When word got out that Belarusian shot-putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was being investigated for possible steroid use following her triumph at the London Olympics, the New Zealand media erupted in a frenzy of righteous rage.
It's interesting to contrast that with the response to the announcement that New Zealander Jock Paget's horse Clifton Promise, which carried him to victory in the Burghley horse trials, had tested positive for the banned substance reserpine.
The very suggestion that Ostapchuk may have unfairly robbed our own Valerie Adams of a gold medal had New Zealand sports journalists baying for blood. The fact that she was (a) ugly and (b) came from a former Soviet republic didn't help. In the court of New Zealand media opinion, Ostapchuk was found guilty before you could say Graham May*.
Yet when a New Zealand competitor is implicated in a drugs scandal, the default position is to assume it's all a terrible mistake. Either that, or someone must have set Paget up. New Zealand coverage of the inquiry has been notable for its overwhelmingly sympathetic tone and the willingness to accept, without demur, Paget's statement that the test results came as a complete shock.
I have no reason to suspect Paget was party to anything improper and sincerely hope he'll be cleared of any wrongdoing. But is it too much to expect that the media will step back and take a slightly more detached stance in its coverage of the affair, rather than falling over itself in its eagerness to do Paget's PR for him?
* Graham May was the popular Kiwi weightlifter who won gold at the Christchurch Commonwealth Games in 1974. A true local hero, he later admitted taking performance-enhancing steroids (then merely illicit rather than illegal). New Zealand discus thrower Robin Tait was also known to take drugs.