DEALING WITH ADDICTION IN SPORTS
by: Mario GoLuza
Numerous issues have arisen dealing with substance abuse concerning sports personalities. Recently, former University of Washington and USC head coach, Steve Sarkisian, was let go by USC during his time in rehabilitation; an act that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. Instead of accommodating Sarkisian’s disability, USC decided it would be best to let go of the successful head coach and gamble on the consequences that were anticipated.
On October 11, 2015, Sarkisian pleaded with USC athletic director Pat Haden to give him time off so he could get the help he needed to treat his alcoholism. Haden placed Sarkisian on leave to treat his problem but shortly thereafter fired Sarkisian by email. Sarkisian has now filed a wrongful dismissal suit against USC even though the firing was a result of “cause”, the cause being Sarkisian showing up drunk to numerous USC events when he shouldn’t have been.
Was this the right way to handle this issue?
Sarkisian’s options: 1. He could have done nothing and accept the termination admitting USC did the right thing by firing him for alcoholism or 2. Take USC to court for unlawful dismissal under the Americans with Disabilities Act that would require the release of embarrassing and detailed information regarding his addiction.
USC’s options: 1. Dismiss Sarkisian foreseeing the chance of future litigation or 2. Allow Sarkisian to complete rehab and reinstate him when he overcomes his addiction issues, which he has now done.
All these options seem impracticable in reaching a desired result. On one hand Sarkisian is going up against a long-time ally in USC, while having to expose all the humiliating details of his addiction. On the other hand, USC now faces a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal, and loses a long-time loyal Trojan and head coach in Sarkisian.
This leaves only one option; USC should have never hired him to begin with.
Therefore, as we all know alcohol addiction destroys lives and as a result tarnishes and abolishes relationships, but one question is still left unanswered:
What is the right way to handle addiction in sports?