the European Cup. It was that the club who conspired unsuccessfully to lie their way out of the charges passed the purchase of blood capsules from a joke shop in Clapham when they approved his expenses.
What price for another act of serial cheating? Just a few pounds more.
Amid the wreckage of his professional life Brennan no longer attempted to trivialise a breakdown in sportsmanship so profound it is staggering that the horror of it is still being fudged by some leading figures in the game.
When his professional body, the Health Professions Council, barred him from further practice, he didn't seek the ear of a disciplinary chief, as the creator of his downfall, Dean Richards is currently doing with the Rugby Union's Judge Jeff Blackett, in order to see how wide he could stretch the loophole that is currently enabling him to work as a consultant with Worcester while at the same time treading profitably the rugby union after-dinner circuit.
He didn't try to nerve it out, no doubt partly in the practical understanding that while he was a mere functionary, valuable for his knowledge and experience in a discipline vital to the health of professional sportsmen, he had no old glory to fall back upon, no legendary status as a back-row forward who, as it turned out, would do more or less anything in the pursuit of victory.
Brennan didn't go about that shameless chore undertaken by Richards a few months after being banned from a game which he had undermined so deeply and with such breathtaking, bullying cynicism.
No, he looked at the episode which had stopped dead his hopes of working with the England team and now denied him the chance to earn the living for which he had been trained. He also looked in the mirror and recognised what he saw: a man who had betrayed himself in a way that may take a lifetime to accommodate. He declared: "I followed orders and I wish I hadn't. Yes, I went on to the pitch with the intention of deceiving the referee. I wish I had stood up to Dean Richards. I regret it every day. I was told this is what I had to do and it was a split-second decision during a match that had massive pressure on it. Giving a blood capsule to Tom Williams had nothing to do with physiotherapy. It was the stupid act of cheating.
"After the incident I had to walk away from my private clinic at Harlequins. I have been so ashamed of everything that happened. I couldn't face the fans. Since it happened I've done everything I can to say sorry and correct my ways."
According to the broadcaster and writer and former England hooker, Brian Moore, Brennan's downfall will weigh heavily on his former team-mate Richards, and adds, "So it should."
Indeed so, but Moore goes on to argue that Brennan's fate was harsh, and compares it to that of Harlequins' former doctor Wendy Chapman, who last week, unlike Brennan, was given a rap on the knuckles by the General Medical Council before being sent off to practise her profession after admitting that, under pressure, she had cut the lip of Williams in an attempt to conceal the cheating. She pleaded pressure from Williams, something that you have to guess would not have appeased the author of the Hippocratic oath.
However, it meant that in all the fallout of an affair without conscience, individual or collective, until Brennan made his regrets, there is one principal victim. Chapman picks up her medical duties, albeit after a year besieged by worry and guilt, and Richards negotiates a regained foothold in a game that, all in all, has shown in the reaction to his crimes all the sturdy moral purposes of a pimp.
It is Brennan who pays the crushing price. It is he who is told by his professional body that he has forfeited his right to be trusted, not in his medical competence but in his ability to draw that line between what is right and what is so hideously wrong. However, he does have the assurance from Brian Moore that his fate will weigh heavily on the man who did so much to bring it about.
One day Steph Brennan may just be able to shrug his shoulders and smile, philosophically, at such absurdly pitched consolation. Let's hope that he does dredge up such ability. In the moral wasteland of a sickening affair, he at least has earned this right, forlorn as it may be.
Playing the media is just another part of a football manager's job
There is a measure of truth in the charges of hypocrisy levelled against Arsène Wenger by Owen Coyle and Sam Allardyce, managers of Bolton and Blackburn.
He has long shown a tendency to be one-eyed, and to keep it firmly shut, whenever his own players transgress, whether it was Robert Pires diving outrageously for a penalty or Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit kicking most everything that moved in the early days of the Wenger empire.
Indeed, he once said that if referees didn't desist in their obsessive disciplinary action against Vieira and Petit his players might well pack their bags and return to France. He also once declared, straight-faced, that Ruud van Nistelrooy was the biggest cheat in the game, a somewhat arbitrary position it has to be said, when we recall the march of cheating that was already on a flood tide and not something that the otherwise sublime Thierry Henry entirely abandoned even at the gates of the World Cup in 2010.
Yet before Coyle and Allardyce prosecute their indictment of Wenger too strongly, maybe they should consider a question that presents itself quite compellingly, at least here. It asks if Wenger's football over the long haul can really be associated with violent cynicism. Is it about rough survival techniques or a desire to play a game that aims to display the best values of football? There are no prizes for the correct answer, nor for challenging the Allardyce view that Wenger is the master of manipulating the media.
Big Sam's track record is, after all, not exactly shabby in this department. He did once persuade much of the national press to run a story that if his name was Allardicci rather than Allardyce he would have sailed into one of the top jobs.
The truth is that every Premier League manager plays the media as hard as he can. Wenger is no exception but nor are Allardyce and Coyle. Hypocrisy, in these circumstances, is not an individual trait but a professional device. There is no ready-made solution, except perhaps strong-minded referees who read most managerial comments for what they are. If they do that, special pleading, from wherever it comes, will always be the first casualty.Reuse content